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Beelitz Sanatorium/ Military Hospital A place full of stories in the Brandenburg forest

Beelitz Sanatorium/ Military Hospital

Beelitz- Heilstaetten, Germany
ARCHITECTS NAME: Heino Schmieden

  • SPACE TYPE: Hospital


Tags: Germany, healthcare, hospital, Totally Lost 2015

Built in 1898 and designed by architect Heino Schmieden, Beelitz was Kaiser Wilhelm II’s response to skyrocketing tuberculosis rates brought on by urbanisation. A 600- bed complex equipped with the latest technologies, it allowed patients to revel in country air and undergo the primitive surgery that was standard in the pre-antibiotic age.

The patient pavilion, which included terraced balconies used for ‘air-bath’ treatments, was divided into four quadrants: the women and men were housed on the west and east ends, respectively; while the north-south axis divided the contagious, quarantined patients from the others. In 1908, the site was expanded to accommodate 1200 beds, and the hospital became a city unto itself, with its own post office, restaurant, nursery, bakery, butcher shop and stables, as well as two kitchens and two laundry houses.

During WWI, the hospital was forced to open its doors wider to casualties flooding back from the Western Front. Around 17,500 were treated at Beelitz between 1914 and 1918, not least the future Führer, whose leg was wounded during the Battle of the Somme.

But Hitler was only the first dictator to sojourn in the Brandenburg forest. Beelitz was occupied in 1945 by the Soviet army and remained a Russian military hospital until 1995. It was thus the perfect retreat for Erich and Margot Honecker, who checked into Beelitz in December 1990, as the GDR collapsed around them. The disgraced head of state was suffering from liver cancer and received treatment here before dying three years later in Chile.

Successive attempts to privatise the sanatorium in the late 1990s ended in bankruptcy for investors, leaving only one part of the complex restored as a clinic for neurological patients. The rest has been left to rot, a process accelerated by looters and nostalgic collectors.


CONTRIBUTOR: Stephanie Avery, Mark Eder, Sven Gerard, Rob Hammond, Christian Hartmann and Michael Scziegel


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    Beelitz and Hitler

    Text by Christian Hartmann

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  • application/pdf

    Beelitz, the Soviets and Honecker

    Text by Christian Hartmann

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