The now abandoned Beelitz-Heilstätten, an extremely large hospital complex was built by the German government between 1898-1930 for the treatment of German workers. The site is vast and split into 4 separate areas divided by railway tracks and roads. The two areas north of the railway were in the majority tuberculosis sanatoriums, with the southern buildings being designed for the treatment of non-infectious diseases. The road provided for a division of the sexes with the east catering for the male patients and the west accommodating mostly women.
Beelitz was used heavily during both the first and second world wars. In World War I it is estimated that approximately 17,500 military patients were treated at the hospital, including Corporal Adolf Hitler who was admitted to Beelitz on the 4th December 1916. Due to Hitler’s short stay at the Hospital I have sometimes seen the hospital referred to as ‘Hitler’s Hospital’.
After World War II, in which some of the hospital buildings suffered significant damage in particular the large women’s sanatorium, the area was occupied by the Red Army. The sanatorium then became the largest military hospital of the Soviet / Russian army located abroad functioning until 1994 when it finally closed. in December 1990, Erich Honecker, the disgraced head of the East German government, was treated at the hospital while he was suffering from liver cancer, he and his wife Margot were then flown to Moscow on March 13, 1991.
Currently the majority of the site remains in a derelict state, some buildings were converted, and other new hospital buildings were built nearby which function as …. The future of the rest of the abandoned site are currently unknown, the developer who had previously been working on renovation of some of the listed buildings had failed to continue with the work, presumably due to funding issues and I believe the site is currently for sale
Beelitz has featured in many photography and video projects both professional and amateur, due to the appealing level of decay in some of the buildings it is and ideal derelict back drop and has featured in all sorts of music videos, films etc. In 2002 it was used as a set for the Roman Polanski film ‘The Pianist’.
Visited with Andy K of Behind Closed Doors, Scot Darby of Darbians Photography, Stussy, Carl and Lowri of Lowri Jen Potography. Day 1 of our visit to the Beelitz site focused on the Female sanatoriums, we started with the Largest of the buildings, the women’s Tuberculosis Sanatorium which provided care for T.B. patients and those suffering from other chronic illnesses. This building was significantly damaged in bombing raids during World War II and has been abandoned ever since. As a result it is in pretty poor condition compared to some other areas of the site. This building features the elephant stairs which featured on the front cover of the Beauty in Decay book, an excellent book which I own created by Romany WG an great photographer and someone who has provided significant inspiration for my urbex work.
After a few shots in the old sanatorium we headed over to the Surgical Hospital which at one time was full of surgical rooms and recovery rooms for patients. Tell tales signs such as tiled walls in a significant proportion of the rooms were still present however most of the other features has really taken a beating from the elements and vandals. I did manage to track down 1 room in the building that I had really wanted to see, the blue operating room which used to have a great surgical lamp hanging from the ceiling. Sadly the room was an utter mess, most of the tiles fallen from the walls, the light completely gone with only the rigging remaining and some slight evidence of the operating bed. A little disappointed to see that but other parts of this vast hospital made up for that :).
The final building we visited that day was the more modern women’s sanatorium which acted as a permanent replacement for the one damaged during the war. This building was smaller than its predecessor but featured a much more appealing design which echo’s some of the other more grand buildings on the site. I think this was my favourite of the three building we visited that day, its condition was slightly better and in terms of photography the iron bed frame made for some really nice shots as did the corridors which spanned the length of the building.
Enjoyed this report? Want to see more from here? Check out the report on Behind Closed Doors: Beelitz-Heilstätten Womens Lung Hospital
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Enjoyed this report? The check out the one from Behind Closed Doors: Beelitz Women’s Lung Hospital
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