We have already discussed Germany's pressing need for efficient treatment of the Tuberculosis bacillus at the end of the nineteenth century on our Beelitz-Heilstätten mini-site but if you wish to read a little more about the TB problem in that period please click the link in the name  ABOVE .

If you wish to open a Google Earth aerial view of the Hohenlychen site please click the Fly Me There link to the  RIGHT .

Before the discovery and regular use of antibiotics in the middle of the twentieth century the only known treatment for TB was fresh air, a balanced diet and adequate exercise, together with surgical intervention when it proved necessary. To that end, from the late 1890s onwards, the German authorities built numerous state of the art sanatoria all over the country and Heilstätten Hohenlychen is just one of many in the Brandenburg district of Prussia not very far from Berlin.

In 1902 Gotthold Pannwitz acquired a ten acre site on the banks of the Zenssee lake just outside the city of Lychen in order to build a children's sanatorium, funded by donations from the German people and the Red Cross. Initially only 30 beds were provided but within a few years this number had increased to 500 and a second sanatorium was opened on the site for the treatment of adult women. In 1904 the building of a chapel on site, known as the Helena Kapelle, was funded by the Foundation of Venn.

Over the years before the Great War Hohenlychen constantly expanded and by 1914 all construction work was completed. In 1911 the German Empress, Kaiserin Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein,  RIGHT , visited the sanatorium.

It appears that unlike Beelitz-Heilstätten and many of the other German TB sanatoria, Hohenlychen was NOT used as a military hospital during the Great War however it was used in this roll in World War II.  

With continued advances in the effective treatment of TB the requirement for so large a number of sanatoria was cut to virtually zero within 30 years of the commencement of the massive German sanatoria building program. Many of the sanatoria were so under-exploited that they stood empty and so they were re-utilised for quite different purposes. Hohenlychen was no exception, becoming a dedicated centre for sports and work related injuries, and reconstructive surgery. In addition it treated adult patients with joint disease whilst other pulmonary conditions continued to be treated there. Funding by the German Sports Aid council facilitated expansion and modernisation and the newly created clinical department for sports and work-related injuries became a renowned and popular institution treating many of the German national team's athletes of the inter-war period.

In 1935 Hohenlychen became part of a group of facilities controlled by the infamous Nazi doctor Karl Franz Gebhardt  RIGHT .

Born on the 23rd. November, 1897 in Haag in Oberbayern, Gebhardt served as the Medical Superintendent at the sanatorium but he was also the Consulting Surgeon of the Waffen-SS, the Chief Surgeon of the SS and Reich Police, and personal physician to Heinrich Himmler.

Gebhardt, was the coordinator in chief of a series of surgical experiments performed on inmates of the concentration camps at Ravensbrück and Auschwitz. These experiments were an attempt to defend his approach to the surgical management of grossly contaminated traumatic injuries acquired on the battlefield. After the war he appeared at Nuremburg in the Doctors' Trial (American Military Tribunal No. I) and was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was found guilty and condemned to death on the 20th. August, 1947 and subsequently hanged on the 2nd. June, 1948, in Landsberg Prison, Landsberg am Lech, Bavaria.

During the 1930s and World War II Hohenlychen became a popular place with officials of the Nazi hierarchy   LEFT   who would go there for rest and recreation - both Heinrich Himmler and Rudolf Hess practically took up residence when not on official duties elsewhere. The visitors books of that time have been signed by numerous prominent Nazis  including Hitler, Reich sports leaders, secretaries, medical staff of the army, and international guests from all over the world including Italy, England, France, Portugal, Chile, Peru and Argentina. The mayor of Tokyo spent some time there as did the troubled Greek royal family. Regular series of high profile medical lectures were held at Hohenlychen primarily for the then medical elite, and the gymnasium could be used as a cinema for film screenings and corporate events.

A large swimming pool was built which had a removable roof for fine weather bathing, and an adjacent water treatment facility was created. In addition to the swimming pool, bathers could also swim in the Zenssee lake.  Sports playing fields were created around the site, a large pharmacy facility was built, and even a weather station was designed and constructed to facilitate the study of the relationship between weather and ailments and diseases. At this time Hohenlychen achieved a great international reputation in the field of meniscal injuries - meniscal tears are possibly the most common knee injury. Athletes, particularly those who play contact sports, are at high risk for meniscal tears. When people talk about torn cartilage in the knee, they are usually referring to a torn meniscus. The hospital also excelled in the rehabilitation of accident victims at this time.

The town of Lychen benefited greatly from the hospital in many ways, one of which was in the unlikely form of tourism. Between 1933 and 1942 more than 25,000 patients were treated there and of course the hospital provided a great number of jobs for the local inhabitants. A second railway station was built to improve the transport infrastructure and provide a faster connection into Berlin.

In 1939 after the outbreak of the Second World War, Hohenlychen was converted into a military hospital. During this sad and highly contentious period in German history many highly questionable experiments were conducted to study the nature and treatment of human wound infections. SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich was the victim of an assassination attempt in Prague  on the
27th. May, 1942, by a British-trained team of Czech and Slovak soldiers sent by the Czechoslovak government-in-exile to kill him in an operation code named Anthropoid.  Although Heydrich survived the initial attack he later died of complications caused by the infection of his wounds. As a result the staff at Hohenlychen were tasked with finding a reliable treatment for bacterial wound infections. At this time the Western Allied forces had already discovered and refined penicillin, but in Germany it was as yet unknown. As the number of wounded soldiers flooding in from the Eastern Front increased exponentially their survival depended to a great degree upon the successful testing of a controversial drug known as sulfonamide, however due to the pressing need for the drug many normal safety procedures were bypassed and the drug was tested  intensively directly on humans guinea pigs.

Gebhardt himself carried out extensive clinical trials  on women prisoners in Ravensbruck concentration camp  FAR LEFT . The experimental group consisted of 36 women who were intentionally wounded, and then had their wounds contaminated with bacteria  CENTRE LEFT . In addition many also had contaminated wood and glass particles forced into their thighs  CENTRE RIGHT  to facilitate the study of the progression of the resulting infections. Three of the experimental subjects died, and the doctors soon realised that sulfonamides were largely ineffective in the treatment of wound infections. Running in parallel to the sulfonamide experiments were barbaric studies into the transplantation of bone, nerves and muscles, the shocking human detritus of which can be seen  FAR RIGHT

As has already been mentioned, Karl Gebhardt was sentenced to death and hung, almost certainly by the famous English hangman Albert Pierpoint, however his assistant doctors, Fritz Fischer and Herta Oberheuser, were also sentenced to life imprisonment for their parts in these appalling experiments.

Throughout the war Hohenlychen was left in comparative peace and was never bombed due to the number of large red crosses painted on the roofs. When Himmler eventually realised that the war was lost he tried to earn favour with the allies by setting up a meeting using the head of the Swedish Red Cross as an intermediary.  In all three meetings were held with no positive result, the last being on the 20th. April, 1945. At this time. Himmler's base was at the now abandoned hospital and it was code-named "
Styria Hohenlychen". On the 27th. April, 1945, thirty two German soldiers were killed in a bombing raid and then two days later, the hospital surrendered without a fight to the rapidly advancing Soviet army. The Russian soldiers under the command of General Nazarov ran amok in the hospital and totally destroyed the surgical and X-ray facilities.
The Helena Kapelle was also a victim of this destruction - the altar and organ were ripped out and the empty shell of the building was used as a fuel dump.

After the war, the Russians used the site as a 200 bed general hospital and maternity facility, but some buildings were also used as barrack blocks for Russian soldiers of the army of occupation. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall, on the 31st. August, 1993, the Russian Army finally ended the so called Besatzungsära and left East Germany for good. Hohenlychen has remained neglected and empty ever since though it was clear that some work on demolition and/or redevelopment had commenced on the site in the summer of 2012 with a variety of buildings stripped back to bare brick internally, and a number of the smaller doctor's residences etc converted into very aesthetically pleasing domestic housing. The other buildings remain comprehensively sealed and sadly it was not possible for us to find a route into the main hospital building at all.  The entire site is rapidly reverting to woodland and we had the bizarre and exciting, but ultimately rather frightening experience of meeting a small herd of wild boar crashing through the heavy ferns and foliage!


Below is a selection of the photographs we took in and around Heilstätten Hohenlychen...

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First sight of the infamous Hohenlychen hospital.


German architecture from the early 20th. century is always beautiful, even when dilapidated.

Stair Porn Part 1.


It is odd but just about every Soviet building we have ever seen has this grotty shade of cyan paint somewhere!

Portrait of an artist - a p*ss artist?

Stair Porn Part 2.

I'm not sure what this graffiti is banging on about at all!
Ready for conversion now.
More Soviet issue blue paint.
Isn't this a pretty building! I suspect it is the Helena Kappelle.
Access was rather easy!
Down in the cellars.
Will Swain and TJ...
A power distribution frame in the generator room.
The remains of the hospital's standby generator.
The diesel engine which drives the generator.

Time to leave the cellars.


More evidence of workmen stripping the buildings out ready for conversion.

Portrait of another kind of artist!


These strange wire window covers were the same as the ones we saw all over Beelitz the year before.

Moving on again.

A study in crumbliness!
And on to the next building!
We accidentally cornered a live fox in this building!
Yet more evidence of prep work on site.

Peely-blue - it's Soviet too!


All these buildings were satellites to the main part of the hospital and were about all we could get into.

These make beautiful houses once they are converted.
Will and M.
The main entrance to this sector of the hospital.


Russian script announces... well... announces something!


The building seen here was on the opposite side of the main road at the front of the site and appeared to be a services house of some sort.

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