In the latter part of the nineteenth century Germany was a disparate collection of states however following the Franco-Prussian War in the 1870s unification under the guidance of the Iron Chancellor Otto von Bismark led to the rise of a new German nation. Envious of the empires of Great Britain, France and Russia, the new Germany set about expanding its borders and acquiring new territory.
But there was a problem. The worldwide epidemic of TB - the AIDS of its day - was killing off German manpower at the rate of one in three of the population so clearly something had to be done fast. With funding chiefly from the insurance companies of the time, but also with money raised by public donation, a raft of state of the art sanatoria were built all over the country and the site at Teupitz was soon selected for one. Eventually the work of the dedicated TB doctors brought the disease under control and the epidemic passed leading to the progressive depopulation of the numerous sanatoria. With concentration of the ever diminishing number of patients something had to be done with the many buildings which were standing idle for the most part so at this time Teupitz was ear-marked for reutilisation as a psychiatric hospital.
In 1914 war clouds gathered over Europe and many an institution of this size was pressed into service as a military hospital. After the Armistice of 1918 Teupitz reverted to its new purpose and early treatments for many mental conditions were researched in the numerous hospitals.
During the 1920s and 30s many patients passed through the Brandenburg Psychiatric Hospital at Teupitz including a few notable people of that time. One of these was an artist, architect, lithographer, and designer who is widely regarded as the father of German Impressionist painting, Paul Gösch (30th. August, 1885 – 22nd. August, 1940). Gösch suffered from "physical and emotional frailty" throughout his life, but nonetheless maintained "a robust determination to create prolifically and to further the utopian causes of the avant-garde of his time." Born in Schwerin, the son of a lawyer and judge, Gösch grew up in Berlin, where his father held a teaching position at the University of Berlin. Gösch attended the technical college at Berlin-Charlottenburg in 1903 to study architecture. As a student, he met both Sigmund Freud and Rudolf Steiner. He developed an interest in Anthroposophy, Steiner's version of Theosophy, and later helped in the construction of the Goetheanum in 1913. He was first hospitalised for psychiatric treatment in 1909 but still managed to achieve his degree. He studied painting in San Remo for six months, and travelled throughout Europe visiting Italy and France, meeting other artists. In 1911 he accepted a post at Kulm which was then part of Prussia but is now Chełmno in Poland, and he served as city architect there from 1915 to 1917. Gösch suffered another psychotic episode requiring further institutionalised treatment in 1917, and he did not leave the hospital until well into 1919 nearly two years later.
After his release from hospital Gösch associated himself with the Novembergruppe, a group of German expressionist artists and architects which formed on the 3rd. December, 1918 taking its name from the month of the post war German Revolution. The group was led by Max Pechstein and César Klein and was linked less by the members artistic styles and more by their shared socialist values. They campaigned for radical artists to have a greater say in the provision and running of art schools and the arts in society. The group merged in December 1918 with Arbeitsrat für Kunst, a 'Workers Council for Art' or 'Art Soviet' - in effect what we would now regard as a trade union - formed by architects, painters, sculptors and art writers based in and around Berlin in the early 1920s. It developed as a response to the Workers and Soldiers Councils which were springing up in the power vacuum and rampant anarchy of the immediate post war period, and it was dedicated to the goal of bringing the current developments and tendencies in architecture and art to a broader population.
Artistically, Gösch was a specialist in water colour often painting mythological and religious subjects, especially the Virgin Mary though when not painting or actively involved in architectural work Gösch wrote and illustrated fairy tales and composed poetry. A couple of his paintings can be seen here LEFT and ABOVE RIGHT. From 1921 onwards, Gösch increasingly suffered psychological problems; he became a patient at Göttingen where his brother-in-law was the head of the psychiatric institution and his murals painted on the walls of his room still exist there. At this time he was diagnosed with Dementia Praecox which was the name at that time for what we now know as Schizophrenia. In 1934, under the emerging Nazi regime, Gösch was transferred to Teupitz, where he was not allowed to paint, being forced instead into hard manual labour. In 1940, personnel from the SS removed Gösch from Teupitz and murdered him; he was just one of the thousands of victims of Action T4, the Nazi euthanasia campaign. The date and place of his execution are not absolutely certain; the most reliable information available points to the 22nd. August, 1940, and the old prison in Brandenburg.
After the Second World War, during which time Teupitz again served as a military hospital, the occupying Russian forces continued to use Teupitz as a mental hospital, and it retained that purpose right up until their final departure from Germany on 1st. September, 1994, some six years or so after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Today the site stands abandoned but a modern psychiatric institution was built on the land adjacent to the old walls just beyond the cemetery; and on the area immediately to the rear of the site is a modern high security ward surrounded by tall electric fences, presumably housing criminally insane patients.
Our impression of Teupitz was that the site contains some delicious late nineteenth century architecture but it cannot come close to its other Brandenburg neighbours Beelitz and Grabowsee. As an urban exploration it is very samey with all the buildings revealing the same sights over and over again. The Russian era painted murals in the main building were well worth a look though sadly they have deteriorated now to a shadow of their former magnificence. Wandering around the heavily wooded site in the warm summer sun passed a very pleasant couple of hours but we would not travel so far out of Berlin to visit again, nor would we recommend the site to other explorers.