June 21, 2021

Beelitz-Heilstätten, or Beelitz Sanatorium – Beelitz, Brandenburg, Germany

Spread across 200 acres of woodland south of Potsdam, this sprawling sanatorium is a veritable treasure trove for urban explorers.

The construction of Beelitz-Heilstätten began in 1898, in response to the prevalence of Tuberculosis. Architect Heino Schmeiden designed the sanatorium in accordance with the ‘pavilion plan’ – four distinct quadrants segregating the men from the women, and the quarantined patients from those with non-infectious diseases. A 600-bed state-of-the-art treatment facility equipped with spacious south-facing balconies opened in 1902, closely followed by several additional buildings, bringing the total patient capacity up to 1,200 and expanding the complex to include a number of service buildings, amenities, and even its own power plant.

Throughout WW1, Beelitz-Heilstätten served as a field hospital for the Imperial German Army, treating over 12,500 wounded soldiers, including none other than Adolf Hitler. It was following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 that the Soviet Army commandeered the hospital. They remained in control for 50 years, withdrawing in 1995, long after the fall of the Berlin wall. Attempts were then made to privatise the hospital, but without great success and so, with the exception of one part of the complex which has been restored as a clinic for neurological patients, the once bustling buildings now stand empty.

I have no doubt that in its prime Beelitz-Heilstätten would have been regarded as one of the most aesthetically pleasing health facilities in the world. Even now, in its severe state of disrepair, the interiors exude beauty and make for some of the most stunning urbex photography I’ve seen to date.