Heilstätten Hohenlychen is an abandoned sanatorium complex in Lychen, that was in use from 1902 to 1945. For many years the building complex was boarded up and decaying. Tiles gather dust and paint flakes off walls.
The former sanatorium was located close to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, where professor Karl Gebhardt, medical superintendent of Hohenlychen, conducted medical and surgical experiments on unwilling female prisoners. During the last moments of the Nazis, Hohenlychen Sanatorium was used as a bunker for Himmler and Albert Speer. Once the Nazis regime came to an end, the Hohenlynchen was used for military purposes until 1993 when it was closed and abandoned.
History of Hohenlynchen
As a result of the treatment of tuberculosis developed in the second half of the 19th century, which required a lot of sunlight, clean air, a balanced diet and sufficient exercise, private sanatoriums for wealthy patients first appeared. However, a significant part of the workforce was mainly affected by the disease. That is why the state insurance institutions that emerged in the 1890s after the adoption of the first social legislation saw themselves obliged to build healing facilities in larger numbers. In the years 1898 to 1904, there was a real construction boom – in Prussia alone, 49 health resorts were newly built and existing ones expanded.
in 1902, Gotthold Pannwitz, the founder of the Central Committee for the Establishment of Heilstätten für Lungenkranke, acquired about one hectare of land from the city of Lychen for the Folk Healing Association of the German Red Cross. The healing operation initially took place on an experimental basis for three months in the summer. Two barracks were set up, which could accommodate 16 girls and 16 boys. In addition, there was an economic barrack. The meals were taken in 1902 in the nearby inn “Schützenhaus”, from the summer of 1903 there was already a separate dining room with kitchen on the premises.
After the city had agreed to an extension of the site by another two hectares after initial resistance, the first massive buildings were erected in 1903 to accommodate 60 children. In October, the girls’ home for 20 patients was opened. The architectural design for the Heilanstalten came from the architects Paul Hakenholz and Paul Brandes. After all, the institution’s territory covered a total area of almost 16 hectares.
in 1904 the Helen Chapel was donated by Heinrich Venn. In 1905, another association joined the project and by 1907 built the “Cecilienheim”, designed for 90 children, the first clinic in Prussia, which offered surgical and orthopaedic treatments for children. in 1907, a third sleeping building for pulmonary tuberculous children was added, in which a bathing establishment was integrated.
The facility has been continuously expanded. By the mid-1920s, 47 buildings had been erected at the Hohenlychen site. The medical center consisted of 15 medical departments, the most important of which were the “Viktoria-Luise-Kinderheilstätte” for tuberculosis-sick children and the “Kaiserin-Auguste-Viktoria-Sanatorium” for tuberculosis-sick women. In addition, there were, among others. the children’s recreation center “Waldfrieden” for children at risk of tuberculosis, the “Werner Hospital” for surgical interventions, the holiday colony on Lake Zens for children with tuberculosis and the “rural colony Queen Louise Keepsake”. The institution included a small farm and the state-approved nursing school “Augusta-Helferinnen-Schule”. From January 1910, the Heilstättenverein also operated its own spa hotel near the Lychener Bahnhof.
During the First World War, the hospitals were used as a military hospital. After 1918, the generous donations of the pre-war period did not materialize. The onset of inflation further complicated the financial situation. The rural colony and the advanced training schools had to close. Between 1924 and 1927 there was a brief upswing, as renovation work could be carried out with funds from several ministries and the Red Cross in preparation for the 25th anniversary. During this time, Hohenlychen gained worldwide importance, especially with regard to special successes in the orthopedic and surgical treatment of bone and joint tuberculosis. in 1927, the Hygiene Commission of the League of Nations met at the Heilstätte. Two years later, however, the children’s recreation center “Waldfrieden” also had to close for economic reasons.
From 1935 Karl Gebhardt took over the management of the Hohenlychen. As the number of tuberculosis cases decreased, the focus of the hospitals shifted from the previous lung hospitals to three other departments and was re-profiled. At the time of the takeover in 1933, 133 beds were occupied. The focus was now on sports and work injuries as well as reconstructive surgery. Surgical and internal departments for special treatment for adults with joint diseases and lung diseases have arisen.
Later, the Hohenlychen also became sanatorium. Due to the financing by Deutsche Sporthilfe, investments could be used to expand and modernize the facility. The clinical department for sports and work injuries enjoyed strong popularity. Former national coach Otto Nerz spoke of a hypothetical “Hohenlychen national team” that would be able to compete against almost all football teams, as many national players and top athletes were treated and cured in Lychen.
Not only treated patients, but also for officials of the Nazi Party, Hohenlychen was considered a “fashion residence” for recreation. Permanent guests were, for example, Heinrich Himmler and Rudolf Hess. The visitor books show numerous Nazi figures who visited the Hohenlychen. Among them, in addition to Hitler himself, Reich leaders, Reich sports leaders, state secretaries, army staff doctors, as well as international delegations from Italy, England, France, Portugal, Chile, Peru, Argentina. The mayor of Tokyo spent his holidays in Hohenlychen as well as the Greek Crown Prince couple. In addition to curing and recovering patients and officials, lectures were also held, especially for medical elites. The hospitals now had over 500 beds.
The city of Lychen benefited greatly from the Hohenlychen, especially through tourism. More than 25,000 patients were treated between 1933 and 1942. Many local residents received work in the medical institutions. A second station was built to ensure better infrastructure and a faster connection to Berlin. Under Karl Gebhard, Hitler’s second personal physician Ludwig Stumpfegger worked, as well as Fritz Fischer, Herta Oberheuser and Kurt Heißmeyer, who, like Karl Gebhard, conducted human experiments in the Ravensbrück and Neuengamme concentration camps.
After the beginning of the Second World War, Hohenlychen was converted into a war hospital. Later, human experiments with wound infections were carried out. After the assassination attempt on Reinhard Heydrich, who died of a wound infection in Prague, and since numerous wounded people were killed by infections in the front hospitals at the same time, a reliable therapy against bacterial wound infection was sought. The Western Allies had already discovered penicillin, which was still unknown in Germany. Since the number of wounded was constantly increasing, especially on the Eastern Front, and their lives depended on the testing of the well-known, but controversially discussed antidote sulfonamide, the medics began to test intensively and for reasons of lack of time directly on humans.
The trials of the sulfonamide effect were transferred to Karl Gebhardt, who first reported on clinical trials on women at Ravensbrück concentration camp on August 29, 1942. The experimental groups consisted of 36 women, to whom bacteria, some with wood and glass particles, were inserted into the thigh. Three of the test subjects died, and it was found that the sulphonamides are not suitable for preventing wound infections. Parallel to the sulphonamide experiments, Ludwig Stumpfegger conducted experiments on the transplantation of bones, nerves and muscles. For his habilitation thesis, Heißmeyer undertook human experiments to combat severe tuberculosis in the Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg. Since he did not want to lose the results for his habilitation work at the end of the war, he buried them in a zinc box on the grounds of the Hohenlychen. In March 1964, after a search operation, they were rediscovered and put a heavy burden on Heißmeyer, who had escaped unscathed until then.
When Himmler realized that it was coming to an end, he wanted to present himself positively to the Allies. He negotiated with the head of the Swedish Red Cross, Folke Bernadotte Count of Wisborg. In the course of these talks, Himmler also met with Bernadotte personally in Hohenlychen. In the course of these talks, the rescue operation of the White Buses was agreed. However, there was no surrender planned by Himmler. The hospital was completely evacuated at the end of the war. During this time, the field command post of Heinrich Himmler with the code name “Styria” was also located in Hohenlychen. The command post was on a train and stood on the branch line, the Britz–Fürstenberg railway.
Since the buildings were equipped with red crosses on the roof, there were initially no bombing raids during the war. On 27 April 1945, however, 32 soldiers died in an air raid, and two days later the largely intact hospitals were handed over to the Soviet units without a fight. The Red Army, under the commandant Nazarov, plundered and destroyed all the facilities. Surgical and X-ray facilities were partially destroyed or transported away. The Helen Chapel was also a victim of this destruction. The altar and organ were removed and the chapel was used as a fuel depot.
The group of the Soviet Armed Forces in Germany used the medical institutions as a military hospital and maternity ward. With 200 beds, the hospitals no longer reached their former size and were partially converted into residential units for the soldiers. On August 31, 1993, the last Soviet command left the hospitals and ended the Soviet occupation era.
In GDR times, Deutsche Post maintained a holiday camp in the village for the recreation of the children of its employees.
In 2009, Freiberg civil engineer Michael Neumann bought part of the facility – nine buildings on 12 hectares – from the state of Brandenburg. Neumann then developed a concept for a Lychen park residence. In his mind – he died in 2019 – his daughter Anne Neumann continued these plans with relatives.
There are now 44 barrier-free rental apartments there, almost all of which have already been moved in, as well as nine holiday apartments and a bistro. 40 percent of the listed buildings have already been renovated. Further holiday apartments and 15 rental apartments are to be added in coming years.