Photo © Tom Kirsch, opacity.us
At the end of the 19th century, tuberculosis was a rampant plague spreading throughout Germany. Half of the causes of death of 15-40 year olds were because of the dreaded lung disease. In 1895, it was decided that the establishment of the first sanatorium in northern Germany was urgently needed. It was considered a test facility, as the popular opinion was that TB could only be treated in warmer Mediterranean climates; it was not known if the disease could be handled in the colder German forest. Money was amassed through substantial donations to construct the hospital, but it could not be built at the proposed location due to protesting residents. They did not want a Spuckanstalt (spit-institution) in their backyards, so a remote lakeside location was chosen instead. In April of 1896, the first patients moved into the twenty-seven humble shacks on 25 acres of forested land.
Without a cure, the institution had limited treatment options, mainly good food, little work, and no sex. With the lakeside chapel being the first brick building constructed, the hospital began expanding into sturdy, permanent structures. In 1900, two hundred moderately ill patients were being treated in a series of buildings. In 1918, the grounds were also used for prisoners of World War I.
In 1920, famous architects were commissioned by the state and the Red Cross to remodel and expand the hospital, connecting the existing buildings with passages as well as erecting new ones. Nine years later, a fairy-tale like complex winded its way underneath the thick canopy of the forest toward the clear lake. With room for 400 beds, the sanatorium became a model for TB treatment, as well as efficiency. An electric rail car was able to supply food from the kitchen to the far reaches of the hospital complex through underground tunnels, allowing the plates of food to reach their destination steaming hot. The main complex was connected by above-ground corridors, which protected the staff and fragile patients from weather when traversing between buildings. The overall shape resembled a rectangle, which formed an inner courtyard that allowed patients to enjoy the outdoors while being shielded from the wind.
During the second World War, the German army had begun taking more and more beds for the soldiers, causing disputes with the Chief Medical Officer. A section of the hospital was converted to a base hospital, but as the war drove on, the sanatorium became more of a military hospital. In August 1945, the hospital was under Soviet control. It would remain a Russian military hospital until 1995, much like the sanatorium at Beelitz. The facility then fell into disrepair; two commercial plans to utilize the campus came and went without success. An organization dedicated to teaching young children plans to rehabilitate the buildings into a youth center, starting in 2012.