The Beelitz-Heilstätten complex in Germany was originally planned as a tuberculosis sanatorium in 1894. By the turn of the century, a million German people had been struck by TB – with industrial workers being the worst affected. Overcrowding and poor sanitation in Berlin together with a lack of healthcare and malnutrition contributed to an escalating epidemic. By the time phase two was completed in 1908, Beelitz had a capacity of 1200 patients and had become self-sufficient with a post office, restaurant, baker, butcher, nursery and two laundries. During World War One, the military used Beelitz for the first time. In October 1916, Lance Corporal Adolf Hitler was admitted to convalesce a war injury. In the Second World War Beelitz once again became a military hospital. After 1945, Beelitz had become part of East Germany and was used as a hospital for Soviet troops in the west.
Following the Soviet withdrawal, the site was sold to a private company which then went bankrupt. Some of the buildings are in good condition but, particularly on the edges of the site, decay – both natural and man-made – is, predictably, threatening Beelitz. Walking around Beelitz-Heilstätten today, it is easy to see why a hundred years ago this complex was the pride and joy of hospitals in Germany. Most of the 60 buildings are abandoned, and nature is now undertaking an ad hoc, slow-motion, yet wholly uncompromising demolition – but the size, scale and architecture of the buildings is stunning.