Beelitz-Heilstätten: Back for further treatment

Filed 18/8/2014 |
There’s always a way in, there has to be. If you can’t find a way in, keep looking. Keep looking until you find a way, there must be a way, there’s always a way. I was desperate. I had guests. Important visitors from the U.S. I’m Irish, you know how it is. Can never let the Americans down.
I was back in Beelitz-Heilstätten, Hitler’s henchflies or zealous tour groups be damned. It’s a lucrative cow to be milked for the tour groups, probably because of the extensive pretty buildings, and they don’t like sharing their goldmine. More gold, more! They put their prices up all the time. Last I heard they were charging €60 for the women’s clinic and another €60 for the men’s clinic. For those prices you’d want to be cured in them too.
We circled around the building, our prey. We sharpened our camera lenses. My American filmmaking friends had very fancy equipment. Professionals. Itching to get in. I had to find a way in!
I’d spotted a dark hole on the first circuit, but wasn’t sure it’d lead anywhere. Could be a dead end, a fruitless descent. No fruit grows in dungeons like these. It was narrow, dark, dusty and fucking awkward.
“Come on lads, this is the way in,” I said with authority on our second circuit. Maybe they were used to New York sewers but there was no complaint.
I went first, lowered myself gingerly, balanced on a shaky stool, jumped. In! Well, we’d see how far I got. I switched the torch on. Dust, dirt, flies, fucking flies. Fuckers attacked me again. Buzz off!
It looked OK. I told the lads to join me and we set off. Tunnels and more tunnels. Then a rusty stairway about to give way. Steps were already missing, a gaping hole to certain injury, but it was either go on or go back. We weren’t going back, not now, maybe not ever.
Needless to say we survived or you wouldn’t be reading these words. I’ll spare further suspense – individual balancing acts got us up the stairs intact, and monkey maneuvers to get us back down again after we’d gorged on the hulking building’s ruin.
There are other ruins too, one as impressive as the other. You rush through in a happy daze in a race against time snapping like a crocodile trying to take them all in. Taking photos I mean.
Beelitz really is a treasure trove but it seems its days are numbered too. There’s no end to the ruins being ruined.
Property developer Frank Duske wants to turn the women’s clinic (south of the railway, west of the road), together with its kitchen and laundry buildings into a “creative village” of 60 workshops or studios for artists – or anyone who wants them at up to €2,350 a square meter.
A screenwriter, musician, furniture designer and three families with kids have already made reservations, Duske said.
The conversion work will cost an estimated €12 million. Duske ain’t doing it for the good of his health. He’s still in negotiations with the landowner to buy the three buildings.
Apparently another investor wants to spruce up the men’s clinic, on the other side of the road where the stone Soviet soldier still stands guard. The work is due to begin next year.
We’ll see. Project developer Torsten Schmitz and a partnering company based in Baden-Württemberg own the vast majority of Beelitz-Heilstätten. They’ve been trying to develop it or flog it in some way since they bought it in 2008.
None of them would be the first Beelitz investors to have their dreams shattered. Beelitz used to care, a long time ago. Now it does not, the inhospitable hospital.
But you never know. Nothing stays the same and change is afoot in Beelitz, perhaps even a leg. Best to enjoy it while you can – before the hip operation.

I wrote about Beelitz-Heilstätten before, details on getting there, its history and my first encounter with Hitler’s henchflies. You can read that one here.
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15 comments

Apparently there's to be picnic here this weekend, which as far as I'm concerned could lead to some of the final nails going into the coffin. It's been spread all over Facebook and about 600 people say they're going. Stalls, music, food - the whole shebang. Call me a cynic, but I kind of see this place going the Spreepark/Tefelsburg route. As soon as the young, urban, (many of them expat) Berlin hipsters get wind of somewhere it's not long before its stripped of any of its former grace and turned into the latest cool venue. More fences, more boarding up, active security and guard dogs. And I fucking hate guard dogs.

Luckily I got to see this place a few times in its glory years, but this kind of commercialisation of these places is just sad.

They are doing this for a long time mate, nothing is original in this hospital, everything has been made for photographers.

I am planning a trip to Beelitz in about 3 weeks (from Texas no less) and was wondering what the current state of the campus is. Same as it ever was or increased security?

Same as before. Best to avoid at weekends so you don't trip over any tour groups.

If anyone is reading this and interested in checking out the site on one of the 27th, 28th or 29th of Jan, let me know. Native English and intermediate German speaker. ltjourn@live.com

We went there about two weeks ago: http://derwikinger.com/?p=13
Getting in was pretty easy.

Update: We were there today (22 March 2015): There was an official fotoshooting and the send of everybody trying to get on the main area.
Still got some Pictures of a smaller house: http://derwikinger.com/?p=159

Everything? Even the decay of the buildings! ;) Completely manufactured and not at all natural ;)

We have been there April 16th and 18th, 2015. We have seen at least 13 buildings from the inside. Still the area is easy accessible. To big to fence. The building have just to much windows and doors to secure. ……….. BUT:
All has been sold to different investors. The place is buzzing with security firms because a lot of expansive construction machines are around. Some buildings are completely fenced and we have seen numerous fences in the buildup. Only a very few weeks and the story of free urban exploration at Beelitz is told. Even guided Fototours have ended. When we were there CEWE and CANON had workshops in the better buildings and were keeping people that do not belong to the paying crowd out. Security people – if they catch you – take names bring you to justice. Be careful. No joking anymore.
We had access partly because we talked to investors that were present (and we looked like Photographers) that let us pass their fence, or we took the risk where we thought it is manageable.

Been there today. But unfortunately around the womens clinic there are a lot of fences and security. For a guided tour you have to book on the internet and costst about 50 euros.
The small buildings are easy to reach though.

Such a shame this wonderful place will be lost to us.. nothing stands still

Last week the 'Baumkronenpfad' has opened. We went there today because it seemed to be the only way to see at least a part of Beelitz Heilstatten. The whole area of the womens clinic is fenced in as part of the tourist attraction. No way to go inside with all those people and security. And all those fences around the buildings make it impossible to make nice photos of the buildings.
We walked around the area to see if anywhere we could enter other parts, but except for some small houses, we didn't dare go in. Most of the mens clinic are under construction and will become studios for artists or something, lot of construction workers and security present. Another part was secured because sime filmcrew was shooting. Big trucks and trailers and again security.
I was really dissapointed. Have we only been a year earlier...

I was there a week ago. Probably the last chance to see something pristine in Beelitz. Mens clinic is in advanced process of renovation, as well as some buildings on the other side of the road. Security is everywhere and they threat people to call the police if they cross the area. We took a chance though and saw some little buildings, which are still worth visiting. So sad.

August 2016 update: visited Beelitz today. Pretty much all of the larger buildings (mens & womens clinics, kitchen, laundry, hospital) are fenced in and/or boarded up solidly. Lots of renovation going on, mostly on the mens and womens clinics on south side of the railway. On the north side of the railway, you can access a couple of the larger buildings quite easily but you will need to do a bit of bush bashing and be prepared to jump a fence. A lot of the fences have security signs warning of dogs, but I didnt see any. I went on a thursday and there were quite a few tourists wandering around, so you will have to be quick and sly to plan and execute your entrance/exit over a fence discreetly. It seems that they offer guided tours of the hospital on Saturdays and Sundays, according to the sign at the gate. The main womens clinic on north side has an entrance fee.

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