Heilstätte Grabowsee - TB or not TB

Filed 28/5/2011 | Updated 22/3/2016
Lurking in the shadows of the forest, Heilstätte Grabowsee creaks and groans through the gloom, sighing with echoes of the past as it sinks into the resignation of decay.
Trees bend and sway to listen, their rustling branches quivering from the calls of the unfortunate souls who perished and suffered in these crumbling buildings, their solemn corridors, their tarnished halls, their empty rooms.
The breeze rustles from the branches and rushes thoughtlessly through the forgotten wards, swinging doors and windows, banging without respect. It foolishly attempts reviving the unreviveable, leaving new formations of dust and leaves in its wake. Nothing else stirs. No mouse steps paw in these haggard halls, no rat scavenges for discarded bodies. They’re all gone, long long gone.
They’re gone since 1991 to be precise – the Soviets that is. They scarpered once they realized they weren’t too welcome anymore in reunified Germany. The rats stayed a little longer. Rats don’t give a rat’s ass for politics and will happily live anywhere that isn’t too expensive. That being said, they are more attached to their arses then we are, and would not give them lightly for any reason.
The Russians stayed almost 50 years, using the former tuberculosis sanatorium as a military hospital once the war ended, but details on their shenanigans over that time remain elusive.
My search for facts did uncover an altogether more interesting story than that of a nation with more military than sense (just one of them) when I stumbled on the tale of the lost city of Grabow! Apparently the city was destroyed in a “minor earthquake” (must have been made of straw) and was covered by the lake that today bears its name. Locals say you can still see the towers of the city in the lake on a fine day, notwithstanding their supposed destruction by this so-called minor earthquake.
Apparently the ruins of Grabow Castle are nearby. The only ruins I found, however, were those of the Heilstätte. The former sanatorium can only be described as fucked, which is a shame, as I’m sure Gotthold Theodor Pannwitz would agree.
In 1895, Herr Pannwitz was at the Kaiserlichen Gesundheitsamt, where his campaign for a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients quickly gained support.
It was established at Grabowsee on a trial basis in March 1896. Twenty-seven barracks for lung patients were added and the first 30 patients moved in a month later. I guess they’re all dead now. Nevertheless, the whole thing was a huge success and led to the establishment of similar Heilstätten all around Berlin, at Beelitz, Buch and Lychen to name but a few. Pannwitz concentrated on the one at Lychen and is remembered fondly there to this day.
Heilstätte Grabowsee became the Red Cross Sanatorium for the Working Class, before it was taken over after the Great War by the Brandenburg Insurance Company in 1920.
The architect Arnold Beschoren was then responsible for the complex’s expansion and renovation. His handiwork is what you see crumbling around you today.
There was a small church built beside the lake at the time but that was burned down by some idiots in 2007.
Of course the other Great War came and went and then the Soviets did. A number of commercial enterprises failed after they left, before the place was taken over by a crowd called Kids Globe in 2006. They have big plans to turn it into some sort of paradise for kids. Good luck to them. Thankfully the complex is far enough away from Berlin that some fuckbag developer hasn’t turned it into apartments.
Old sofas, couches and chairs somehow always make their way to these places, as if drawn by the solidarity of quiet abandonment, and the forest is slowly taking over.
A pigeon frightened the bejaysus out of me as I tiptoed down a long dark corridor but he was the only soul I met. I swear he waited just long enough before flapping his wings for maximum effect. Pigeons take perverse pleasure in scaring the crap out of intrepid explorers. They can wait patiently in ambush for years, cooing with mirth at the thought of sending someone's heart into their mouth.
But Heilstätte Grabowsee’s days of quiet seclusion are coming to a close if the plans come to fruition. It seems the serenity of flaking paint, dust, rust, rubble, shards and impenetrable gloom may soon be shattered by the shrill screams of snotty kids. No wonder the Heilstätte sighs and groans.

From 1896 to 1945 the former sanatorium for tuberculosis patients of Heilstätte Grabowsee, and from 1945 a Russian military hospital.

Grabowseestraße 1, 16515 Oranienburg, Germany. Beside the lake known as Grabowsee.

How to get there
Bring your bike with you and get the S1 or regional train to Oranienburg, to the north of Berlin. Cycle east on Bernauer Straße until you hit the canal, turn left and follow this along until you come to the bridge that will take you across to the complex. You’ll pass the Sachsenhausen concentration camp on your way if you fancy a detour. I can’t say I’d recommend it. But you could also check out the SS Bakery on your way. Here’s a map which may or may not be useful.

Getting in
Hop the fence. Easy enough where someone has conveniently cut a tree to make a handy leg up, confusing as a handy leg may sound.

When to go
Daylight. Whenever it’s not raining would make it less miserable.

Difficulty rating
3/10. Very easy to hop the fence. The hardest part is getting here and finding it, which isn’t that hard if you follow the instructions above.

Who to bring
Whoever. Go on your own if you like being spooked out.

What to bring
Camera. Torch. Sandwiches or something to nibble on. A beer or two for re-hydration. Good boots and possibly a hard hat.

The buildings are in a terrible state as I may have mentioned before. Watch where you step, and under which roofs you stick your head. Ceilings – like Irish banks – are very much in danger of collapse. Of course, keep an eye out for wannabe informers and any builders or security. Several other people who visited have spoken of security, a guard with a dog that looks like a bear and other scary things. Of course, it might all be bullshit. Proceed, as always, with caution.

Postamtle (Abandoned local government)

Filed 19/5/2011 |
Every window sealed, every door locked, until we went around again. Back to the first door. I noticed just one bolt and the handle missing. I gave a gentle pull, a more persistent one, followed by a convincing tug. The doors swung open, we were in!