Have you ever wanted to visit a truly disturbing site that a typical tourist never sees?
If the answer is yes, the Beelitz-Heilstätten Hospital in Beelitz, Germany might seem like your dream destination, but debate rages on whether it should be demolished or remain open for tourism.
For those who do brave a visit, this abandoned military hospital is certain to give even the most seasoned “off the beaten track” tourist some serious chills down their spine. With its decaying plaster, crumbling walls, and overgrown weeds, it’s straight out of a horror movie.
The History of Beelitz-Heilstätten Hospital
In contrast to it its current state, the institution was a world-class military hospital when it first opened in 1898. Between 1898 and 1930 the hospital, which comprises 60 different buildings, was a sanatorium for lung diseases, including tuberculosis.
During World War I, it housed and healed thousands of German soldiers who were afflicted with machine gun wounds and mustard gas inhalation, amongst other battlefield injuries. Its list of patients even included a young Adolph Hitler in 1916, when he was blinded by a British gas attack and sustained a leg wound at the Battle of the Somme.
While Beelitz-Heilstätten Hospital returned to its main purpose of healing lung conditions during peacetime, it again sprang into hectic action during World War II, tending to soldiers and high-ranking officials alike. In 1945 it was captured by Russian soldiers, and went on to become a Soviet Military Hospital all the way through to 1995. At this point it was abandoned. Most of the buildings have been allowed to fall into disrepair, except for a small section still used for neurological rehabilitation and Parkinson’s research.
However, in recent years it has become a popular destination for urban explorers and tourists seeking unsettling experiences. A canopy walkway was added in 2016 to make the site safer for tourists and discourage people from going inside the buildings.
Controversy – Should the Hospital be Demolished?
That said, some think the unused sections of the hospital should be demolished. On a practical level, it’s a very dangerous site and someone could get seriously hurt attempting to explore the ruined structure.
From a historical perspective, its Nazi history and connection to Hitler can often attract the wrong type of tourism. To prevent admirers of Hitler from turning the site into a makeshift shrine, some want it razed to the ground.
And that’s precisely why dark tourism is a hot topic. Critics argue it is disrespectful to visit sites of horror, such as prisons, mental asylums, and hospitals without robust and sensitive curation in place.
However, proponents of macabre travel claim that it is simply a part of human nature to be fascinated by the dark and spooky side of things. After all, look at how popular horror films are at the box office! They argue that adventure seekers will still find a way in even when you make it illegal to visit places like Beelitz-Heilstätten Hospital, so efforts should be made to keep them accessible and safe.
Which side of the debate do you fall on? Do you want to visit this grim old hospital, or do you think some things are better left in the past?