Hohenlychen Sanatorium


Lychen is a small town located in the west of the beautiful Uckermark county in Brandenburg, about 100 kilometers north of Berlin.

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In 1902, Gotthold Pannwitz of the Red Cross founded the Heilanstalten Hohenlychen, initially a sanatorium for patients affected by tuberculosis. Due to his holistic mindset, the facilities were laid out like a little hamlet and included a school for horticulture, a school for domestic economy and a public natatorium.

In 1935, Karl Gebhardt became medical director of Hohenlychen and gradually transformed the sanatorium into an orthopedic clinic. A wing was added to focus on the rehabilitation of sports injuries. Hohenlychen became quite “chic” with national socialist elite.

During World War II, the clinic was again transformed into a military hospital.

Although it was a violation of the Hippocratic oath to conduct medical experiments in hospitals, Hitler decreed that it was permissible in the interest of the state and prisoner could be used for this purpose. Karl Gebhardt and others used the nearby concentration camp Ravensbrück to perform numerous surgical experiments on inmates. After the war Gebhardt was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, sentenced to death and hanged in 1948.

In 1945, Brandenburg was part of the Soviet occupation zone and much of the infrastructure and medical equipment of Hohenlychen was wantonly destroyed before the site was used as a Soviet military hospital.

After the withdrawal of soviet forces in 1993, the facilities were not put to use again and remain abandoned.

Profile on Karl Gebhardt:


Karl Gebhardt (23 November 1897 in Haag – 2 June 1948 in Landsberg am Lech) was aGerman medical doctor; personal physician of Heinrich Himmler; and one of the main coordinators and perpetrators of surgical experiments performed on inmates of the concentration camps at Ravensbrück and Auschwitz.

Career in the Third Reich

Gebhardt’s Nazi career began with his joining the NSDAP on 1 May 1933. Two years later, he also joined the SS and became head physician at the sanatorium of Hohenlychen in theUckermark, which he changed from a clinic for tuberculosis patients into an orthopedic clinic and later, during World War II, into a hospital for the Waffen-SS. In 1938, Gebhardt was appointed asHeinrich Himmler’s personal physician.

Gebhardt treated Albert Speer in early 1944 for fatigue and a swollen knee. He nearly killed Speer until he was replaced by another doctor. Himmler saw Speer as a rival for power.

Gebhardt rose to the rank of Gruppenführer in the SS and a Major General (Generalmajor) in theWaffen SS.

Having either ordered them or carried them out, Gebhardt was directly responsible for numerous surgical experiments performed on concentration camp inmates. He was particularly active at the women’s camp in Ravensbrück (which was close to Hohenlychen) and the camp in Auschwitz. At Ravensbruck he had initially faced opposition from camp commandant Fritz Suhren, who feared future problems given the status of most camp inmates as political prisoners, but the SS leadership backed Gebhardt and Suhren was forced to co-operate.

A particularly brutal series of experiments Gebhardt carried out involved the ability of “patients” to endure long-duration operations. He would often open a subject’s skull or abdomen–without the use of anesthesia–and observe how long the subject survived before succumbing toshock or sepsis. His surgical notes, which are impossible to verify, indicate that certain subjects survived nearly 24 hours under such conditions. Gebhardt was often accompanied by a committee of fellow surgeons during these experiments, allowing them to tinker with his subjects’ exposed organs during surgery.

During World War II, Gebhardt also acted for some time as the President of the German Red Cross.

By 22 April 1945, the Soviets were massing their Armies to the immediate east of Berlin and Joseph Goebbels brought his wife and children into the Führerbunker. German dictator Adolf Hitler and a few loyal personnel were there to direct the final defence of Berlin. Gebhardt, in his capacity as the Red Cross leader, approached Goebbels about taking the children out of the city with him, but he was dismissed by Goebbels.

Trial and execution

After the war, Gebhardt stood trial in the Doctors’ Trial together with 22 other doctors before a U.S.military tribunal, where he was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to death on 20 August 1947. He was hanged on 2 June 1948, in Landsberg prison inBavaria.