Karl-Bonhoeffer Psychiatric Clinic

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Karl-Bonhoeffer Psychiatric Clinic

Administration Building
Construction Began 1877
Opened 1880
Current Status Active
Building Style Corridor Plan
Location Berlin
Alternate Names
  • State Insane and Idiot Asylum of Dalldorf
  • Wittenauer Heilstätten


The first hospital, in which the mentally ill were kept, was built in Berlin at the end of the 17th century under the name Grosses Friedrichs-Hospital. At that time it also took in other patients and orphans. The people designated mentally ill were not being treated medically, but rather locked in order to make the community safe for. Towards the end of the 18th Century, the hospital counted more than 500 patients. In 1798, it burned completely, after which the supply of the mentally ill, first Charité private hospitals was taken and various. Since this course of decades to a growing overcrowding at Charité and other institutions led in, it decided the Berlin City Council in 1863 to build an independent-care institution for the insane for 1000 patients. After years of disputes about the distribution of costs and the location of the new hospital in 1877 to start construction on the former agricultural estate Dalldorf, which the city acquired in 1869. In the spring of 1880 the clinic opened, and shortly thereafter transferred the patients from the private institutions here.

Initially the plant was called Städtische Irrenanstalt zu Dalldorf (Urban asylum at Dalldorf) and consisted of ten patient pavilions, a kitchen, a power house, a laundry, an administrative building and several gardens and workshops. In 1881, built on the same site a reform school for 100 mentally underdeveloped children, which was incorporated into the institution. Compared to the predecessor organizations, the living conditions for the patients at the Dalldorf hospital were very good: the working patients were employed in the workshops and gardens of the institution, there were occasionally organized trips and parties for patients, visits by relatives and in some cases the of sick leave were allowed.

Despite a relatively high patient capacity, the clinic suffered overcrowding over throughout it's history. For this reason, the Institute had throughout its history several times by construction of new buildings or remodeling so far otherwise unused space to be expanded.

After the Second World War and the subsequent division of Berlin sanatoria were Wittenauer for years the only psychiatric hospital on the West Berlin area (except the University psychiatry), which inpatient mental health care there, the more difficult. Only in the 1950s and '60s through the establishment of several offices Überbelegungsproblem could be defused. 1949 the Hospital opened a nursing program. In 1957 the Wittenauer Heilstätten was renamed Karl-Bonhoeffer-psychiatric clinic in 1948 in honor of the late German psychiatry professor Karl Bonhoeffer, who for years at the Charité had been active.

World War 2

The staff of the Wittenauer Heilstätten in Berlin critically investigated and assessed the historical role of their clinic & it's part in the Nazi Euthanasia program. Between 1938 and April 24, 1945, 4,607 patients died, usually 20 days after admittance. After liberation 2,500 people were newly admitted but 1,400 patients "died" within the same year, a total of about 55 per cent. In 1957 the institution was renamed into Karl-Bonhoeffer-Clinic-of-Neurology. Bonhoeffer functioned as key player in the "sterilization of the mentally inferior" and, like many others, did so voluntarily. Despite retirement he would still work for the racial sterilization courts. In December 1941 he examined a Jewish Mischling, a "half breed" who, 14 years before, had once been admitted to a psychiatric unit. Even the NS-Erbgesundheitsgericht (the Law Court for the Protection of German Blood and Honour) hesitated, since the examined person showed no symptoms of disease and worked normally. Bonhoeffer nevertheless advised sterilization.[1]