Do you sometimes wonder what it would be like to be the last person left alive in your city after a holocaust struck? Sometimes I dream of wandering down deserted streets and into buildings encrusted in spider webs where I hear rats scuttling. These things do happen such as when I visited Beelitz-Heilstätten Potsdam. Think Chernobyl where the exclusion zone still stretches for a thousand square miles after thirty years and perhaps forever, and the ghosts remain.
I experienced something similar when I visited the 10th Century town of Belize eleven miles south of Potsdam in Germany after picking up a rental car in Berlin. Its main claim to fame is a giant hospital of sixty buildings conceived by architect Heini Schmieden who had grandiose ideas, and constructed it between 1898 and 1930. When Germany fell in 1945 the Red Army commandeered it, and it became a Soviet Military Hospital until German reunification in 1990. After that the people abandoned it as an unwanted memory. Since then, time has literally stood still in this strangest of places.
It took thirty-two years to complete the Beelitz-Heilstätten Potsdam Seminary commissioned by the German National Insurance Institute, who thought the clean country air would aid recovery. It was advanced for its day, boasting a village for staff with post office, bakery, butchery, and restaurant. It even had its own electricity power plant that generated so much heat some say snow never settled on the ground.
I left Beelitz-Heilstätten in a thoughtful mood, as I mused over the nurses and doctors who worked here, and the patients that life had dealt hard cards to who came here for relief. I thought of young soldiers devastated by war with their minds and bodies in ribbons. Did they recover? Where was this treatment trolley heading to I wondered: Who was waiting for their medicine and where are they buried now? Beelitz-Heilstätten Potsdam is a place of macabre memories and I doubt I will return soon.