Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin And Kreuzberg
Not a trace is left of the place which is the topic of today´s post. Its garden was long replaced with a big street and some high-rises. But with a bit of imagination and a healthy dose of effort you can visualise the crossing Gitschiner Strasse/Lindenstrasse/Alte Jakobstrasse as a quiet green corner, still undisturbed even by the sound of the U-Bahn.
Probably the only sounds you would hear back then were the clacking of horse hooves and the calls of the cavalry officers at the riding school which was used by the troops stationed at the barracks in Alexandrinenstrasse.
Behind the silent windows of the three-storey building before you you might see some tired faces. Here the sick are being tended to and charity is doing its work. You are standing in front of the Frauen-Siechenanstalt in Hallesche Communication.
On December 16th, 1897 the former Frauen-Siechenanstalt in Gitschiner Strasse 104/105, a charitable hospital for “unlucky, destitute women suffering mostly incurable diseases like cancer, who could not afford proper care at home” is taken over by the municipal Krankenhaus Am Urban to be administered by it.
The history of the Siechenanstalt für Frauen began in 1857 when the former cholera lazarett built close to the city walls during the returning bouts of the disease in Berlin – the first epidemic of 1831 was quickly followed by another in 1832, 1837 and then again in 1849 – was believed to have become redundant (although cholera was not done with Prussia´s capital yet).
Its building and the small piece of land at its back were given over to the municipal charitable organisation supported by several private foundations. Soon the 80 beds provided to the ailing women of poor means proved to be too little. The number of those needing medical and spiritual help (for the soul was obviously properly taken care of here as well) was growing steadily. Soon more place for more patients had to be found.
Three years after its opening the building was extended: the now three-storey house gained space for another 21 beds. But the influx of patients continued and the city administration felt obliged to show even more good will. The re-doing of the wing and some more architectural corrections allowed the Siechenanstalt in now Gitschiner Strasse (until 1868 Hallesche Kommunikation) to welcome twice as many patients as originally. In 1874 there will be 168 of them.
The House With A Garden
Based on the report of Rudolf Virchow published under an almost baroque-sounding title of Die Anstalten der Stadt Berlin für die Öffentliche Gesundheitspflege und für den Naturwissenschaftlichen Unterricht (The Institutions of the The City of Berlin for Public Healthcare and for Natural Sciences Education), the ground floor of the Frauen Sichenanstalt housed two stations. Each of them had two rooms for 22 suffering women, a room for the nurse as well as a small Teeküche.
Both on the 1st and the 2nd floor there were another 3 stations with 6 rooms and 68 beds. The terminally ill or in other words dying cancer patients were moved to a small separate room in the right wing of the building. In the year 1884/1885 this room became the last station for 78 women. Out of 292 patients 27.2% died while 52 could be sent home again.
Those among the women living in Gitschiner Strasse 104/105 who were well enough to walk could do so in the garden at the back of the main house. The trees growing there provided enough shade in summer to make such small outings truly enjoyable. For many of the patients, who came from poor families and were used to working hard and bearing children at the rate that often triggered the disease in the first place, this was the first time in their life they could get some rest.
In 1887 the institution in Gitschiner Strasse got a new medical supervisor whose name sounds very familiar to anyone living in Kreuzberg. Until 1890 Dr Albert Fraenkel, professor of medicine (albeit not professor ordinarius – as a Jew he was banned from ever gaining that title already in the 19th century Prussia) will be responsible for all medical matters at the Siechenanstalt. He was also the head of a private clinic in Königgratzer Strasse at the time.
In 1890 Fraenkel will be offered the position of the Head of the Internal Medicine at Krankenhaus Am Urban, which he will accept.
Berlin address book for the same year does not contain any record of the Frauen-Siechenanstalt in Gitschiner Strasse 104/105 any more. Instead, it names Heimath-Haus für Töchter hoherer Stände – a boarding house and school for the daughters of the well-heeled families.
So how come it could be taken over by Urban Krankenhaus 7 years later? Unable (yet:) to find the necessary documents in the archives I can only venture a theory: it is possible that it was moved to Urban at the same time as Fraenkel got his position there. It would have been definitely cheaper than keeping two separate houses. Still, this is just a theory – the search continues…