Berlin Charité: 300 Years in Sickness and Health
The history of Charité, Berlin’s oldest hospital, spans both the promise and betrayal of medical science.
Duration: 1.5 h
Meeting Point: By the Robert Koch monument in Robert-Koch-Platz – look for the orange umbrella!
Price: 20 €
Tour in a nutshell
The history of Charité, Berlin’s oldest hospital, spans both the promise and betrayal of medical science. It is the story of the struggle to understand disease and also of what happens when a hateful ideology turns doctors into executioners. Although its beautiful red-brick campus feels like a world of its own, the Charité has not been immune to the whims of the powers ruling Berlin and has been the political instrument of Nazis and East Germany alike. On this walking tour, we will dissect 300 years of success, failure and everything in between.
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The history of Charité stretches back to its humble beginnings as a pest house in 1710, when the bubonic plague was approaching Berlin. In the early days of the hospital, methods such as bloodletting, doses of quicksilver and amputations were common in treating the sick.
A stroll around the campus will take us to where the Nobel Prize winning microbiologist, Robert Koch discovered the causes of tuberculosis, anthrax and cholera as the Charité became one of the hotspots of scientific thinking in the 19th century. But it wasn’t just achievements in science that took place here – when the Kingdom of Prussia finally allowed women to study medicine, Rahel Hirsch became the first professor in medicine at the Charité Medical School.
The hospital also witnessed the dark times of the Nazi regime. Medical ethics were disregarded and Nazi ideas of racial hygiene were ruthlessly imposed. While some doctors kept quiet and conformed, others organised the extermination of psychiatric patients. In subsequent decades, East Germany prided itself on the achievements of the Charité, while bricking up those windows that faced towards the capitalist West. This tour opens up a world of exciting discovery and historical tragedy, taking you to the heart of medicine’s struggles in the modern age.
Berlin Charité: 300 Years in Sickness and Health starts by the Robert Koch monument in Robert-Koch-Platz