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The Illenau is a striking building in Achern in Baden . It was originally designed as a sanatorium and nursing home and was built in 1842. The initiator of this insane asylum was the Baden doctor Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Roller . The institute was in operation until 1940 and was then dissolved by the National Socialists as part of Action T4 and used as a Reich school for ethnic Germans . After the Second World War , the facility was used as barracks for the French armed forces until 1994 ; after some renovation work , the city of Achern now uses the building as a town hall .

Main building (2011)


"The insane asylum in all its relationships"

Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Roller, impressed by the lack of accommodation in the existing lunatic asylums, after studying foreign specialist literature and a study trip to European institutions, wrote a book about his ideas about a model lunatic asylum with the title The Asylum in All Its Relationships . The work was published in 1831, one year after Grand Duke Leopold von Baden had ascended to the throne , who was very open to Roller's ideas.

Choice of location

A suitable site for the new state insane asylum was now being sought in the state of Baden. After a long search, two possible locations were found at Ottersweier and Heitersheim near Freiburg im Breisgau . But both the Hubbad in Ottersweier, rebuilt in 1811/1812 by Baden's famous classicist architect Friedrich Weinbrenner , and the vacant castle of the Knights of Malta in Heitersheim showed certain defects. The city of Achern offered the Ministry of the Interior a large area on the outskirts of the city for sale. After a detailed inspection, all doubts were eliminated. The choice was made, the site in Achern offered everything you could ask for and want.

Decision for a new building

A new building enabled the spatial separation of male and female patients. But it should be distinguished not only by gender, but also by the degree of the disease. The incurable required special supervision and escape-proof rooms, while only slightly mentally ill should lead a relatively normal life and were not subject to any restrictions on their freedom of movement. The young Christian Roller demanded, among other things, the purchase of a lot of free space around the institution. Gardens should be laid out for the sick; they wanted to grow some of the fruit and vegetables in the fields near the institution in order to contribute to the supply of the institution. Of course, the proximity to the city and the railway line under construction were also important for an institution of the planned size.

Roller was able to realize his dream of a modern sanatorium here. The time should also be over when the insane were viewed as possessed by the devil and in insanity believed to recognize no illness, but a punishment from God. Gone are the days of dark dungeons, chains, beatings and social stigmatization. With his institute, Roller wanted to show new guidelines and set standards for a better, more humane future in the field of psychiatry. The planning of a sanatorium for 410 patients on the 39 acres (approx. 14 ha) area began.

Planning the new building

General view of the Illenau Sanatorium, 1865

The building officer Hans Voss was commissioned to produce the structural expansion according to Rollers plans. Based on the architect Friedrich Weinbrenner, Roller's concept of a well-proportioned, symmetrical building complex in the classical style was created. Particularly noteworthy here are the systematic structure of the individual building complexes and the purity of the design language in the facade design. With well-proportioned building and facade jumps, the builder succeeded in an excellent way in creating a fine structure without the use of complex ornamentation. With the design of the arcades in the center of the complex, the ancient element is most clearly visible to the observer. In its overall conception, the Illenau, which is perhaps to be assessed as one of the last real buildings of classicism, represents a valuable building-historical document through the combination of the essential features of different classicist directions.

Approval of the new building

On March 29, 1836, the plans were finally approved, taking into account the amendments proposed by senior building officer Huebsch. The groundbreaking ceremony on June 9, 1839 was preceded by necessary field work. During the three years of construction, up to 400 domestic and foreign workers stayed in Illenau. The necessary timber was naturally available in the Black Forest , and there was also no lack of clay for bricks. In Oberachern until the end of the 20th century, clay was extracted from the same hill as it was then and bricks were burned. The cost of building a road from the city to the construction site was shared by the state treasury and the city of Achern. Plans for horticulture and agricultural use were also drawn up at this time. When the foundation stone was laid, Grand Duke Leopold von Baden gave the entire project the name Illenau, based on the Illenbach flowing past it.

The institution

Karl Hergt and Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Roller

On September 23, 1842 the beneficial work of the Illenau began. 49 patients from Heidelberg came to Achern under the supervision of assistant doctor Karl Hergt. Another 242 patients followed, also from Heidelberg and Pforzheim. This is how the so-called Illenau family came into being : an association of sick people, doctors, nurses, priests, administrators, craftsmen and economists. It was very important to Roller that the staff treated the sick in an exemplary manner. The lighter cases could walk in the gardens and the surrounding area or do light work. Each department had its own garden with flower beds that were tended by the sick themselves. There was even a courtyard for the incurable, although it was surrounded on all sides by high walls. In the summer it also happened quite often that one of the doctors and some nurses took a group of sick people on excursions. There were hikes to the Allerheiligen waterfalls , the Mummelsee and other local recreation destinations. Roller was able to achieve great success with this method. The Illenau gained more and more reputation, as many of the sick could be discharged as cured. Soon those seeking recovery came to Achern from all over Europe, and many members of the domestic and foreign nobility were cured of their mental illnesses here.

The catchment area of ​​the Illenau grew steadily, and again one faced the problem of lack of space. Therefore, the institution was constantly rebuilt, expanded and adapted to the needs. In 1902/03, two country houses in villa style were built just outside. They served to shelter those who were to be released shortly afterwards as healed. A distinction was made between the men's and women's country houses. A few years earlier, the scooter building (1882) and the Hergtbau (1901) were built.

Roller headed the institution until his death in 1878. His long-time friend and colleague Karl Hergt then took over the management of the institution. Born in Tauberbischofsheim in 1807 , the trained pharmacist came to the Heidelberg institution as an assistant doctor in 1835. He and Roller moved to Illenau in 1842. While Roller was considered a great organizer, Hergt took on the role of therapist. He cared for the sick with devotion, heeded their every word and strove for their healing with love and strong personal commitment. He was a great example of patience and kindness for all doctors in Illenau. He too remained loyal to Illenau until the end of his life in 1889.

Heinrich Schüle

Heinrich Schüle continued the series of important doctors and directors . He was born in Freiburg in 1840 and came to Illenau as an assistant doctor in 1863. In 1890 he was given the management of the institution. Compared to his predecessors, he was a great scientist. He wanted to preserve the spirit of Illenau and still use the latest psychiatric knowledge and healing methods. In the field of psychiatry, he was considered a capacity at home and abroad. Numerous universities offered him chairs and many insane asylums the director's chair, but Schüle was completely satisfied with his place in the Illenau family. He has been made an honorary member of many European scientific societies. His fame spread over Belgium, France, Austria, England to Russia. The younger doctors were impressed by his keen interest in the latest research results that have been achieved in the field of psychiatry and his openness to new methods. Despite his intensive scientific work, he had a heart for the sick. In 1906 he succeeded in re-establishing the Aid Association for the Mentally Discharged. Schüle died in 1916.

Ernst Thoma and Hans Römer

The next two directors, Ernst Thoma (1917–1929) and Hans Römer (1929–1940), did not do any pioneering work in the field of psychiatry, and it was certainly not easy for them to stand in the shadow of their famous predecessors. Nevertheless, Thoma can be credited with the achievement of leading Illenau safely through the years of the First World War. The time after that, which was characterized by economic instability and food shortages, was mastered by Thoma and his employees in an exemplary manner. His successor, Hans Römer, had an even more difficult task. He had to fight for the survival of Illenau as a sanatorium and nursing home. However, Hitler's euthanasia decree and the Second World War meant the end of their period of activity for both the Romans and the Illenau. When Römer had to recognize the hopelessness of the situation, he took early retirement. He did not want to be actively involved in the dissolution of Illenau and the death of patients himself. The world also noticed another young doctor from the Illenau school: Bernhard von Gudden . In 1855 he took over the management of the Bavarian insane asylum in Werneck. Together with his famous patient, King Ludwig II of Bavaria , he drowned under mysterious circumstances in Lake Starnberg.

The nursing staff

The question remains whether the aforementioned directors would ever have made Illenau so famous without the help of all the staff. Strict morals prevailed within the institution, and indiscipline was immediately punished. Self-sacrifice, diligence and conscientiousness were required of the carers. Nevertheless, a post in the Illenau was in great demand both in Achern and in the surrounding area. One was willing to submit to the strict house rules, because the income opportunities were tempting. At that time it was also a matter of course that the wages of the carers were considerably higher than that of their colleagues. Another financial attractiveness was seen in the tips, because the relatives of the rich fosterlings were very generous when it came to creating every convenience for their protégés. The wishes of the sick family could be fully met, as there were only three to four sick people per carer. In order to meet the high requirements, the nurses required training. In the first few years they were taught by experts during a probationary period and instructed in medical matters by a doctor. In 1921 a nursing school was opened which temporarily trained the staff of other institutions.

Married nurses could also hope that the institution would provide them with an apartment, another reason to keep expanding the original building complex. However, this was done with a great deal of sensitivity and consideration for the harmony of the whole. Anyone looking at the system today will find it difficult to distinguish between the unit planned by Roller and the one that was added later.

The work of the nursing staff was anything but easy. It was by no means easy to always be patient and kind with the sick, as they were unpredictable. Almost every day nurses were insulted, humiliated or even physically attacked by the sick. The staff, however, had to respect the human dignity of the sick, were not allowed to allow themselves to be provoked and had the task of serving with love. They vigilantly protected the patients from themselves, since suicide attempts were part of everyday life.


time of the nationalsocialism

In 1939, Hans Römer was informed that patients from Illenau were to be moved by means of a collective transport. At first it was believed that the reason for this was the planned campaign in the west . But Römer soon suspected what was really planned and opposed the euthanasia decree with all his might . He contacted other institutions and consulted with them. He demanded that Illenau be recognized as a mental hospital in Central Baden - without success. Römer reported sick and delayed the removal of the sick for a short time. As soon as he was back in office, 50 sick people were ordered to be removed. Römer tried to bypass the order, but only managed to save able-bodied and self-paying patients. On May 18, 1940, the first sick people were taken away, but instead of the 50 reported, 75 were taken away. The trip went to the Nazi killing center at Schloss Grafeneck , where they were murdered and cremated.

In the Illenau people were puzzled when the news of death arrived, and the arbitrarily stated diseases that served as the cause of death were also suspiciously noted. Römer saw his premonitions confirmed and felt partly responsible for the death of these people. He instructed his colleagues to discharge as many patients as possible as cured. Another request was made to Illenau to prepare 60 patients for the next transport, and Römer no longer knew what to do. He conferred with the Protestant pastor of Achern. He then called in sick again and took early retirement. After Römer was out of the way, the clearing of the Illenau proceeded quickly. On December 19, 1940, the Illenau's activities as a sanatorium and nursing home ended.

The National Socialists used the school in 1941 as a national political educational institution for girls and later as a Reich school for ethnic Germans. Between 400 and 500 South Tyrolean girls whose parents had opted for Germany in 1940 lived here for almost four years. They were taught according to German school plans and initially looked after by the Catholic pastor from Oberachern. 40 girls from Poland were housed in a separate building; some of them had been brought here by force in order to be Germanized, as they were all blond and blue-eyed. Between 1943 and 1944 Illenau was a national political educational institution for boys.

post war period

In 1945 the French allied forces marched into Achern and took control of the Illenau. Initially, the buildings served as accommodation for Polish forced laborers who were now to start their journey home. When the institution was no longer needed as a temporary camp, it was converted into a barracks by the French occupying forces. It was named "Quartier Turenne ". The Illenau kept this provision until August 31, 1994.

A citizens' initiative Future of Illenau was created. She tries to keep alive the memory of the great importance of the Illenau and to support the city of Achern in their efforts to use it in a meaningful way. This also includes the establishment of the Illenau Memorial Trail in August 2002 and the Hansjakob Trail in May 2005.

After the French troops had left, the city of Achern bought the area on March 18, 1999 for three million DM and tried to market the large building complex. Until the end of 2009, the former kitchen house was home to the Why Not discotheque , which was named Psychiatry from the original task . A real estate investor bought the north wing in 2007 and built fifty apartments by 2009. The Technical Town Hall of the city administration moved into the former directorate building at the end of 2009. In March 2010 the decision was made to merge the rest of the city administration in the remaining free part of the building complex. Before that, the former stables of the Illenau were restored on a private initiative and in March 2008 the Illenau workshops were set up as open workshops for art, craft and technology. Little by little, other buildings on the periphery of the area were sold and new regulations were introduced, taking into account the requirements of monument protection.

The Illenau patient files are almost completely preserved and are stored in the Baden-Württemberg State Archives, Freiburg State Archives.


The Illenau forest cemetery

Entrance to the forest cemetery

Many doctors and nurses from the former Grand Ducal Badische Landesirrenanstalt are buried in the Illenau forest cemetery, which was founded in 1859 and is now a listed building. It is located in a small forest near the institution, contains a selection of rare trees, some of which are foreign, and is surrounded by a high fence. A large, artistically forged iron gate adorns the entrance. The first thing the visitor gets to see is a mighty statue of Bertel Thorvaldsen , half hidden by trees, behind a large flower bed. It represents Christ spreading his arms and welcoming us. The left path leads past ivy-covered graves to a few steps that lead up to a kind of burial gallery. The graves differ in size and equipment. The rich patients of the first class have magnificent graves with sculptures of exquisite beauty, loving inscriptions and enclosures of artistic blacksmiths. Only simple wooden crosses with their names remind of the destitute who were buried here, and even these faded over time beyond recognition. There are nameless people next to nobles, doctors next to a court actor or a court musician and orderlies next to a marshal or a Russian officer.

Illenau Arkaden Museum

The Illenau Arkaden Museum was opened in 2015. It sets a monument to Illenau and with it all the people who lived and worked here and who fell victim to Nazi crimes during the Third Reich. Historical exhibits, text panels, multimedia and audio stations give visitors well-founded insights into history. The museum has a memorial room for the victims of the Nazi tyranny, a memorial will be inaugurated at the end of 2015 and a memorial path is being planned.


Many of the patients who found their final resting place in the Illenau forest cemetery left part of their fortune to care for the grave. This resulted in the cemetery foundation, which made it possible to constantly maintain and expand the forest cemetery. But there were also a number of other foundations in connection with Illenau. There was the Christmas Foundation , which was used to buy Christmas gifts for the sick and poor in the area. There was the so-called United Foundation , which gave grants to needy patients and their families. Their carriers were u. a. von Reischach, Zeller, the Russian Princess Bariatinski and von Gahlen. The Gahlen Festival also took place once a year. A summer party for all sick people, nurses, employees and doctors with music, theater and other performances. Mention should also be made of the Hergt-Weidmann Foundation for the benefit of needy staff and their families. The Schüle Foundation was intended as an educational aid for children of patients. Funds from the scooter Foundation of the same name was Rollerbau financed. And finally there was the Reymann Diffené Foundation ; it made scholarships possible for young prison doctors who were supposed to expand their knowledge on trips abroad.




Institution pharmacist

  • October 23, 1906 - July 25, 1917 Ludwig Held (born January 15, 1873 - † July 25, 1917)
  • November 1, 1917 - March 11, 1938 Walther Zimmermann


See also


  • Hugo Schneider: The former Illenau sanatorium and nursing home. Their story, their meaning . in "The Ortenau: Journal of the Historical Association for Middle Baden" 61, Offenburg 1981, ISSN  0342-1503
  • Sabine Stinus, Dagmar Köppel: Die Illenau , Acheron Verlag, Achern 1992, ISBN 3-928207-22-9 .
  • Paul Droll: The Illenau. 150 years Illenau Festschrift for the anniversary event 1992, Acheron Verlag, Achern 1992
  • Heinrich Hansjakob: From sick days. Memories , Publishing house Schauenburg, Lahr 1993, ISBN 3-7946-0284-6
  • Gerhard Lötsch: Christian Roller and Ernst Fink. The beginnings of Illenau , Acheron Verlag, Achern 1996, ISBN 3-928207-25-3 .
  • Gerhard Lötsch: The history of the Illenau from 1842 to 1940. From human dignity to worth living , Achertäler Verlag, Kappelrodeck 2000, ISBN 3-930360-07-1 .
  • Marga Maria Burkhardt: Sick in the head. Patient stories of the Illenau sanatorium 1842–1889 , Phil. Diss. Freiburg 2003. Download here
  • Wolfgang Winter: First reports on the Grand Ducal Badische Heil- und Pflegeauteanstalt Illenau by Christian Roller, C. Erhardt and the Pfennig magazine and a chronicle of Illenau from 1837 to 2013 , Acheron Verlag, Achern 2013
  • Siegfried Stinus: The Illenau: (Vol VI) From the Illenau to the hiking paradise of the Golden Au , Achern 2017, ISBN 978-3-939538-23-3
  • Werner Adams: I was never what I should have been , a novel based on medical records from the Illenau sanatorium and nursing home, ISBN 978-3-03784-019-1 , link to the book , publishers Johannes Petri, Basel

Web links

Commons : Illenau  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  • Frank König, Emre Özlü: Illenau: The story of a former sanatorium and nursing home. DVD (84 min) VISIRIS 2017.

Individual evidence

  1. The Illenau - Perfect Symmetry
  2. Acher and Bühler Bote June 23, 1994
  3. Acher and Bühler Bote March 19, 1999
  4. Focus Illenau 02, July 2007
  5. Focus Illenau, May 3, 2008
  6. Eckart Roloff and Karin Henke-Wendt: The Illenau - a German fate. (Illenau Arkaden Museum) In: Visit your doctor or pharmacist. A tour through Germany's museums for medicine and pharmacy Volume 2, Southern Germany. Verlag S. Hirzel, Stuttgart 2015, pp. 17-19, ISBN 978-3-7776-2511-9

Coordinates: 48 ° 37 '29.9 "  N , 8 ° 5' 5.1"  E