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Links historische Darstellung des Pesthaus 1725, rechts Visualisierung DHZC

Ahead of its time 
for over 300 years


One of the oldest hospital facilities in Germany is located on Charité’s main site in today’s center of Berlin. Its history begins in 1710, as a pest house outside the city’s gates. As Berlin is spared from the plague, the building is used over the next 17 years as a hospice for destitute old people, as a workhouse for beggars and as a maternity facility for unmarried pregnant women.

Historische Darstellung Pesthaus 1725
The Pest house, 1725 · © Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité


Friedrich Wilhelm I. gives Charité its name in 1727. He decrees that the house be expanded into a military hospital with a training center. With 400 beds and a considerable budget, Charité continues to develop both in terms of construction and content. Over the next two centuries, the site undergoes several conversions, extensions and partial demolitions.

Männer stehen in einem Krankensaal mit Krankenbetten
A hospital ward at Charité, 1763 · © Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Außenansicht eines Charité Gebäudes
The so-called Old Charité, around 1850 · © Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité


From 1896 to 1917, after almost complete demolition, generous renovations and new buildings are completed on the Charité site.

This creates the structural foundations for successful further development. Construction takes over 20 years – but large parts of the new facility are destroyed during the Second World War.

Berlin mit Fokus auf Charité
Charité after the new building, approx. 1920 · © Institut für Geschichte der Medizin und Ethik, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Bibliothek Medical Humanities – Archiv, Fotograf Heinrich Lichte & Co.


Berlin’s population is growing and the concept of health insurance is born – physician and politician Rudolf Virchow recognises the need for modern medical care. In 1906, the Rudolf Virchow Hospital, which is designed as a garden city and named after him, opens in Berlin's Wedding district. Upon its inauguration, it is considered the most modern hospital facility in Europe. The park-like site follows the rules of infection control as well as the modern idea that a green and well-designed environment supports recovery.

Luftaufnahme auf Virchow Klinikum
Rudolf Virchow Hospital around 1920 · © Bildarchiv Foto Marburg
Destruction during the Second World War · © Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité

With Berlin’s division after the Second World War, Charité lies in the eastern part of the city, in the immediate vicinity of the Berlin Wall.

After extensive refurbishment of the destroyed existing buildings continues until the beginning of the 1950s, construction work begins again in 1954: The tumour clinic is completed in 1959 and the skin clinic in 1960 – the year of Charité’s 250th anniversary.

Menschen sammeln Ziegel inmitten von Ruinen
Rebuilding Charité after the war · © Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité


Steglitz Hospital (now Campus Benjamin Franklin) is sponsored by the US Benjamin Franklin Foundation and opens after ten years of construction. It is based on US approaches in terms of both construction and content and is the first German university hospital to combine healthcare, research and teaching under one roof.

Baustelle des CBF Hauptgebäudes mit Baufahrzeugen
View of the construction site (shortly before opening, around 1966/67) · © Foto Charité Mediencenter CBF


The most visible accent of Charité in the cityscape is the ‘Bettenhaus’ Ward Building Charité Mitte with 2,000 beds, which opened in 1982.

With these new buildings, the GDR underlines its decision to maintain Charité as a medical flagship facility.

Historisches Bettenhochhaus Außenansicht
‘Bettenhaus’ Ward Building Charité Mitte, 1982 · © Institut für Geschichte der Medizin und Ethik, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Bibliothek Medical Humanities – Archiv


In 1997, the “Rudolf Virchow Klinikum" and “Charité” medical facilities merge to form the “Medizinische Fakultät Charité der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin” (Faculty of Medicine of the Humboldt University). One year later, the associated clinics are also be merged.

Bäume und Fassade eines Gebäudes
CVK Nordschiene · © Institut für Geschichte der Medizin und Ethik in der Medizin, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin Bibliothek Medical Humanities – Wissenschaftliche Sammlung


The merger between Universitäts­klinikum Benjamin Franklin and the Freie Universität Berlin results in “Charité – Universitäts­medizin Berlin”, one of the largest clinics in Europe.

Fassade des CBF Hauptgebäudes
CBF · © Charité | Lina Ruske Fotografie


Charité and the Max Delbrück Centre for Molecular Medicine (MDC) open the Experimental and Clinical Research Centre (ECRC) as a joint research centre with university outpatient clinics at the Campus Berlin Buch. This makes it Charité's fourth campus.

Mikroskop und Objektträger
© Michael Longmire


The renewal of Charité campuses continues apace: in 2012 with the opening of the new “Charité Cross Over” (CCO) building and in 2016 with the completion of the extensive refurbishment of ‘Bettenhaus’ Ward Building Charité Mitte and the newly built “Charité Emergency Medicine Center – Rudolf Nissen Haus”. Further steps are planned on all four campuses – en route to the vision, Charité 2030: Rethinking health.

Fassade BHH
‘Bettenhaus’ Ward Building Charité Mitte · © Charité | Wiebke Peitz
Visualisierung BeCAT Außenansicht
Rethinking Health

Charité creates
the future