Bild eines Rollstuhlfahrers in den 60er Jahren - im Hintergrund ist ein kleines Flugzeug zu sehen.


From 1916 to now

The Foundation over Time

Historisches Foto: Guido Graf Henckel Fürst von Donnersmarck.

Guido Graf Henckel Fürst von Donnersmarck

The founder of the Foundation, Guido Graf Henckel Fürst von Donnersmarck (*10 August 1830, †19 December 1916), was one of the leading major industrialists in the German Empire at the end of the 19th century. His achievements in the coal and steel industry and his commitment as a property developer resulted in him being one of the richest inhabitants of the German Empire at the turn of the 20th century.

At the same time, Guido von Donnersmarck was politically active and, for example, maintained an intensive correspondence with Otto von Bismarck. And not least, he was a patron of the arts. For example, he donated the large Sauer organ in Berlin Cathedral, was a member of the first senate of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society and, in 1898, started the “Guido Foundation” to support his civil servants and workers.

Against this background and influenced by the dramatic consequences of the First World War, in 1916 he donated around 250 hectares of land in Berlin-Frohnau and four million gold marks for the care of the war wounded. This wealth was intended to set up a “sanatorium and convalescent home for wounded and sick soldiers” and a “research institute for scientific treatment and therapeutic application” of the “medical experience gained” in the First World War. But the war and its consequences delayed the implementation of these plans.

The Foundation did not become operationally active until the 1950s. Today, the FDST and its more than 600 members of staff including subsidiaries operates various facilities for the rehabilitation and support of people with physical and multiple disabilities as well as places for leisure, meeting and inclusion: the P.A.N. Centre for Post-Acute Neuro-Rehabilitation in Berlin-Frohnau, an outpatient service and outpatient assisted living for people with disabilities with several decentralised living units in Berlin, two accessible hotels in Rheinsberg and Bad Bevensen and “Villa Donnersmarck” as a meeting centre for people with and without disabilities in Berlin-Zehlendorf.

It All Started at Frohnau – The First 50 Years

The history of the FDST starts in Frohnau. That was where Guido von Donnersmarck bought part of the Stolper Heath in the forest belt to the north west of Berlin in 1907 to build “Frohnau Garden City”. The first roads and houses and Frohnau station were built in the period leading up to the First World War. Immediately after the outbreak of war, Guido von Donnersmarck established a military hospital for the war wounded there. They were not just to be treated here, but also given therapy, training and have jobs found for them to prepare them for as independent a life as possible after their discharge.

The longer the war lasted, the clearer it became that medical care for the wounded would remain a pressing task after the end of the war. That is why Guido von Donnersmarck decided to make a permanent contribution to care for the war wounded with a foundation. To do this, with the support of his personal physician Dr. Max Berg and the head of the Prussian Field Medical Service, Prof. Otto von Schjerning, he approached Kaiser Wilhelm II directly. After the Kaiser had accepted the Foundation, it was incorporated before a notary on 8 May 1916.

A group photo from the Military Hospital for the War Wounded – with Guido Henckel von Donnersmarck and his wife Katharina in the middle

After the Death of the Founder Prince

When Guido von Donnersmarck died on 19 December 1916, Otto von Schjerning took over the chairmanship of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. But it remained inactive in the first years after its establishment due to the turbulent post-war years and the loss of its foundation capital caused by hyper-inflation. In this time, it was only able to support the publication of the nine-volume “Manual of Medical Experience in the World War”, which was initiated by Otto von Schjerning. During the National Socialist period, the Mayor of Berlin wanted to wind up the Foundation to take the Frohnau forest land for the City of Berlin. The FDST was only able to prevent the winding up thanks to cooperation with the Reich Ministry of Aviation, to which it transferred part of its land.

Historische Postkarte der Gartenstadt Frohnau mit Blick auf den Bahnhof, den Kasinoturm und das alte Kasinogebäude..

Postcard of Frohnau Garden City, around 1916

The fresh start after the Second World War was characterised by organisational and personnel changes: The FDST freed itself from the military medical tradition and, in its first post-war constitution of 1949, explicitly dedicated itself to the “Rehabilitation, Care, Support and Advancement” of people with disabilities. At the same time, the personnel in the Board of Trustees was almost completely replaced over the 1950s and 1960s. At that time, several individuals from the Lutheran Diaconian Organisation were appointed, including Church Councillor Walter Schian, Gotthard Vogel and Erich Wohlfahrt. Together with the founder’s two sons, Fürst Guidotto von Donnersmarck and Graf Kraft von Donnersmark, they decisively shaped the further development of the FDST. Following his denazification, Dr. Hermann Binder was appointed the first post-war director in 1949.

In order to be able to finally realise the Foundation’s purpose with its own projects, the Foundation’s Board of Trustees gradually started to sell off the land it owned in the Frohnau forest area. In 1973/74, the new director, Ekkehard Reichel, finally succeeded in selling the majority of the Frohnau forest area to the federal state of Berlin. He presciently reinvested the proceeds of this forest sale in the purchase of residential property and thus guaranteed the long-term financial independence of the Foundation. The funds earned from these assets are the basis of its activities in the fields of leisure, education and advice, rehabilitation and tourism.

Historische Landkarte der Gartenstadt Frohnau.

Frohnau Garden City

Frohnau Garden City and the Frohnau Forest play an important role in the history of the Foundation.

More  information about  Frohnau Garden city

Leisure, Education and Advice: Origin of the Villa, WIR Magazine and much more

The FDST’s oldest field of work is leisure, education and advice. It goes back to the socio-educational group work of Paul Neukirchen, which he started in several Berlin community centres in 1954 on behalf of the FDST. In the same year, the WIR Magazine was published for the first time, which to this day is designed by a volunteer editorial team of people with disabilities and Foundation employees. The strong demand for the FDST’s group educational offerings very soon caused the Board of Trustees to look for a suitable property where the groups could meet regularly. In the summer of 1960 what would later be called Villa Donnersmarck in the Berlin district of Zehlendorf was purchased and renovated so that it was accessible. The leisure, education and advice sector has been focused here since its official opening in 1962. Today, Villa Donnersmarck is an inclusive leisure, education and advice centre for people with and without disabilities.

The FDST took another step towards an inclusive society in the early 1980s when it opened the first completely accessible café in Berlin, “blisse 14”. The sociotherapeutic centre was affiliated to this, offering art and therapeutic courses for people with and without disabilities. To run the profit-oriented café, FDST set up FDS Gewerbebetriebsgesellschaft [commercial operating company], which managed the café until the year 2000. In addition, over the years the company developed into a fully-fledged property management company, which nowadays looks after all of the FDST properties. “blisse 14” now operates under the name “Kunstwerk blisse”, run by FSD Lwerk Berlin Brandenburg gGmbH.

Tourism: From a “Goodwill Trip” to Accessible Hotels

Eine Reisegruppe mit Rollstuhlfahrerinnen und fahrern im New York der 70er Jahre.

A tour group is crossing 8th Avenue in Manhattan, New York – Central Park West.

The FDST started its work in the tourism sector as far back as 1955. That was when Paul Neukirchen organised the first “Goodwill Trip”, a holiday trip to Oerlinghausen near Bielefeld. This was a special offer because trips for people with impaired mobility were hardly ever organised in those days. Accordingly, the organisers of the as many as six trips that took place up to 1966 mainly had to cope with problems with accessible transport and accommodation for the participants, as well as financing. On the basis of this experience, the FDST Board of Trustees endeavoured to acquire its own accessible guesthouse. In 1967, the Foundation purchased a plot of land in Bad Bevensen in the Lüneburg Heath. The current Heidehotel Bad Bevensen has been there since 1972. In addition to the Heidehotel, the FDST has run the Seehotel Rheinsberg since 2001. The idea for this facility dated back to a workshop in which the establishment of an “international conference centre” in the new federal states was suggested. Today, Seehotel Rheinsberg, with more than 100 rooms, is the biggest accessible four star hotel in Germany.

In parallel to these developments, since the 1960s, the FDST has organised several long-haul trips for people with disabilities. The first trip abroad in 1963 took a group of young people from Villa Donnersmarck to Greece. More long-haul trips, for example to the USA or Thailand, followed. These initiatives raised awareness of the concerns of people with disabilities, both at the destinations and in Germany. However, FDST no longer operates any long-haul trips; instead, since the year 2000, it has organised Short and Day Trips.

Rehabilitation: Living as Independently as Possible

Eine Luftaufnahme des P.A.N. Zentrums.

The P.A.N. Centre for Post-Acute Neuro-Rehabilitation in Berlin-Frohnau opened in 2015

The establishment of the Rehabilitation sector, which sprang from the Fürst Donnersmarck-Haus (FDH) in Frohnau, was not due to the FDST, but rather the “Verein zur Förderung evangelischer Heime für körperbehinderte Menschen” [Association Supporting Protestant Homes for Physically Disabled People]. In the early 1960s, this organisation built a home for children affected by polio on the Foundation’s land; this home was then taken over by the FDST in 1964 due to economic problems. As a result of the increasing demand for residential places, the Foundation extended this children’s home in 1979 with the home for adolescents and adults. In the 1980s and 1990s, the FDH gradually developed into a specialised facility for people with the need for neurological rehabilitation. The Foundation systematically expanded this expertise in the following years and since 2005 has developed the FDH into the P.A.N. Centre for Post-Acute Neuro-Rehabilitation. Since it opened in 2015, the FDST has been establishing a connection between acute medical care after damage to the central nervous system and participation-oriented long-term rehabilitation in one of the most state-of-the-art rehabilitation centres in Germany. In addition, the P.A.N. Centre realises one of the original goals of the FDST in that therapy and rehabilitation-oriented research go hand in hand here.

The process of converting the FDST’s in-patient residential offerings to outpatient options ran in parallel to the concentration on the rehabilitation of people with acquired brain damage. As early as 1977, the first FDH residents moved to an external home residential group which was, however, still on the Foundation land in Frohnau. Just two years later, the FDST opened its first residential community for people with disabilities at No. 12 Blissestraße in the heart of Berlin. From then on, the Foundation’s outpatient offerings quickly developed: In 1982, the FDST opened the residential community on Zeltinger Straße; in 1990 it launched assisted single living. Finally, in 1998 the Ambulant Betreutes Wohnen (ABW) [outpatient assisted living] and in 1999 the  Ambulanter Dienst (AD) [outpatient service] of the Fürst Donnersmarck Foundation were founded. Together, they operate the Living with Intensive Care (WmI) offering in the Tempelhof and Pankow districts of Berlin with a total of 34 places aimed at people with a great need of support. Since 2014, the Ambulanter Dienst has also operated a specialist division for rehabilitative outpatient intensive care. This is where people who rely on tracheal cannula and/or invasive ventilation after an accident or a serious illness train to be independent of external technology again.

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