Panel route and audio tour
On the site of Het Apeldoornsche Bosch, currently the domicile of assisted living park Groot Schuylenburg, part of ’s Heeren Loo Apeldoorn, twelve panels draw visitors’ attention to the history of Het Apeldoornsche Bosch. Together, they tell the story of Het Apeldoornsche Bosch, from its founding in 1909 to the raid in January 1943.
01. Paedagogium Achisomog
On 10 September 1933, the first brick of the children’s ward Paedagogium Achisomog was laid. It consisted of three small-scale pavilions and an even smaller one for ‘deeply disturbed children’, which was called Benjamin. Each building homed 24 children. Treatment was adapted to suit the personality and nature of each individual child. The groups the children lived in were meant to resemble family life as closely as possible. The girls’ pavilion was called Efraïm Manasse, the two boys’ pavilions were named Ruben Simeon and Naftali Zebulon. The name Achisomog meant ‘A support to my brother’. The children admitted to these wards were either mentally handicapped or socially maladjusted ‘problem children’. Neglected children or children at risk of turning delinquent could also be admitted for observation. Some of the pupils were taught at their own school building on the Apeldoornsche Bosch grounds.
02. Athletic field
Het Apeldoornsche Bosch’ first sports field was part of the Sarah-hoeve. However, in 1931 this was replaced by an athletic field on the institution’s original grounds, complete with changing rooms and washing facility. The complex was festively opened and it became the place where, on special occasions, the residents could take part in sports matches or activities like sack races and tugs-of-war. At the end of the 1920s, residents founded their own sports clubs. The Sport Staalt Spieren (Sports Strengthens Muscles) club played matches against clubs from Apeldoorn and surrounding villages. Playing checkers and chess, korfball and gymnastics where the most popular pastimes. Participation in athletic activities was encouraged by doctors and staff, as it stimulated interaction between patients.
03. Paviljoen Hannah
Pavilion Hannah was a first-class residence for female patients. Hannah was one of the first buildings on the site and was designed by architect Emmanuel Marcus Rood. At that time, it was called pavilion D. On 17 January 1935, after a thorough renovation, pavilion Herstellingsoord Hannah, which could house 32 women, was opened. The pavilion also served as an observation ward for patients who had not previously received psychiatric care.
Het Apeldoornsche Bosch had a clear mission: ‘maintaining a mental asylum while observing the precepts of the Jewish faith.’ Patients were to be treated in a familiar environment and a safe atmosphere. This meant living in accordance with Jewish rules and customs. During the shabbat, no work was carried out and activities like cycling were prohibited. The institution’s own synagogue formed the heart of religious life at Het Apeldoornsche Bosch. On every shabbat and Jewish holiday, a service was held. Observance of the Jewish faith at Het Apeldoornsche Bos was overseen by an Israelian religious teacher. From 1924 to 1937, this position was filled by Salomon Abraham van Witsen. He attached great value to synagogue attendance, and under his supervision, the building was embellished and renovated. If the learning capacity of residents allowed, they attended Jewish class.
05. Doctor’s residence
At its founding in 1909, Het Apeldoornsche Bosch employed two psychiatrists. This number later grew to four. In 1937, there was one psychiatrist to every 200 patients. Each doctor saw to the needs of one or more pavilions. Het Apeldoornsche Bosch was headed by a doctor-director. From 1909 to 1914, this was Dr Lamei, from 1914 to 1936 Dr Kat filled this position, and from 1936 until the raid in January 1943, Dr Lobstein was the head of the institution. Under the direction of Dr J. Kat, Het Apeldoornsche Bosch developed into one of the leading psychiatric institutions in the Netherlands. A personal approach to patients was one of the key principles. Dr J. Lobstein was also closely involved with his patients. He collected patient data for a study on the link between heredity and mental illness. This unique archive was destroyed during the raid in 1943.
For its continued existence, Het Apeldoornsche Bosch was dependent on loans, gifts and donations. Subsidies or large grands from the State or local councils were not customary before the war. The institution did receive large loans from the province of Noord-Holland because the majority of patients came from Amsterdam. Donations could consist of money, but there were also donations in kind. Between 1916 and 1918, a 3.5-hectare plot of land at the other side of the Zutphensestraat was donated. It was named after the deceased wife of the donator: the Sarah-hoeve (Sarah Homestead). On this site, homes for staff members were built, including the villa of the doctor-director and the religious teacher’s house. The Sarah-hoeve was also the place where the first sports field for nursing staff and personnel was located.
Apeldoorn was chosen as the location for the institution because of its central position, availability of land, and the rural surroundings. Between 1909 and 1943, Het Apeldoornsche Bosch became an important local employer. There was a lot of contact between the village and the institution. The walk to the village was very popular amongst the residents: “Many patients who had not been beyond the walls of the institution for years, loved seeing the shops and, given the chance, would have stood looking in the shop windows for hours, taking everything in. The walk to Paleis Het Loo was the pinnacle of enjoyment. The people of Apeldoorn soon became used to seeing the groups of residents.”
08. Main building
When visitors of Het Apeldoornsche Bosch followed the long, curving drive, it lead them to the wide, striking main building. The façade of the building bore the motto ‘Care of the soul, God heal the soul’ in Hebrew. At the time of the opening, in 1909, the institution consisted of this main building, two side wings and two pavilions: one for men and one for women. The administration office, dining halls for personnel and rooms for the nursing staff were located in the main building. The side wings homed the wards for ‘class patients’. The first class was where the wealthy patients stayed. From 1924, the side wing domiciled Sanatorium Rustoord. This sanatorium was meant for ‘sufferers of nervous disorders and mild illnesses of the soul’ whose overstrained nerves were soothed there. While a court order was required for admission to the mental institution, there was no such requirement for the sanatorium.
09. Kitchen and laundry
The kitchen and laundry were part of the domestic service of Het Apeldoornsche Bosch. The kitchen doubled as living quarters for part of the staff. In the laundry, female patients worked in the linen room, the stockroom and the washroom. Student nurses spent the first months of their education washing patients’ dirty clothes and helping in the kitchen. This was a way for them to get used to the institution and its residents. The number of patients rose from 226 in 1909 to 1,181 in 1943, which also led to an increase in staff members. In order to safeguard the Jewish atmosphere, it was decided that the head of the kitchen and the house warden had to be Jewish, at least. Throughout the institution, Jewish religious precepts were observed, and all cooking was strictly kosher.
10. Paviljoen G
Combining care, recreation and labour, Het Apeldoornsche Bosch developed a treatment that was unique at the time. In pavilion G, which was opened in 1930, this active therapy was applied. The ward was intended for 50 ‘restless’ residents, meaning the ‘most difficult, most disruptive, loudest and least socialised patients’. Besides the daily rituals of eating and sleeping, recreation and labour gave structure to the patients’ lives. The female patients worked as servants or dressmakers. The male patients, housed in other pavilions, were employed in places like the carpentry workshop, the forge or the book bindery. Pavilion G was built in a different architectural style than the other buildings. The architect was instructed to build a country house that would be a cosy home for the residents.
11. The ring road
The ring road of Het Apeldoornsche Bosch is still clearly discernible in the landscape. The road, 3.5 kilometres long and bordered by linden trees on both sides, connected the various pavilions and buildings on the site. Near the old entrance, a number of linden trees are still standing. Het Apeldoornsche Bosch consisted of multiple pavilions, scattered between the trees. Tranquillity and open space in a rural setting were believed to have a healing effect on the patients. Maintaining the terrain was part of the work therapy. The residents had to gather wood or grow flowers and worked in the vegetable gardens or on the farm.
12. Recreation Building
With the opening of a modern Ontspanningsgebouw (Recreation Building) in 1938, a long-held wish of the residents of Het Apeldoornsche Bosch was fulfilled. The money for the construction of this building was raised through hard work and effort by patients and staff. The large hall seated 500 spectators, who could enjoy plays, cabaret or films. In the foyer at the front of the building, the residents could receive visitors. Recreation formed an important part of the active therapy that was meant to break residents out of their daily rut. Patient association ‘Tot Ons Vermaak’ (For Our Entertainment) organised handicraft sessions, reading evenings, walks and excursions. Singing club ‘Altijd Beter’, consisting of nurses, provided a musical note.