Kent School St. Josefsheim

Built: 1909

Abandoned: 1992

Visited: 2007 + 2009 + 2016

Hostert, Germany

This site at Hostert was originally established by monks in the 14th Century. The Order of the Franciscans of the Holy Cross came to Nordrhein Westfalen in 1909 and started their ministry here. The Order came to Hostert and in only two years they build the St. Josefsheim Waldniel, including the church. The school and two further blocks were finished on the site by 1913. About 600 mentally and physically disabled people were living in the monastery. But after a stop of financial help from the government the order had to leave the buildings. The last of the brothers left the house on 23rd May 1937.


In 1939 a new law stated that every disabled new born should be reported to the government. The disabled, mostly children were taken in institutes. The National Socialists set about their New Order which questioned certain groups of people’s right to life. The race purification program killed more than 200.000 people and also in St. Jozefsheim people were killed. For the Institute, now renamed the “Waldniel Institution”, at least 30 children were murdered through the National Socialist euthanasia program. In total, more than 500 “patients” died. Another 1,044 people were transported to other institutions where many of them died. These were the site’s darkest days. In July 1943 the institute left the St Jozefsheim site and the remaining 183 children were transported to other institutes.


In 1952 the expropriation of all properties of the Franciscan Order by the Nazis was cancelled. Although the brotherhood could now redeem Hostert (at an appropriate price) the feeling was they would not be able to lead the St. Josefsheim community as before, so they sold the buildings to the newly-formed German federation. In 1952 the Allies rented the institute in Waldniel Hostert, initially for use as a military hospital. The two original blocks of 1913 were connected with modern corridors. A modern clinic with two surgical, pediatrician and psychiatric departments were then developed.

In 1963 Queens School was bursting at the seams and it was clear another school was required in the area. Wegberg was established to offer better hospital facilities so the Hostert site converted into a school. During the redevelopment work human bones were discovered – remains of the patients who died at the institute between 1939 and 1945.
At the height of it’s time as a school it had around 6,000 pupils attending. 270 kids stayed there in the boarding school. The other pupils were transported to the school by bus; everyday 50 busses drove to the Kent School. Even a special bus station was added to the site.


In 1992 the school closed and the buildings were for sale again. They even came on E-bay, an online marketplace. The last few years there been some emergency restorations in the buildings to keep them from falling apart. In 2000 the site was purchased by an investor from Dusseldorf. But there are still no plans for this beautiful site.

Photos Kent School St. Jozefsheim

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