Seemingly forgotten by its surroundings, hidden by a dense growth of trees lies the Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn. Its Rapunzel-like tower pokes above the treeline – just like it did over 100 years ago – signaling to the boats and ferries on the Scharmützelsee. Sadly, today the Schloss Schwarzhorn is only a crumbling ruin with a tragic but all too familiar story of dispossession, misuse, corruption and abandonment.

Hotel und Restaurant Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn

The settlement of Wendisch Rietz had its first documented mention in the year 1376, though its origins most likely date much further back. Like many of the small estates in Brandenburg, most of Wendish Rietz’s history consisted of being sold back and forth between lesser nobles over the next 400 years, with small structural and industrial improvements being added such as (water)mills and tar ovens. By the 1860s, Wendisch Rietz had grown to over 230 inhabitants.

Wendisch Rietz had the fortunate luck of being wedged between Königs Wusterhausen to the west and several industrious settlements and cities such as Beeskow to the east, so when the new Grunow-Königs Wusterhausen train line opened up in 1898, it was included with a stop (which probably was just as small as the one that serves it today).

Wendisch Rietz lies on the southern tip of the picturesque Scharmützelsee, which – like most lakes close to Berlin – has always magically attracted tourists. While Wendisch Rietz wasnt as popular as its norther neighbour Bad Saarow, it still proved to be enough of a tourist magnet (especially for all those who traversed its water) that a local composer and bookseller by the name of “Kunz” aquiered a large plot of land in 1897 directly on the waterfront to build himself a glorious residence, which would double as a hotel and restaurant for the plethora of tourists.

The neo-renaissance inspired Hotel und Restaurant Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn (Schwarzhorn being the name of the district of Wendisch Rietz) opened its doors in 1901 and was seemingly an instant success – especially since it had its own pier and was especially easily accessible for all the tourist steamers on the lake.

Inserat Stern Dampfschiffahrt 1908
A 1908 Steam Ship Advertisement promoting special routes and stops along the Scharmützelsee, including to the Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn

The Schloss Schwarzhorn had become so popular that from 1908 onwards it was included as a fixed stop for the  Spree-Havel-Dampfschiffahrt-Gesellschaft „Stern“ (which operates 32 boats under the name “Stern und Kreisschiffahrt” – essentially all the tourist boats on the Spree in Berlin, as well the the Public Transport F10 Ferry on the Wannsee). It was also known to be a very popular haunt for the officers stationed in the various military barracks in the area.

Max Frank and the Schloss Schwarzhorn

The circumstances remain a mystery, but Kunz had decided to sell off the once prosperous Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn around 1921. One can only speculate the reasons for the sale – possibly his death or the post World War I economic turmoil – but a German Jewish lawyer by the name of Max Frank decided to purchase the property.

Unlike the original owner of the Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn, we know quite a bit more about Frank. Max Frank was born in 1870 to a well situated jewish family in Hameln (which might be a familiar name to fairytale enthusiast – the Pied Piper of Hamelin). Frank studied law after finishing school as well as joining the Social Democrat Party. After completion of his studies he practised law and ran his own firm in Dortmund with his brother in law. Frank was an exceptionally busy and popular criminal defense lawyers in the region, as his clients were mostly from the workers movement – which were ever more fighting and striking for their rights.

After becoming a member of the Dortmund city council in 1919, he eventually gained a seat in the 1920 Reichstag Elections after a re-election was held in two districts (he joined the Reichstag in March 1921). He only held his seat for 2 months before passing on his mandate to Alfred Grotjahn. It’s been noted that one of the reasons why he gave up his seat was that he had little time to fulfill his local political duties. Other sources say that the strain of managing his family, business and political life became to great and he decided to cut back on the political end of things.

Quite possibly in search of some respite, he acquired the idyllically located Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn. Max Frank gained more prominence over the years as he began defending both social democrats and communists in numerous political trials, as well as defending a pair of doctors in an abortion trial. Of course this profile made him an instant target for the Nazis, who arrested him on the 28th of March 1933 and held him in protective custody for over a month (while torturing him), and then rearrested him again shortly after his release. On the 7th of April 1933, Max Frank – and most his jewish colleagues – had their right to practice law removed by the Nazis.

On the 10th of May, 1933 – Max Frank chose to end his life by poisoning himself. His wife and daughter would follow him a mere year later.

From the Third Reich to the GDR

Unlike the Schloss Dammsmühle – which the Nazis had appropriated from its Jewish Owners and Heinrich Himmler decided to transform into his own private property – Schloss Schwarzhorn was turned into a boarding house for “Volksdeutsche” resettlers from eastern europe.

Schloss Schwarzhorn Postkarte 1940
Schloss Schwarzhorn on a postcard from 1940

A letter from the Mayor of Wendisch Rietz to the District Administrator from the 5th of September 1945 gives some insight into the immediate aftermath of the German defeat. In his letter, the mayor details that his community has taken in 154 refugees, while only having a local population of 408, and that there was no more space to take up any more people. He specifically mentions that the Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn had become unsuitable to harbour any refugees as it was “ravaged”.

Schloss Schwarzhorn Postkarte 1963
Schloss Schwarzhorn on a postcard from 1963

After the foundation of the German Democratic Republic, Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn was used as a school and then as a children’s holiday camp, before ultimately being turned into a residential care home in 1954 (a similar story can be found with this formerly luxurious estate turned childrens care home). The neo-renaissance castle turned care home housed 92 beds at peak capacity and operated until close to the end of the GDR when it was closed due to structural issues with the building.

After the German reunification, Wendish Rietz took ownership over the property and after a lengthy process financially compensated the Jewish Claims Conference (these claims were impossible to enforce during the years of the GDR).

At some point a truly monstrous concrete shell was added behind the Schloss Schwarzhorn. We’ve been unable to figure out if this was added during the GDR or afterwards as the condition of the concrete and structure look rather “new”, and it seems like it could be a later addition – as seen on these architecture designs – but we couldn’t find any more information about it.

A Scam And A Tragic Ruin

After sitting empty and deteriorating for several years, the german investor and lobbyist Dieter Holzer bought the property in 1997 for one million mark (€500,000) with the vision of modernising the Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn and turning its 30,000 square meter property into a hotel. Nothing ever came of these plans though as Holzer was heavily involved in a bribery case (where he pocketed a cool 39 million euro) in which the french oil company Elf Aquitaine acquired the formerly east german (and now privatised) Minol Company.

After being found guilty in 2003, and going through virtually every legal proceeding available, he accepted his 15 month jail sentence in 2009. He received another 3 years and 6 months prison sentence in 2011. Holzer died in 2016 in Homburg at the age of 74.

An interesting fact about Holzer was, that he was married to Souade Salyoun – a cousin of the former Lebanese President Amin Gemayel. After his death, ownership of the Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn passed on to one of his Lebanese relatives who clearly has no real interest in the property. One can only speculate why he didn’t pass on the property to either his wife or two children.

Schloss Schwarzhorn – Video

Continuing with our series of short videos, we decided to gather a few very short clips of the Schloss Schwarzhorn and its surroundings. As mentioned in the paragraph below, you’ll notice the terrible condition that the “Castle” is in, and we only ventured up to the first floor and were extremely preoccupied with trying not to fall through the floor.

Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn Today (2022)

Even in the mid 1990s, the Schloss Schwarzhorn was in a terrible state – but with the increased neglect and vandalism it has turned into a dilapidated ruin (and that’s even a generous description). While the outer walls are still holding, the entire interior has either rotted away or been smashed to bits. The ceilings and staircases have completely rotted away, and venturing up past the first floor would seriously be tempting fate. Small fragments of its former splendor are still visible with some beautiful floor tiles, wall stucco and arch decorations – but this castle is beyond saving.

The Jagdschloss – despite being fenced in – attracts a lot of foot traffic by curious locals, dog walkers, vandals and graffiti kids from two towns over (all encountered in a single 30 minute time span) – and it’s only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured exploring its interiors. While the local community had hopes that someone might save this once luxurious property – its almost guaranteed that there’s no fairytale ending for the Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn.

Jagdschloss Schwarzhorn Address

Schwarzhorner Weg
15864 Wendisch Rietz

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