Prora – The Massive Nazi Beach Resort
Prora is a beach resort on the island of Rügen, Germany, known especially for its colossal Nazi-planned tourist structures. The massive building complex was built between 1936 and 1939 as a Strength Through Joy (Kraft durch Freude or KdF) project. The eight buildings are identical, and although they were planned as a holiday resort, they were never used for this purpose. The complex has a formal heritage listing as a particularly striking example of Third Reich architecture.
Dr. Robert Ley envisaged Prora as a parallel to Butlins – British “holiday camps” designed to provide affordable holidays for the average worker. Prora was designed to house 20,000 holidaymakers, under the ideal that every worker deserved a holiday at the beach. Designed by Clemens Klotz (1886–1969), all rooms were planned to overlook the sea, while corridors and sanitation are located on the land side. Each room of 5 by 2.5 metres (16’5″ x 8’3″) was to have two beds, an armoire (wardrobe) and a sink. There were communal toilets and showers and ballrooms on each floor.
Hitler‘s plans for Prora were much more ambitious. He wanted a gigantic sea resort, the “most mighty and large one to ever have existed”, holding 20,000 beds. In the middle, a massive building was to be erected. At the same time, Hitler wanted it to be convertible into a military hospital in case of war. Hitler insisted that the plans of a massive indoor arena by architect Erich Putlitz be included. Putlitz’s Festival Hall was intended to be able to accommodate all 20,000 guests at the same time. His plans included two wave-swimming pools and a theatre. A large dock for passenger ships was also planned.
In late 2008, plans were approved to have Prora fill its original purpose and to turn it into a modern tourist resort. The council set out plans to build enough living space to house 3,000 people, as well as a youth hostel, and amenities for tourists. Kerstin Kassner, a local councillor, compared Prora’s shore with a “Caribbean beach.” However, the decision met with some scepticism from Binz locals, who felt that there were already too many tourists in the region, and Heike Tagsold, a Prora historian, who said that the town’s past made it an inappropriate location for tourists. Nevertheless, in 2011 the largest youth hostel of Germany was opened in one of the blocks and enjoys great popularity. Possible expansion of the facility that is also available for budget tourists is envisaged.
During the few years that Prora was under construction, all major construction companies of the Reich and nearly 9,000 workers were involved in this project. With the onset of World War II in 1939, building on Prora stopped and the construction workers transferred to the V-Weapons plant at Peenemünde. The eight housing blocks, the theatre and cinema stayed as empty shells, and the swimming pools and festival hall never materialised. During the Allied bombing campaign, many people from Hamburg took refuge in one of the housing blocks, and later refugees from the east of Germany were housed there. By the end of the war, these buildings housed female auxiliary personnel for the Luftwaffe.
Prora Homepage. http://www.proradok.de/seiten_english/dokuzentrum.html