If you’ve ever seen the plans for Germania, the plans for a greatly-enlarged Berlin that would stand as the capital of the Thousand Year Reich, you’ll know that the Nazis loved supersized architecture. However, thanks to Hitler’s supersized need to acquire most of Europe and to thus turn resources towards building tanks and planes and concentration camps instead of buildings, most of the Nazis’ massive building projects never came to fruition.
Prora is an exception.
The Nazis “Strength Through Joy” (Kraft durch Freude) project was designed to give working-class Germans opportunities for leisure and vacations (while coincidentally indoctrinating them into the tenets of National Socialism). From concerts and lectures to cruises and tour packages, KdF (as it was abbreviated) offered all kinds of opportunities for leisure activities for German workers who normally would not have been able to afford such luxuries. And if they came away from such excursions as, if not devoted Nazis, at least no longer looking to the Communists or Democratic Socialists as their saviors, all the better.
Prora (the name means “heath”) was the largest project undertaken by the KdF. This seaside resort was designed to house 20,000 people, each in one of 10,000 rooms overlooking the water. If you look at the image above, you’ll see the utterly massive scale of Prora, which (before a couple of the buildings were demolished by the Soviets) stretched for about 4.5 km along an excellent beach on the island of Rügen in the Binz region, overlooking the Baltic Sea. Besides the housing, the resort was designed to include a theater, a cinema, and massive swimming pools. Festival Hall was to have been an arena designed to accommodate all 20,000 guests at once. Over 9,000 workers were involved in the construction that began in 1936, but was incomplete when the war broke out in 1939.
The buildings were mostly abandoned during the war, being occasionally used by refugees or military personnel. After the war, Prora lay in East Germany. It housed a Soviet military unit until 1955; during that time most of the usable materials were stripped from the buildings. Eventually, the East German military rebuilt and restored some of the buildings as barracks and a convalescent home. With the reunification of Germany, the complex was mostly abandoned, except for a youth hostel, a museum, and special exhibits in Block 3. A more permanent museum was opened in 2000, and gradually over the past two decades various developers have purchased five of the eight remaining buildings for purposes including a hotel, a convalescent home and luxury condos. Three buildings, as of 2017, were still in ruins.
The pure scale of this resort, however, still evokes the totalitarian regime that built it. “It’s too big,” said one author. Others have seen it as a perfect example of dystopian architecture.
To read more about Prora, see this site on Third Reich ruins if you’re looking specifically for images of it in its derelict state. Another site has lots of images from urban explorers. This Business Insider article from 2016 details some of the plans for the ongoing restoration.