Among the most ambitious of the Third Reich construction projects were five planned seaside resort complexes for the Kraft durch Freude (KdF – Strength Through Joy) workers association, part of the Deutsche Arbeits Front (DAF) under the leadership of Dr. Robert Ley. In conjunction with KdF cruise ships, these seaside resorts were meant to provide affordable vacations for the average German worker. Although five such resorts were planned, only one was ever started, on the east coast of the Baltic Sea island of Rügen, along the beach at Prora. Construction began in May 1936, and the Prora resort had reached various stages of construction when World War II started in 1939. Completion had originally been planned for 1941, but the complex was never finished. In spite of this, the Prora resort complex was the largest construction project of the Third Reich that reached this level of completion, and the site remains the largest Third Reich building in existence.
The Prora resort was planned to consist of two complexes – North and South – each consisting of four blocks of ten housing units each, providing rooms for 20,000 vacationers. Every room had a view of the sea. Between the two complexes would have been administration buildings and a large open festival square with an assembly hall at one end. The housing sections were joined by community buildings and swimming halls. The complex included plans for several restaurants, cinemas, sport halls, and other entertainment sites, as well as housing for workers, a rail station, and other necessary infrastructure (water works, electrical substation, post office, etc.). When completed, the complex would have stretched along the beach for almost five kilometers. A large quay was built at the seaside in the center of the complex, with moorings for the KdF cruise ships “Robert Ley” and “Wilhelm Gustloff.”
Need for construction materials for the war effort halted construction on the Prora resort, and it never actually functioned as such, although refugees from the bombing of Hamburg and other cities lived in the most-finished buildings in 1944-45. During the war the complex was also used as a training site for police and female signals auxiliaries, and as a military hospital. After the war the buildings were occupied by the Soviet military for a time, and then stripped of useable materials. In the late 1940s two of the housing blocks – one on the North and one on the South – were demolished and the remains mostly removed. The East German Army used the complex from about 1950 to 1991. During this period the Number 4 block on the north side was apparently used for urban combat training, and large sections were blown up (these remain as ruins today). However, in the 1950s the East German military rebuilt several of the buildings to house soldiers, and later as a resort for officers. Since the buildings had been stripped to the bare brick in the latter 1940s, most of the exterior and interior finish that can be seen today was done under East German control.
In common with many other Third Reich buildings returned to the German government in the 1990s after years of military use, the Prora complex has had a rocky recent history. Some have wanted to tear it down completely, while others wish to preserve it. Several symposia have convened in the local area to decide the fate of the “Colossus of Rügen,” and various parts of the complex have been used as a youth hostel, dance club, restaurant, and museums. In 2005 part of the museum complex was sold to a private concern, and their eventual plans for this part remain largely unknown. Since 2000 the site has been curated by a local preservation group, who maintain a Documentation Center and give guided tours (www.proradok.de). (MapQuest Map Link)
Click here to see another Third Reich site on Rügen, at Saßnitz.
Source text and for more photos: http://www.thirdreichruins.com/prora.htm