The 10,000-room holiday resort designed to strengthen Nazi families as part of the Nazis' sinister scheme of social engineering
Prora - a longer and more detailed article.
a close paraphrase of an article by Marcus Dunk
in the Daily Express, 3 December 2005
PRORA is a complex of eight identical, six-storey blocks which has stood for 70 years along the beachfront on the Baltic island of Rugen. Originally, it was conceived as a Nazi holiday camp that would provide morale-strengthening breaks to refresh German workers for their Aryan duties....
"I want the German worker to be afforded sufficient holiday and I want everything to be done so that not just his holiday but also all his leisure time provides him with true relaxation," said the Fuhrer at the start of the project . "I want the German people to be mentally strong. It is only if they have nerves of steel that great things can be achieved."
Each worker, the Nazis planned, would stay for 10 days of regimented relaxation. But - far from a laid-back holiday - Prora was designed to be a machine where thousands of Germans would come to be fed a diet of sun, sports and Nazi propaganda. Loudspeakers would ensure that each guest was kept informed of the carefully-designed schedule. "Prora wasn't built to make the maximum number of people happy," says historian Dr Rainer Stommer. "The aim was to strengthen the mental state of the population so that it could get through the strains and undreamed≠of burdens of a future war."
All this was going to be done on a HUGE scale. Stretching along the beachfront for three and a half miles, the grandiose scheme was built to house 20,000 Germans at a time in 10,000 identical rooms, each with its own view of the sea. There would be a massive plaza hall that could seat all 20,000 guests at once, dining halls that would seat 1,000, with farms nearby to feed the campers. The Nazis envisaged that two trains a day would be needed to ferry the 500,000 guests who would come each year to the complex.
But, in the event, not one holidaymaker ever set foot at Prora. The war broke out before it was completed.
PRORA HOLIDAY RESORT was part of the Nazis' Strength Through Joy (KdF) programme. After he seized power in 1933, Hitler wanted to infiltrate Nazi propaganda into every aspect of German life and culture - and the KdF was to play a part in this plan, by providing a wide range of leisure activities for workers .
After the economic problems of the Twenties and the depression of the Thirties, the idea of affordable holidays for every citizen, was enormously popular. The programme started with subsidised KdF cruise-ship holidays on which ordinary Germans travelled to Madeira, Italy and Spain (while being indoctrinated along the way). But then Hitler decided that the KdF holiday concept needed to be larger and more permanent - and the solution was Prora.
The man Hitler put in charge of KdF was a fanatical Nazi and former chemist, Dr Robert Ley. An alcoholic, Ley had suffered a frontal-lobe injury during the First World War and, as a result, had a severe personality disorder. Violent, corrupt and vain, he organised the Strength Through Joy movement with single-minded devotion, and was soon shaping KdF ideology. Just exactly what this ideology was, Ley made clear in 1937 in a speech he made at the launch of a KdF cruise ship. "We take joy in living but not as an end in itself," he said. "Rather we draw strength from life so that Germany can be eternal." Prora, therefore, was not built for the German workers - to make them happy. It was built as part of the Nazi plan to built a super-strong state.
Ley turned Strength Through Joy into a cornerstone of the Nazi masterplan. Within two years of the first Strength Through Joy cruise, five million Germans had been sent on holiday, including Hitler's girlfriend Eva Braun (her colour movie of her cruise still survives). The German press tirelessly promoted the cruises and expensive, glossy brochures were printed to lure potential holidaymakers.
Cruise ships allowed the Nazis totally to control their captive audience. Crew canteens, breakfast in shifts, organised entertainment, 'edifying' lectures and a military tone to the whole holiday made sure that Strength Through Joy cruises indoctrinated the holidaymakers into the Nazi world view. Copies of the Nuremberg racial laws were printed on the back of brochures to remind Germans not to have sex with non-Aryans while holidaying among inferior races.
THE CRUISES provided a perfect, ready-made pattern for Prora. Like the cruise ships, each room at Prora would be basic and small (2.2 x 4 metres) with two beds in each room. Every moment of the guest's stay was to be accounted for, with nothing left to chance. According to Ley: "Organising one's free time privately has no value to the German people."
"Architecture was a fundamental propaganda tool for the Nazis," says Dr Stommer. "They considered these monumental buildings to be a reflection of the new German state. It was said that large building projects were `words made out of stone'." The architect who won the competition to design the Prora complex was Clemens Klotz. The design (which won a prize at the Paris World Exhibition in 1937) featured boulevards and cafes, but as the threat of war loomed larger, it became more functional (the Nazis built it in such a way that, if war broke out, it could immediately be transformed into a military hospital).
Construction started in 1936, overseen by the Nazi super-architect, Speer. Thousands of men were shipped in to work on it. Money for the huge project was taken from funds from the trade unions that Hitler had abolished when he came to power. "Everything was built on credit," says Dr Stommer. "They poured the pensions and unemployment insurance of the next generation into the construction with the attitude, `Ours is a system with no unemployment so we don't need any of that. And what we lack in five or 10 years, we'll take from the people we conquer'."
By the late Thirties, however - as the Nazis poured their efforts into rearmament - there were fewer men to work on the site. Construction slowed and, with the outbreak of war in 1939, it was stopped. Engineers and construction staff were sent to work on the nearby V-2 rocket base and forced labour was used to take away anything that could be recycled for the war effort.
DURING THE WAR, sections of the complex served as a military hospital, an SS training school, a naval intelligence operations training centre and, as the war drew to an end, a shelter for Germans whose homes had been destroyed by Allied bombing raids.
Ley was upset by the end of his dream and became more deranged. Convinced that he could use his background as a chemist to prove that there was a decomposing enzyme in the blood of Jews, he proposed that he should conduct research to confirm his bizarre claim. This proved too much for even the fanatical SS, who had him sidelined for the rest of the war. When hostilities ended, he was arrested by the Americans and, soon after, hanged himself with a toilet chain in his Nuremberg cell....
Yet, says Dr Stommer, Prora has had an influence that reaches far beyond brick and mortar. "It was the beginning of mass tourism on a new, as yet unheard of level." Even though the Nazi dream died and Prora itself stands crumbling, its legacy lives on. The concept of holidays catering for large numbers of ordinary people began with the Strength Through Joy movement, and can be seen in more benign form today in holiday camps and cheap, 'all-in' package holidays.