Prora: The Ghost of Rügen – Hitler’s vision of a holiday town4 min read

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Prora, the giant concrete colossus standing at the beach on the island of Ruegen living on borrowed time. This huge building should house 20,000 workers and after the holiday they could return to the factories with new energy. This is the history of Prora.

I do not know if Prora shall be referred to as an abandoned place really. Parts of the buildings have businesses, and one part of the area is a museum. At the same time large sections of the 4.5 km long building is abandoned and decayed.

There was no shortage of ambitions in the Third Reich when they wanted to show the rest of the world how successful the National Socialism was. One of these mega-projects were Prora on the island of Ruegen.

Seebad Prora was one of five gigantic holiday complex that was planned. The project was lead by KdF, which means “power through joy”. KdF was a state recreational organization. One of the KdF’s goal was to rebuild the German tourism industry which had decline over the impoverished 1920s. By building a tourism industry it also was expected to give the German economy a boost.

Prora is located at the sandy beach that stretches between the towns of Sassnitz and Binz. The location was ideal for a holiday, and thanks to the stretch of the beach could all rooms have sea view.

The huge construction site

Under construction.

Earlier plans for projects of this enormous size had stayed on the drawing board. If this one would be successful they had not only the world’s largest resort, but also a great propaganda tool. During the build time it went even so far that the British trade unions forbade their representatives to visit the place.

In May 1936 the ground was broken. Prora was supposed to be completed in 1941. The area would consist a Northern and Southern unit, and between these two complexes would be a large open area for offices, a large meeting hall and a square.

Other entertainment in the area except from beach and nature would be restaurants, cinemas and gym. A railway station was constructed that would carry the large amount of visitors from mainland back and forth.

To the left we see the foundation to the harbor.

Amidst the complex was the foundation for a port made. When Prora would been finished, it was thought that the KDF ships “Robert Ley” and “Wilhelm Gustloff” should be able to arrive directly to the housing complex. The distance from the beach to the houses is 150 meters.

The Second World War starts

Now it is a fact that the holiday complex never was finished. It came as we know, a world war in the way. The building material was instead needed to the war industry. Some of the completed parts served as a residence for refugees, mainly from Hamburg who was severely bombed.

Other parts were used as a training center for policemen and female military assistens. Even a military hospital was located in Prora.

Some vacation paradise was thus Prora never.

Soviet and Seebad Prora

The eastern part of Germany belonged to the Soviet Union when World War II ended. At first, the Soviets didn’t really know what to do with the large concrete structures.

They simply dismantled all the material that was valuable and transported it to Russia.

Prora in the GDR

When the Soviets left Prora they tried to blow up the houses. They tried both on house in the northern and southern part. The houses were still there, albeit with a slightly larger window.

In 1950 Prora was handed over to the East German army. The place was considered well suited for practicing urban warfare which resulted in several parts of Prora were blown up.

The dictator Erich Honecker visiting Prora in 1972.

However, during the 1950s, the military changed their minds and began to rebuild the blown sections. Proras new focus would be as a resort for officers.

Renovation work became extensive since the Soviet had virtually taken everything that could be used. Therefore, the interior that now can be seen on Prora are mostly made in the 1950s in East Germany.

In 1990 the East German army leaves Prora. The remains of this nearly 5 kilometer long unfinished building evokes memories of a time that many would forget.

Since then, discussions have been if the buildings should be demolished or preserved, and until recently the complex has been relatively untouched.

Prora today

My last visit to the site, in 2014, testify that the now private owners started their plans. Large parts have been demolished and will now make way for luxury vacation rentals.

Renovation in progress.

In the end it seems that Prora become a vacation paradise anyway …

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