DasP Summer Stories: ‘Prora’ in Rügen, Germany

In addition to the standard vacation destinations with palm trees, white beaches and romantic cities, there are some amazing alternatives where only few people go. DasP will take you this summer on a journey around the world to abandoned, dilapidated and forgotten places with a great story. This time: Hitler’s vacation camp ‘Prora’ on the island of Rügen, Germany.

Back in 1936, at the height of his power, Hitler started building a massive beach resort with 10,000 sea-view rooms to provide a vacation getaway for German workers and spread propaganda about the superiority of German culture and the Nazi regime. The entire structure was made up of 8 identical 6-stories building with a total length of almost 4,5 kilometer, making it one of the longest buildings in the world.  All eight blocks were designed with their own massive restaurant, capable of feeding around 2,500 people per meal in two different shifts. The plans included an enormous indoor arena that could accommodate all 20,000 guests at the same time, two wave-swimming pools, shops, fitness studios, a radio station, several cinemas and a large dock where passenger cruise ships could dock.

It was to be the first of five or possibly even ten such complexes with would accommodate 20,000 workers every week. Under the program called “Strength Through Joy“, activities in the resorts were scheduled down into a scientifically designed formulas in which precisely adjusted sleep, diet, entertainment, and beach time was calculated. The goal was to pack a three to four week holiday into just seven days to extend the typical worker’s limit of peak performance from the age of 40 — as it was calculated in the 1930s — to age 70 and beyond.

The exterior of the complex was mostly completed on time in 1939.  But when war broke out, all work stopped and the project was never finished.  Workers were either drafted or transferred to build the V1 flying bomb and V2 rocket plant at nearby Peenemünde. It was than used as a Wehrmacht hospital and military training school during the early stages of the war. Later the building housed refugees from Hamburg and eastern Germany and sheltered female members of the Luftwaffe. After the war, the Soviet Army took control of the area in 1945 and established a Red Army barracks at Prora.  It was taken over in 1952 by the East German People’s Army and used until the German reunification in 1990.

Today, the whole place is still pretty much deserted, but there’s good news for those that want to bring a visit. Part of the complex is turned into a 400-bed youth hostel (with quite a good customer rating) a small museum and a disco in one of the old Nazi restaurants. Recently a zoning permission had been given to build 3,000 holiday apartments in Blocks 1 and 3.