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© Martijn van Exel/Flickr
© Martijn van Exel/Flickr

Prora: A Former Nazi Holiday Resort Transformed Into A Tourist Destination

Picture of Lily Cichanowicz
Updated: 21 September 2016
One of Germany’s most picturesque waterside tourist destinations is the island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea. While this idyllic resort area is popular among travelers today, it still holds relics of a much starker past. What is left of the sprawling Prora complex, for instance, was once intended to become a favourite site of vacationing Nazis.

The antiquated resort complex is comprised of eight enormous buildings, all of which are designed in the bleak, Third Reich architectural style, and most of them remain on the island today. The buildings were erected between the years of 1936 and 1939 by the Nazi leisure organization, ‘Kraft dutch Freude’, in English Strength through Joy, as a means of promoting the benefits of life under Nazism. Thousands of people were involved in the construction efforts and every major building company in Germany aided in the project.

Situated in the spectacular Prorer Wiek region along a pleasant beach, it’s no surprise that the organization would select this place as the site of the resort. Accommodation options here were intended to be affordable enough for the average worker and designed in the likeness of British ‘holiday camps’ at the time as part of the promise that life would be better for all under the reign of Hitler. One way that this notion played out in the buildings’ architecture is through the fact that all rooms would be allotted a window that overlooked the sea. Additionally, each room was virtually identical in terms of their amenities and furnishings.

Hitler himself had even bigger plans for the resort but Prora was never actually used as a vacation retreat. He wanted the complex to include a festival hall that could house 20,000 people simultaneously, an arena, two large wave pools, a theatre, a cinema and more. Due to the fact the completion of the main buildings came just as WWII commenced meant that these plans were never realised.

During the war, people took cover in the buildings from air raids and later refugees hailing from the East were housed there. Prora also served as the barracks for the female division of the German Luftwaffe. Following the war, the Soviets used Prora as a military base and a couple of the buildings were demolished.

Upon reunification, Prora was considered a German landmark and the state made efforts to prevent the buildings from further demolition. Yet, in 2008 it was decided that the original structures would be converted into a resort just as was originally intended. While the idea certainly met with some resistance from town locals and historians who felt that the site simply wasn’t fit to become a tourist destination, plans commenced. In 2011, the largest hostel in Germany, Jugendherberge Prora, was established in one of the original Prora complex buildings.

It is also likely that further plans, oriented towards creating budget friendly vacation facilities, will be commencing in coming years, meaning that you may be able to enjoy a vacation, the likes of which even the most loyal citizens of the Third Reich could have only dreamed.