When viewed from a distance, the stolid, rigorous arrangement of the entire structure hits us with its monstrous flair and amplitude. But for those who know their history, the scope might not come as a big surprise – as the massive 4.5 km (2.8 miles) long compound is none other than that of the Prora resort, a stupefying yet rare example of the so-called ‘Nazi architecture’.
Originally envisioned by Nazi politician Robert Ley as a superior German version of the British holiday camps (which were mainly affordable establishments for the burgeoning worker class), the ‘collective’ Prora beach resort was designed to cater to 20,000 patrons. In fact, a grand total of five humongous resort complexes were planned for the Kraft durch Freude (‘Strength Through Joy’) association of workers. But the only construction began on the island of Rügen, which is located along the Baltic Sea, and is still Germany’s largest island. The beach here provided for a paradisiacal haven with its long yet flat sandy terrain – that was nigh perfect for an expansive resort compound.
Amidst pomp and ceremony, the mammoth project was started in 1936 with a workforce of over 9,000 people. The resort was divided up into two major complexes that further branched into a total of eight massive blocks, each with ten housing systems – all collectively amounting to an astronomical capacity for 20,000 holiday makers. The guest rooms were strategically oriented towards the sea, while they individually measured 12.5 sq m (135 sq ft), and consisted of uniform furnishings like double beds, a wardrobe and an attached sink. On the other hand, the corridors and the sanitation infrastructure faced the side of the land, with each floor additionally boasting of communal bathrooms and even ballrooms.
Of course, Adolf Hitler’s extravagant vision went beyond the confines of just a large resort for workers. Harking back to his obsession with neoclassicism, the dictator envisaged the Prora to be the architectural glory of the Third Reich. To that end, a colossal open festival square was to be built between the complexes, while this huge public space was to be surrounded by administrative buildings and an extensive assembly hall. Furthermore, the leviathan scope would have been complemented by a host of user-oriented zones, including – restaurants, cinemas, sport halls, housing units for workers and even a rail station. And if that was not enough, the spectacular endeavor was to be ultimately supported by an apt infrastructure of a post office, water supply systems, electrical grids and a mighty sea-side quay for German cruise ships.
Quite intriguingly, Hitler also wanted the Prora Resort to double up as a state-of-the-art military hospital in case of a war. Destiny it seems was finally tickled, and the flourishing project had to be abruptly dropped by 1939 with the commencement of the Second World War. The fragmentary buildings (that were mere empty shells) were briefly used as bomb shelters by many urban refugees from various parts of Germany. Later on during the war, the incomplete complex was also turned into a hospital and living quarters for the female auxiliary members of the Luftwaffe.
Post Second World War, the Prora Resort had made its run as an East German military complex, youth hostel, museum and even a dance club. And incredibly, in spite of its unfinished status, the quixotic project still remains the largest Third Reich building in existence – with current plans to convert it back into a hotel and a shopping center, albeit in a much reduced scope.