Swastikas by the Seaside
Peter Monteath discusses the origins and fate of a huge Nazi holiday camp planned to invigorate the German workforce by means of ‘Strength through Joy’.
In their efforts to tame the working class – potentially the largest source of opposition to the regime – the Nazis resorted to tactics of violence and intimidation even from early on. It is sometimes forgotten that besides the frequently wielded stick, the carrot was also more sparingly deployed. It was dangled before the eyes of the German workers in the hope that they would find fitting reward for their political acquiescence and their toil in the service of the Fatherland.
One such carrot, which characteristically remained beyond the grasp of the German worker, was the so-called Colossus of Prora. In its conception at least, this was a huge holiday resort on the Baltic island of Rügen off Stralsund. One of five such complexes planned for the benefit of the German working classes under the auspices of the ‘Strength through Joy’ (Kraft durch Freude or KdF) movement, only Prora was ever started(in 1936), but it was never finished. Nevertheless, by the outbreak of war in 1939, enough of the complex had emerged to warrant the epithet ‘colossus’, since it stretched over some 4.5 kilometres of coastline. Size, however, could not protect the buildings from obscurity during the years of the German Democratic Republic; only now, nearly a decade after reunification, is attention shifting back to this awkward architectural legacy of the Nazi past.
The idea for Prora can be traced to Hitler himself. Robert Ley, the leader of the German Labour Front, and responsible for the resort project, told how:
One day [the Führer] said to me that in his opinion one should construct an enormous seaside resort, the grandest and most impressive ever.