Having stood for decades as a relic of Nazi hubris, the immense site of the ‘Strength Through Joy’ camp at Prora is being redeveloped and will soon serve its original purpose – housing holidaymakers
“You’d have thought there would have been a big hall or something,” declares a disappointed American voice on leaving the Prora Documentation Centre, a museum on the edge of a half-disused, half-renovated holiday camp in north-east Germany. What he was hoping for, in the largest single surviving remnant of the Third Reich, is some hint of the past. But there is little of that here today.
The Third Reich destroyed many cities, but it never built one. It began some – notably the industrial city of Wolfsburg – and it planned many others. But mostly, its ideas about what they called the Volksgemeinschaft (“people’s community”) went unrealised. With one exception: the Strength Through Joy (Kraft durch Freude) resort of Prora, on the Isle of Rügen.
Commissioned by KdF, the leisure organisation operated by Robert Ley’s German Labour Front, Prora was planned in the mid-1930s to the designs of Clemens Klotz and substantially built before the outbreak of the second world war. It was intended as an immense holiday camp, the largest in the world at nearly three miles long, stretching in a sandy arc along the Baltic Sea.