Tuesday, 17 August 2010

strength through joy...?

Looking for some images of the cliffs at Rügen (in order to see images of the famous chalk cliffs Caspar David Friedrich painted but which partially collapsed in a landslide a few years ago), instead, I somehow found myself looking at an altogether different spectacle of the sublime. Built by Hitler as part of the Strength Through Joy programme (basically, a kind of National Socialist leisure industry wing - which also brought us the VW Beetle), Prora was a 4.5km long hotel (one continuous structure) in which all the rooms had a sea view, providing accommodation for 20,000 people on the Baltic Sea. It's also known as the "Colossus of Rügen, and it's extraordinary to think of a "holiday camp" built on such an imposing, daunting scale. Butlin's x 100!

arial view of Prora

Built between 1936 and 1939, it was designed to provide affordable holidays for the average worker, but with the onset of war, construction stopped. The eight housing blocks, the theatre and cinema stayed as empty shells, and the swimming pools and festival hall never materialised. 
During the Allied bombing campaign, many people from Hamburg took refuge in one of the housing blocks, and later refugees from the east of Germany were housed there. By the end of the war, these buildings served to house female auxiliary personnel for the Luftwaffe.

These images by Vegar Moen show the building and it's environs in 2001.

After the war, Rügen ended up in the Russian sector and Prora became a top-secret army base, a virtual university of warfare, where Warsaw Pact troops rehearsed for a Third World War. The holiday camp that Hitler built became a hi-tech military training camp, where Soviet soldiers played wargames to prepare for the apocalypse to come. Out of bounds to locals, Prora disappeared from East German maps. A wild wood grew up around it, hiding it from the sea.

1 comment:

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joMfVFAK5Qc&feature=autoshare