Prora (Rügen), Germany, Europe
Year1936latitude: 54° 15'
longitude: 13° 21'
Planning organizationNazi's
Nationality initiator(s)Germany
Designer(s) / Architect(s)Clemens Klotz
Design organization
Target population
Town website
Town related links
Literature- Harlander, Tilman en Gerhard Fehl, Hitlers Sozialer Wohnungsbau 1940-1945, Wohnungspolitik, Baugestaltung und Siedlungsplanung, Hamburg 1986.
- Jürgen Rostock und Franz Zadniček, Paradies Ruinen. Das KdF-Seebad der Zwanzigtausend auf Rügen, Berlin 2001.
- Nerdinger, Winfried, Bauen im Nationalsozialismus. Bayern 1933-1945, München 1993.
- Troost, Gerdy and J.H.M. van der Eerden, Het bouwen in het Derde Rijk, Amsterdam 1943.
- Wenk, Erinnerungsorte aus Beton. Bunker in Städten und Landschaften, Berlin 2001, 158-166.
- Wernicke, Joachim and Uwe Schwartz, Der Koloss von Prora auf Rügen, Rügen 2006.

type of New Town: > scale of autonomy
New Town
Company Town
> client
Private Corporation
Public Corporation
> policy
Prora is situated near the northern coastline of Germany on the 969 square kilometres large island Rügen, laid between Ostseebad Binz to the south and Dorf Neu-Mukran to the north of the heath land. It was planned in the thirties by the National Socialist government as a seaside resort. Prora can not be seen as a real city with permanent residences, but the way this settlement was planned is spectacular and it explains much about the National Socialist ideas on urban planning and design. The initiator of the project was Robert Ley (1890-1945), an important member of the NSDAP and editor of the Ten National German Commandments. Hitler ordered him to become chief of the German Labour Front Kraft durch Freude (KdF), which was founded in 1933 to replace the existing labour unions by one. The German Labour Union was not at all a professional association for the rights of the workers, but a propaganda project for the National Socialist State. To change society and reform the lives of the people according to the National Socialist ideal, Hitler wanted to control every daily activity including leisure time. KdF's most important activities were recreation and cultural activities like sports competitions, theatre plays, concerts and art exhibitions. Besides that Ley also wanted to organize holidays for the members of the National Socialist party. Holidays were important to create a physically strong nation - seven days off in six months was enough to regain one's strength - and on holiday the people could once again be convinced of the benefits of National Socialism. Therefore Ley planned five seaside resorts, Rügen being one of them.

Urban plan and design
Ley organized a fake design competition to make it look like there was some kind of selection of architects, but in fact the Cologne architect Clemens Klotz (1886-1969), a member of the NSDAP and the designer of several National Socialist buildings, had already been chosen to make the design for the seaside resort of Prora. A few months after the assignment in 1935 Klotz showed Ley the first models. A gigantic 4.5 kilometre long building complex, placed with a slight curve along the coastline, formed the basic part of the urban plan. This was the building in which the National Socialist tourists would be accommodated during their stay. The building was spectacular because such a length had never been reached in any previous building complex. In the middle of the building the façade leaped backward to make space for a central square with a party hall and two entrance buildings at both sides, which were designed by the architect Erich zu Putlitz (1892-1945). From this point the complex was exactly symmetrical. Both wings hold two hotel blocks, consisting of three bedrooms around an internal hallway, alternating with gathering halls - with a dining room, a café, a kitchen and shops - connected to staircases and elevators. Because of the placement along a central hallway that runs through the total length of the complex, all the rooms enjoyed a seaside view. Furthermore, two swimming pools, two sport-halls, a theatre, a cinema, a reading room and playrooms were planned at both ends of the complex.

Most tourists would arrive at Rügen by ships that came along the 600 meter long pier and entered the main building from the grand boulevard. The composition of the complex had to make a big impression. The large scale and monumental architecture would emphasize the grandness of the realizations under the National Socialist reign. The entrance buildings and the party hall were designed in a pseudo historical style. The party hall had an entry with formalized square classical columns, a cornice and capitals with Egyptian leave motives. The façade was covered with quarry stones to refer to the grandiose Roman temples of antiquity. The classical architecture formed a model, because Hitler wanted to make Germany just as large or even larger and more prestigious than the Roman Empire. (This resemblance was also visible in the Deutschlandhalle of Speer in Berlin, for example.) The wings with hotel rooms were designed to be more sober, with rigid geometric forms, a dominant vertical line and high windows that were cut into the walls. The hotel standards were not that luxurious. The visitors only paid 2 RM (Romische Mark) per person per day, including accommodation, transport (by train or ship), a beach basket, a bathing suit and even a towel. The rooms of 12,5 square meters consisted only of a (double) bed, a sitting area, a closet, a luggage shelf and a sink with a mirror.

In addition to tourists, also the employees of the seaside resort were accommodated on the island. Therefore a residential district with houses for 2,000 people, a hospital, a school for the children of the employees and a railway station, roads and waterworks were planned on the landside of the hotel-complex. Barracks were built for the national servicemen of the Reichsarbeitsdienst (State Working Service) with two large sleeping and dining halls. So Rügen was not only planned as a holiday resort, but also as a totally new town with residences, facilities and infrastructure.

The construction started rapidly in the period from 1936 to 1939, thanks to the large amount of construction workers that were sent to Rügen and the availability of technical equipments. With its modern construction, consisting of prefabricated concrete elements, the building could be rapidly erected. Even the holes for pipes and wiring system had already been put in. However, during the building period the plans were simplified due to financial problems. All the money was needed for the war preparations. The Festhalle was replaced by an archway and the beach was realized only half as broad as it had been planned. The outbreak of the war put an end to the project. Only eight hotel blocks, the southern part of the community buildings and one part of the residential district were realized.

Present situation
After the war, the GDR government renovated the damaged complex to make it suitable for war refugees. The hallways were widened, windows were replaced by plastic window frames and the building was provided with central heating. After the reunion the military settlement Prora was closed and since 1993 the area was made publicly accessible. Only five building blocks were left, the rest of the hotel blocks and the community rooms lay in ruins. The reception building was used as a church and one block had been transformed into a museum about the history of this holiday resort. Another block was in use as youth hostel, kindergarten and restaurant till 1999. Today it is in a bad state, but a project developer has plans to transform the area in the future back into a holiday resort with apartments and a youth hostel.

source: Saskia Hulskes

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