A massive holiday home complex was built at Prora to accommodate workers deemed to have worked hard enough for Nazi Germany. Prora is on the Baltic island of Ruegen and the buildings stand to this day. ‘Strength Through Joy’ (Kraft durch Freude – KdF) was an idea put into practice by Robert Ley’s German Labour Front whereby all the leisure time of the working class was organised for them. Prora was just one of a number of holiday complexes planned by the Nazi regime but only the one at Prora was built. Ironically, no workers ever holidayed there because World War Two started just weeks before it was due to be opened.
In 2011, long-lost files relating to Prora and other planned super-resorts were found in the state archives of Greifswald in northeast Germany. They show that the planned super-resorts would have accommodated 20,000 holiday-makers each at any one time and that about 100,000 could be catered for each week once all five of the planned resorts were completed. The documents also show that in total. Robert Ley, head of the German Labour Front and therefore head of ‘Strength Through Joy’, believed that a total of 14 million German workers could have a cheap holiday throughout any one year.
The documents also show that the holiday resorts were meant to “provide affordable holidays for the average worker”. The resort of Prora was meant to be the first of a number of these super-resorts. The front of the complex spans 2.5 miles along the Baltic coastline. Four other super-resorts were due to be built along the Baltic coastline and also the North Sea coastline – near Hamburg, Bremen, Usedom and Wilhelmshaven. The documents show that thousands of men from the German Labour Front were earmarked to do the construction work. They also show that Hitler paid particular attention to the scheme as he ordered that each super-resort had to be self-sufficient with their own water treatment plants and able to generate their own electricity.
The documents also show that Prora greatly exceeded costs. Started in 1936, it was planned by Robert Ley that the complex would cost the equivalent today (2011) of £25 million. In fact, the total cost of the super-resort that no one used was the equivalent today of £750 million. The documents show that the spiraling costs even worried Ley – a close confidante of Hitler – who knew that some, especially his enemies in the Nazi hierarchy, could use such information against him and claim that the money could have been better used in the armaments industry. Least of all did Ley want to see that others believed that money had been “wasted”. However, it does seem that Hitler supported the whole idea of providing the workers with a cheap holiday – one they would thank the Nazi regime for, of course – so it could be that Ley’s concerns were exaggerated.
At the end of World War Two, Prora was used as a military barracks by the Red Army. Today, it is listed and there are plans to turn it into a holiday resort once again.