January 15, 2009

The Prora Resort and the Kraft durch Freude

The award winning model of Prora showing the buildings arched on the beach, the community houses, and the long piers for the KdF ships at Rugen. Images used by permission of Geof Walden, from his site Third Reich In Ruins, 2009.

Entries: Written in advance. I confess.

Himself: Still my hero.

Herself: Typing….via one or two fingers on my left hand for these notes. Dozed on and off all morning and into the afternoon. Hand elevated. Many thanks to you all for keeping me in your thoughts.

Balance: my g.
In 1933, Robert Ley was given orders to begin the “Labor Front”, the only labor union allowed in Nazi Germany. The workers made compulsory deductions to the union and it’s Kraft durch Freude (KdF), or “Strength through Joy,” Movement. This was the carrot for the National Socialist worker. Dr. Fritz Stenzel of Fourwinds10.com tells us, “This led toward a new moral outlook about work, a better quality of life and to overcome the class barriers. At the same time the amount of vacation days were doubled.”

The KdF was originally divided into several departments. Workers were encouraged to take part in “factory concerts, singing lessons, entertainment evenings, chess championships, gymnastics, as well as swimming courses.”

Another KdF department handled overseas vacations. “A high percentage of German workers had never traveled before, and KdF soon became the world’s largest travel agency. 43,000,000 KdF Tours were sold in 1939, mainly day tours, and with Madeira, Italy, and Norway being the most popular cruises,” Stenzel writes.

By 1936, Hitler encouraged the construction of a 20,000 bed hotel on the island of Rugen. The Prora model, above, received the Grand Prix at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937. It’s arching design filled the ocean front with its dramatic line of buildings. All the rooms fronted onto the beach.

Geoff Walden writes, “The Prora resort was planned to consist of two complexes - North and South - each consisting of four blocks of ten housing units each, providing rooms for 20,000 vacationers. Every room had a view of the sea. Between the two complexes would have been administration buildings and a large open festival square with an assembly hall at one end. The housing sections were joined by community buildings and swimming halls. The complex included plans for several restaurants, cinemas, sport halls, and other entertainment sites, as well as housing for workers, a rail station, and other necessary infrastructure (water works, electrical substation, post office, etc.). When completed, the complex would have stretched along the beach for almost five kilometers. A large quay was built at the seaside in the center of the complex, with moorings for the KdF cruise ships "Robert Ley" and "Wilhelm Gustloff."

Construction was never finished on this colossus of a KdF complex. Materials were siphoned off for the war. The buildings were used for hospitals, the ships were sunk just at the end of WWII, and the Prora KdF structures were taken over by first the Russians then the East Germans. Dismantled then partially rebuilt by East Germany, Prora has been used for everything from fire control training to military exercises.

Today this half abandoned series of unfinished buildings are a great tourist draw as the largest remaining Third Reich structure. I offer you Prora links that include history, design, and current use. There’s hope too that some day soon there will be a revival of this structure in its original form.

Left: The north complex seen in the "Deutsche Wochenschau" weekly newsreel, from about 1941. Right: The landside wings today. They contain stairwells and elevators.


Kraft durch Freude

The KdF resort at Prora

The first ever, mass market, cruise ship.

The Robert Ley

Wilhelm Gustloff

Robert Ley and the KdF ships.

Photos taken on a KdF cruise to Norway

KdF and the beginnings of mass tourism

Prora Holiday Resort

History Today: Swastikas by the Seaside

ASKA: Prora Photos

1 comment:

  1. Well I am glad you are doing well. I was wondering about these flawlessly typed entries! Feel better, and thank you for your words of encouragement ((hug))


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