Essential Architecture-  Island Rügen



Dr. Robert Ley, Erich Putlitz


Rügen, in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, north-eastern Germany.




Bauhaus Modern


concrete frame



"Koloss von Prora" or the Colossus of Prora

Prora was a Nazi-planned spa on the island Rügen, Germany. The massive building complex was built between 1936 and 1939 as a Kraft durch Freude (KdF) project. The eight buildings are identical, and while they were planned as a holiday locale, they were never used for this purpose. The complex has a formal heritage listing as a particularly striking example of Third Reich architecture.

Prora sits on an extensive bay between the Sassnitz and Binz regions, near Prorer Wiek, on the narrow heath, which is called the Prora, which separates the Jasmunder Bodden from the Baltic Sea. The buildings extend over a length of 4.5 km and are roughly 150 m from the beach. The coast offers a long flat sand beach, which stretches from Binz to the Fährhafen. This beach was thus an ideal location for the establishment of a seaside resort.


Seaside view of Prora

Dr. Robert Ley envisioned Prora as a parallel to Butlins - British "holiday camps" designed to provide affordable holidays for the average worker. Prora was designed to house 20,000 holidaymakers, under the ideal that every worker deserved a holiday at the beach. Designed by Clemens Klotz (1886-1969), all rooms were planned to overlook the sea. Each room of 5 by 2.5 metres (15' x 8') was to have two beds, an armoire (wardrobe) and a sink. There were communal toilets and showers.

Hitler's plans for Prora were much more ambitious. He wanted a gigantic sea resort, the "most mighty and large one to ever have existed", holding 20,000 beds. In the middle, a massive building was to be erected. At the same time, Hitler wanted it to be convertible into a military hospital in case of war. Hitler insisted that the plans of a massive indoor arena by architect Erich Putlitz be included. Putlitz's Festival Hall was intended to be able to accommodate all 20,000 guests at the same time. His plans included two wave-swimming pools and a theatre. A large dock for passenger ships was also planned.

During the few years that Prora was under construction, all major construction companies of the Reich and nearly 9,000 workers were involved in this project. With the onset of World War II in 1939 construction on Prora 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. By the end of the war, these buildings served to house female auxiliary personnel for the Luftwaffe.

In 1945 the Soviet Army took control of the region, and established a base at Prora. After the formation of the German Democratic Republic part of it was used as an army holiday centre, by the name of the Walter Ulbricht Home. The sturdy but derelict shell of the complex remains as a tourist curiosity.

Panoramic view of a block's seaside

Panoramic view of a block's landside


Björn Sahlberg's photos from Prora taken in March 2008