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Upmarket hotel plans for Nazi beach resort

The Local · 13 Jun 2012, 08:12

Published: 13 Jun 2012 08:12 GMT+02:00

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The historic dormitory complex at Prora, built between 1936 and 1939, sprawls nearly five kilometres along a choice stretch of Baltic Sea coastline. This month, work began to turn one of the blocks into an upmarket hotel.

Built as one of the "Strength Through Joy" camps set up by the Nazis for the party faithful, it was to sleep up to 20,000 Germans in a pioneering attempt at mass tourism 300 kilometres north of Berlin.

The drive to offer recreation and hearty exercise was coupled with a desire to build loyalty and devotion to the Nazis among the working class, with ideological teaching on site.

The complex was to include a cinema, a theatre, a banquet hall for 25,000 people and two swimming pools. But World War II put an end to the scheme and work was never completed.

When the Soviet army seized control of eastern Germany at the end of the war, the camp was turned to military use and did not appear on travel maps.

Since the collapse of communist East Germany in 1989, the Prora complex sat desolate and largely empty, gradually deteriorating while the question of its future use remained unanswered.

The building is, alongside the Nazis' Nuremberg party rally grounds, Germany's most imposing architectural relic of the Third Reich.

But because of its size and state of disrepair, it had been a hard sell in the post-reunification years.

"After the fall of the Berlin Wall, following the brief stay of the German military here, we only had one idea in mind: sell the place," said Sabine Sakuth, a guide at the Prora museum.

"From the start, there haven't been any real plans for it. We don't manage our heritage very well."

Failing to find a buyer for the whole complex, the state has been forced to try to sell it piece by piece.

Very, very curious

Sakuth noted that part of the problem is financial – the disused concrete-block lodgings are crumbling and would-be investors are limited in what they can do with the white elephant, which is protected by rigid environmental and historical regulations.

And despite the valuable land the complex sits on being in one of Germany's hottest tourist destinations, tearing it down is not an option.

"It is an issue that gives me a stomach ache," admits local mayor Karsten Schneider.

Only one project thus far has got off the ground – last year a youth hostel with 400 beds opened in one section of the complex.

Two years of building work were necessary to make this still little-known place inviting, at a cost of €27 million, to which the European Union contributed development funds.

Now the spot welcomes students and families with children, even boasting wireless Internet, and 820 new windows look out onto the sea and the lush forest to the back of the complex.

Story continues below…

"People are very, very curious and want to know what happened here – it's great," said Dennis Brosseit, who runs the youth hostel.

"A little like now, when you see young children running in the courtyards – it's brilliant. Seeing this big block starting to live again is terrific."

And in March, a Berlin investor forked out €2.75 million for one of the complex's five blocks and plans to convert it into a hotel, spa and holiday apartment development, with work to start this month.

Local residents are sceptical about its prospects due to the recent explosion in holiday lodgings in the area.

"The Nazis wanted to have 20,000 beds here. I think with 3,000 beds we have already reached the limit," Schneider, the mayor, said, adding that he would like to see a tourism institute or an oceanography academy instead of more hotel rooms.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

10:24 June 13, 2012 by Ruhetag
Turn it into many movie sets, with movie stars!
15:22 June 13, 2012 by raandy
2.75 million for 5 blocks seems like a good buy. I would assume that the addition of 3000 beds would increase supply and decrease demand. This in turn would lower the cost of logging in the area and cause the locals to charge less. We wouldn't want that.
00:50 June 14, 2012 by Whipmanager
Protect German Heritage? Are you celebrating teh NAZI history? this was a site for political indoctrination. I can't believe they wont clear this crap hole and use it for good purpose, but they practically tore down all of Dachau, and left just a few buildings standing that are so clean, and pristine that a person might believe that it was a rest camp if they didnt read the signs.
01:48 June 14, 2012 by MrPC
Those buildings are butt ugly and anyone who thinks that they can be turned into an up market tourist destination is kidding themselves. My advice is to tear them the he11 down, they surely won't be missed.
09:35 June 14, 2012 by Bilderberg
@whipmanager........quiet your raging mouth lest you stroke out or something worse. I would imagine that you also have ugly buildings where your military are indoctrinated.......after all, that is part of the military experience.
11:36 June 14, 2012 by murka
The place could be considered a "resort" destination only if your options are limited to the German soil and air travel is not existent, i.e. you are living in 1930s. Otherwise it is cold and windy most of the time. And the buildings are ugly indeed.
12:17 June 14, 2012 by TheWonderer
The buildings may be ugly, but they are solid.

Tearing them down was tried a few times - but in vain (cost is prohibitive).

Conversion is much cheaper and protects the environment.

Furthermore, they could serve as a memorial - instead of covering up history and doing away with unpleasant aspects, theis will confront people with national history (in fact, there is an exhibition on that in that building already).

And if this helps people to think in the future - great!

15:55 June 14, 2012 by Leo Strauss
You wanna talk impressive Nazi relic, then check out the U-Bootbunkerwerft `Valentin` in Bremen-Farge, where they produced the type XXI boats at the end of the war. That place is a trip and I believe it is now open to the public.
04:53 June 15, 2012 by Whipmanager
Bilderberg: Nice name by the way. In any case, true we have many old buildings in germany, many of them built and used by the NAZIs, whcih after we conquered them to save money, we took them over, converted them and over the years upgraded them as we stayed. Mannheim and Stuttgart are a few choice places you can see where we kept the old. They were barracks, not memorials to making new and better NAZIS. Yes we have ugly buildings. But the fact is we are the best country in the world, have paid many times fr rebuilding germany and kept hundreds of thousands of germans rich by renting property (apartments and houses) and cars, and buying food to help rebuild a briken country.

My point is that if you could destroy this development, yo ucould build a better and more efficient palce. It is really not a place to keep and make nice so people can remember the past, as it will be a nice place, and people will think nice things about the past instead of what they should think- bad place, bad people. I won't Stroke out. Nah, I am strong and able to talk about things I do know, and I do know a great deal about the german history from '46 on and Europe in general.
17:01 June 15, 2012 by SilberFuchs
This complex is a fabulous development opportunity with more than half of the work already done. The towers are not ugly, but logically arranged and can be converted to modern residential use (hostel, hotel, apartments, condos) or office space and R&D space. The courtyards can be restaurants, shops, entry pavilions, and make a very attractive and active street and community scene with walks, landscaping, car parking, a bus line, etc. No need to always bring up ghosts, this is the new millenium, get on with it!
19:11 June 15, 2012 by lozzshakes
I agree, move on people, we are in twenty first century. Make the most of any assets there are. There are enough memorials and exhibits so lets do something constructive and good for the future from a bad past. Let the nation move on
23:24 June 16, 2012 by der kuantumlad
While I realize the comments here should be reserved to the issue presented in the article I would like to ask about the attitudes of some German people regarding historical monuments specifically pertaining to post-Weimar Republic.

In the time I have spent in Berlin, Germany I have noticed a great deal of sculptures, buildings, cemeteries, visible bullet holes on the facade of buildings, concentration camps, plaques near Hackesche Höfe, etc. The number of moments almost seems endless. However it seems that such memorials, in their physicality, serve as a strong and present reminders of the bygone Nazi era. As generations come and go these monuments will serve as the means to prevent history from repeating herself. Though it must be considered that more monuments does not equal a smaller chance of history being repeated.

Perhaps the sheer number of monuments is a results of the many different views and outcomes that resulted from the Nazi era. It is possible to build one memorial commemorated to all those who fell victim to war and persecution during the Nazi era; but is that sufficient to honor all the different peoples and religions?

Furthermore presenting the past physically through monuments, whether it be built in the Weimar Era and used by Nazis or built by Nazis and used today, is a stronger way to hold onto the past than through texts which are easier to subtly manipulate over time; whereas the absence of a monument or building is itself calling for it to be remembered (and more noticeable).

Any thoughts?
03:04 June 25, 2012 by MH.
The buildings are ugly, just like Nazism. They should be demolished. They will attract neo-Nazis with equally ugly ideals, ending up as a shrine.
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