With estate agents waxing lyrical about the “smell of the sea, the scent of pines and panoramic views of nature” you could almost be forgiven for forgetting the sinister past of the luxury Baltic seaside apartments at New Prora, which were purpose built for 20,000 members of Adolf Hitler’s Aryan “master race”.
Comprising a single and monstrous five-storey concrete housing block stretching almost three miles along the sand dune and pine-studded coast of the east German island of Rügen, the former Prora holiday camp is one of the longest buildings in Europe. It was designed as the Nazis’ answer to Butlin’s.
Now, 76 years after it was built, the first full-time tenants are moving in to the so-called “Colossus of Rügen”. After decades of inaction and shame about its Nazi past, the complex is being gradually turned into luxury flats. Fifty-seven have been sold, the lowest priced costing €176,000 for a small three-room apartment.
The knowledge that the site of his flat was meant to provide “quality time” for the German masses under the Nazi “Strength Through Joy” recreation programme did not seem to worry its new owner Roland Glöckner.
“It may sound peculiar, but it was love at first sight,” said the 51-year-old Berlin advertising executive after moving in to his 60sq metre flat.
Mr Glöckner, his physiotherapist wife Annabel and their two children first saw their future apartment when conversion work on the building was still under way. “It was right by the sea, the nature was fantastic, it was nice and quiet and not so expensive. Perfect for the family or as somewhere to grow old,” he admitted.
His block of pristine white-painted seaside apartments, each equipped with a sauna, stands somewhat incongruously facing the sea just yards from their undeveloped grey concrete counterparts which have remained untouched since they were built.
Prora was commissioned by Hitler in 1936. It was meant to be one of five mega holiday camps which the Nazis planned to use for people’s recreation and indoctrination. They were meant to complement the Third Reich’s successful leisure programmes, which by the mid-1930s were giving German workers the chance to go on hitherto undreamt of holiday cruises.
In a small museum tucked away in the Prora complex, one of the Nazi holiday camp’s 10,000 rooms stands preserved in its original state. It is a tiny, low-ceilinged cell-like chamber with two steel-framed single beds, a cupboard, chair and loudspeaker designed to broadcast orders to inmates. Meike Cryan, an American visitor, was one of a group of tourists visiting the museum. “With 20,000 people, this place would have been a holiday concentration camp,” she said.
Yet Hitler’s would-be holidaymakers never moved in to Prora. The complex was almost complete in 1939, but the outbreak of the Second World War prevented its further use as a holiday resort. After the war the complex was used as a military base by the Red Army and, subsequently, the German army. Soviet troops tried to destroy the vast buildings, but gave up after the steel-reinforced concrete refused to give way fast enough to make demolition feasible.
The site is one of the largest Nazi relics left in Germany and it was formally listed in 1994, although the authorities remained at a loss about what to do with it. An answer came in 2010, when the Berlin property investor Gerd Grochowiak bought one of the blocks in the complex for development into flats at auction for €2.75m. “It was a great feeling,” he now says.
Mr Grochowiak and his associates say that further development of Prora, where a shopping centre, swimming pool and indoor tennis facilities are planned, will depend on demand.
In the meantime, Prora’s new residents are adamant their fun will not be spoiled by their home’s Nazi history.
“We are not going to let the past trouble us while we relax here. We’ll manage that,” insisted Annabel Glöckner.
Source: The Independent