State election could impact resort originated by the Nazis | News | DW | 31.08.2016
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State election could impact resort originated by the Nazis

Hitler once fancied the scenic beachfront property as a retreat, where devoted Nazis could affirm their party devotion. But World War II came along and interupted the Führer's dream.

Nazi propagandists once billed it as "Kraft durch Freude" or Strength through Joy - a retreat where the "Aryan" working class could go to have fun, exercise and, of course, bone up on the ideological teachings of Nazism in order to reaffirm their racial identity and build themselves into devoted Nazis.

One very, very, long building divided into eight massive blocks was designed and built - between 1936 and 1939 - to house 20,000 so-called holiday-makers along a 2.8 mile (4.5 km) strip of white, sandy beaches on the island of Rügen.

The onset of World War II meant that the retreat closed before it ever opened. But that didn't stop the Nazi propaganda machine from perpetuating the myth that thousands of dedicated Nazis were enjoying the National Socialist dream, according to Susanna Misgajski, the director of the on-site Prora Center, which works to provide historical remembrance for the site.

"The propaganda was so perfect that many people thought there were holidaymakers here, " she said.

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Prora Renovation Project (2013)

Today there are only seven blocks because the Soviets demolished one of them after World War II, before it was decided that East Germany would convert the site into a top secret military camp.

Now, 80 years after the first foundation stone was laid, the demands of modern capitalism are colliding with the forces of historical remembrance, and Sunday's state election in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania could have a significant impact on how much "remembrance" perseveres.

Misgajski fears a strong showing by the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party will dampen support for "remembrance," which could threaten her museum and two others like it.

"We all have no future," she said. "It is necessary to have space in one of the blocks. We are in a house outside of the block."

Grand plans, need money

Misgajski has grand plans to expand the Center's program, including an "education and documentation center," she said. "But it's expensive. We need 5 million (euros), but it's difficult to get the money."

A strong showing by the AfD could make the task all but impossible. The latest state polls give the right-wing nationalist party about 20 percent. At a minimum that would likely give them a strong third place finish, and could potentially vault them higher.

Susanna Misgajski, the director of the on-site Prora Center points to a building block behind her

Susanna Misgajski, the director of the on-site Prora Center, which works to provide historical rememberance for the site

They are close on the heels of the leading vote-getters, the left-of-center Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Angela Merkel's right-of-center Christian Democratic Party (CDU).

The SPD and CDU currently govern the state in a left-right coalition, but the AfD is within striking distance.

At Prora, one block opened up as a stylish hotel last year, and another block is set to open next year featuring 270 high-end apartment units, ranging in price from 350,000 euros to 650,000 for top floor apartments with stunning sea views.

The six-story high blocks are set back 150 meters or so from the sea and stand behind a berm, depriving lower floor occupants of an ocean view.

Nonetheless, Werner Jung a realtor with the Irisgerd real estate agency said 95 percent of the units are already sold. He confirmed that the company paid 2.75 million euros for the dilapidated block and had spent another 88 million euros renovating and reconstructing it.

The election impact

Sunday's election won't impact Irisgerd's development, and Jung pointed to the existing remembrance centers and museums already there as proof that the vote won't impact the development of the remaining blocks.

"I don't think the election will change anything," he said.

At least four of the blocks are slated for development. The fate of the remaining three, however, is less clear. But since the buildings have been designated heritage sites, the manner in which they are developed is also important.

A ground view of the Prora complex.

The Prora complex

Misgajski takes umbrage with balconies being added on to each apartment unit, which fundamentally changes the texture of the exterior.

"They built balconies. It ruins the original architecture," she said. "We have to save the outside space in its original form."

Given the origin of the complex Misgajski said it would be apt if the state devoted some of the space to helping the one million or so asylum seekers who flooded in Germany last year, mostly from strife-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's very important to save this for all the people," she said, "not just the wealthy."

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