Germany Debates New Life for a Behemoth of the Nazi Era

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PRORA, Germany — Three years before the outbreak of World War II, Adolf Hitler’s lieutenants ordered the construction of what was portrayed as a remarkable perquisite for the toiling masses of the Third Reich — a vacation complex along the Baltic coast with 10,000 sea-view rooms in eight identical six-story blocks of steel-reinforced concrete, each one the length of five football fields.

Even by the standards of Nazi monumentalism and social engineering, the plan was ambitious. Every block would have its own restaurant, catering to 2,500 people per meal, divided into two sittings. Every week, 20,000 workers from the industrial powerhouses of Nazi Germany would be brought here under a program called Strength Through Joy to prepare themselves mentally and physically to fulfill Hitler’s dreams.

With some justification, people still call the five surviving blocks — strung along a pristine sandy beach — the Colossus of Prora.

But unlike in Hitler’s day, when the ostensible purpose of the edifice was clear enough, the question for a new Germany is: What do you do with a Nazi relic that is too big and too laden with symbolism to destroy, but too enormous to be easily put to use?...

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