Friday, August 27, 2004

Wanna buy a former Nazi Holiday Camp???

German Government to Auction Off Nazi Holiday Camp
By Sarah Goodwin

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government will try next month to auction off part of a 10,000 room hotel complex built by the Nazis as a holiday resort for soldiers and workers.

Adolf Hitler commissioned the holiday camp at Prora on the Baltic island of Ruegen in the 1930s as part of the Nazis' "Kraft durch Freude" ("Strength Through Joy") program to create a healthy, strong nation capable of conquering the world.

The outbreak of World War II meant the building was never opened as a hotel. The eight austere concrete blocks, resembling a government ministry, were used as a shelter for bombed-out refugees during the war, and as a barracks afterwards.

"The government is selling Prora off as part of a large-scale national campaign to release capital," said Martin Kehr of auction house Norddeutsche Grundstuecksauktionen AG.

The starting price at the auction of a 2.5-km (1.5-mile) stretch of land including the island's finest sandy beaches, five hotel blocks and forest land, is just 125,000 euros ($151,000).

Berlin has tried unsuccessfully to sell it for over a decade. Keen to plug budget holes, it has relaunched the sale, presenting the site as suitable for a leisure complex.

But the people of Ruegen, who have painstakingly restored the island's elegant 19th century resorts since communist rule ended in 1990, worry the sale could hurt their livelihoods.

"Locals fear outside investors could turn the Nazi holiday camp into a massive hotel with up to 5,000 beds," said Uwe Schwartz, who works at a local museum about Prora.

"That could put Ruegen's smaller hotel businesses out of business and overburden the island's infrastructure."

The 8 km stretch of uniform blocks, devoid of balconies and with rows of small windows, is not an obvious choice for tourists in search of a relaxing beach holiday.

But Kehr said he was optimistic he would find a buyer for the 76 hectares (187.8 acres) coming under the hammer on September 23. "Our auction house has a 92 percent success rate and we're confident we will find a buyer for Prora," Kehr said.

Hitler's concept behind the Prora project was to provide affordable holidays for up to 20,000 people at a time in what would have been one of the world's first mass tourist resorts.

Each room was supposed to be identical offering a sea view. The huge buildings, designed along utilitarian principles, evoke the Nazis' love of the bombastic and hatred of individuality.

But museum spokesman Schwartz said the area's Nazi past need not be an obstacle to future projects.

"It was the Nazi regime that was evil, not the building itself," said Schwartz. "When visitors look at Prora, they are first impressed by its size, not haunted by Hitler's specter."

"We must learn to get over the past. This huge expanse of land is there and available, so why not use it?," Schwartz said.

Whatever the outcome of the sale, Prora's six-story complex will continue to loom menacingly on the horizon.

"Prora has been declared an official monument and is now protected from demolition," said Kehr. "It's like any other historically significant building -- no one can knock it down so it will stand here for centuries to come."


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