Prora was built as a beach resort on the island of Rugen, Germany, which is known for its colossal Nazi-planned tourist structure. The enormous building complex is 4.5 kilometres in length, and was built between 1936 and 1939. Although the eight identical buildings were planned as a holiday resort, they were never used for this purpose. The complex has a formal heritage listing as a particularly striking example of Third Reich architecture. The buildings are roughly 150 metres from the long flat sand beach, which stretches from Binz to the ferry port. Prora was designed to house 20,000 holidaymakers, under the ideal that every worker deserved a holiday at the beach by Clemens Klotz, who won a design competition overseen by Adolf Hitler's chief architect Albert Speer. All rooms were planned to overlook the sea, while corridors and sanitation are located on the land side. Each room of 5 metres by 2.5 metres was to have two beds, a wardrobe and a sink. There were communal toilets, showers and bathrooms on each floor.
During the construction all major construction companies of the Reich and nearly 9,000 workers were involved in this project. With the onset of World War II in 1939, building on Prora stopped and the construction workers transferred to the V-Weapons plant at Peenemunde. The eight housing blocks and the theatre and cinema stayed as empty shells. The swimming pools and festival hall never materialised. During the Allied bombing campaign, many people from Hamburg took refuge in one of the housing blocks, and later refugees from the east of Germany were housed there. By the end of the war, these buildings housed female auxiliary personnel for the Luftwaffe.
The Soviet Army took control of the region and established a military base at Prora in 1945. The Soviet Army's 2nd Artillery Brigade occupied block 5 of Prora from 1945 to 1955. In the late 1950s the East German military rebuilt several of the buildings. Since the buildings had been stripped to the bare brick in the late 1940s, most of the exterior and interior finish that can now be seen was done under East German control. After the formation of the German Democratic Republic's (GDR's) National Peoples Army in 1956, the buildings became a restricted military area housing several East German Army units. The most prominent were the elite 40th Parachute Battalion "Willi Sanger", which was housed in block 5 from 1960 to 1982. Block 4 on the north side was used for urban combat training by the Parachute Battalion. After German reunification, the National People's Army of the GDR was absorbed into the West Germany Bundeswehr, that took over the building. Initially consideration was given to demolishing the buildings, but it was later given landmark protection and a tax break offered to developers to renovate it. Parts of the building were used from 1990 to 1992 by the Military Technical School of the Bundeswehr. From 1992 to 1994 a part of the building was used to house asylum seekers from the Balkans.
Beginning in early 1993, the facility was empty and the buildings were subject to decay and vandalism. An exception to this was Block 3, Prora Center, which from 1995 to 2005 housed a variety of museums, special exhibitions, and a gallery. Between 1993 and 1999 the site served as one of the largest youth hostels in Europe. Since 2000, the Documentation Centre Prora has been located at the southern edge of the fairground buildings. This center documents the construction and use history of the building. Discussed here are both the background of the project and its appropriation for Nazi propaganda.