Why Hitler built Prora - a giant, almost 3-mile-long building

In 1936, Hitler ordered the construction of Prora on a German island. The reasons for its existence are rooted in Nazi mysticism.

Hitler/model of Prora

In 1936, Hitler decided to build the world’s largest tourist resort called “Prora.” It was to be located on the beachfront of the island of Rügen, accommodating more than 20,000 people at once. Prora would be a place for German workers to rest while the Nazi would show the softer side of governing, as opposed to the Gestapo, explained historian Roger Moorhouse.  


Projects like Prora were meant to solidify the base of Nazi support. It took over three years and 9,000 workers to create a 2.8-mile-long (4.5km) building that was to be Prora. In an interview with Business Insider, Moorhouse dubbed this brick and concrete structure, one of the longest buildings ever made in Europe, "megalomania in stone."

Here's how Prora was supposed to look like - from Nazi marketing:


The resort fit into the concept of "people's community," or volksgemeinschaft, which originated during World War I and called for breaking down class barriers and uniting people over a national purpose.

The Nazis adopted this notion, calling for the German society to be racially unified. They wanted the country organized as a hierarchy under a mystical racial soul that supposedly connected all Germans. Volksgemeinschaft also regarded the actual German land as an idealized body - the “soil” in which the pure Aryan Germans were to reside as “blood”.

In practice, in Nazi hands, this propaganda was meant to gain the support of the workers. Social welfare programs were instituted to improve the lives of people impoverished by the economic turmoil that followed World War I and the Weimar Republic. A state-run tourist organization was instituted called Kraft durch Freude (“Strength through Joy”) which was set up to promote National Socialism. It quickly became the world’s largest tourism operator in the 1930s. 

Strength through Joy shepherded Prora into existence. Here's Prora under construction in the late 1930s:

These artist concepts show a festival square and the assembly hall. Visitors were to arrive by ship and proceed to reception halls to be assigned rooms. A small railway would transport people between the housing blocks.

 

Credit: Herbert Hoffmann, "Deutschland baut," Stuttgart, 1938

Of course, in 1939 is when Germany invaded Poland and the ensuing World War 2 was not the time for vacations. So Prora was not fully completed. After World War II, the complex was housing Soviet soldiers, then the East German Army.  

In 1989, the German government sold the existing blocks to private investors. Finally, in 2013, a real estate company bought the decaying property to turn it into luxury summer homes and an apartment complex. That project should be finished by 2022 but a block of apartments has been open since 2016. Apartments there cost between $400,000 to $725,000.

Here’s a video showing some of the history and the remains of this Nazi construction project:

And here's how Prora looked in 2017:

 

In this aerial view blocks of the Prora building complex stretch along the beach on Ruegen Island on June 15, 2017, in Binz, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

 

Visitors relax on the patio of a cafe at Block 2, which is being converted into holiday apartments, of the Prora building complex on Ruegen Island on June 14, 2017, in Binz, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Here’s what a Baltic Sea-facing view from one of the apartments looks like, according to a marketing brochure:

 

Credit: Metropole Marketing

This is what aliens would 'hear' if they flew by Earth

A Mercury-bound spacecraft's noisy flyby of our home planet.

Image source: sdecoret on Shutterstock/ESA/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • There is no sound in space, but if there was, this is what it might sound like passing by Earth.
  • A spacecraft bound for Mercury recorded data while swinging around our planet, and that data was converted into sound.
  • Yes, in space no one can hear you scream, but this is still some chill stuff.

First off, let's be clear what we mean by "hear" here. (Here, here!)

Sound, as we know it, requires air. What our ears capture is actually oscillating waves of fluctuating air pressure. Cilia, fibers in our ears, respond to these fluctuations by firing off corresponding clusters of tones at different pitches to our brains. This is what we perceive as sound.

All of which is to say, sound requires air, and space is notoriously void of that. So, in terms of human-perceivable sound, it's silent out there. Nonetheless, there can be cyclical events in space — such as oscillating values in streams of captured data — that can be mapped to pitches, and thus made audible.

BepiColombo

Image source: European Space Agency

The European Space Agency's BepiColombo spacecraft took off from Kourou, French Guyana on October 20, 2019, on its way to Mercury. To reduce its speed for the proper trajectory to Mercury, BepiColombo executed a "gravity-assist flyby," slinging itself around the Earth before leaving home. Over the course of its 34-minute flyby, its two data recorders captured five data sets that Italy's National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF) enhanced and converted into sound waves.

Into and out of Earth's shadow

In April, BepiColombo began its closest approach to Earth, ranging from 256,393 kilometers (159,315 miles) to 129,488 kilometers (80,460 miles) away. The audio above starts as BepiColombo begins to sneak into the Earth's shadow facing away from the sun.

The data was captured by BepiColombo's Italian Spring Accelerometer (ISA) instrument. Says Carmelo Magnafico of the ISA team, "When the spacecraft enters the shadow and the force of the Sun disappears, we can hear a slight vibration. The solar panels, previously flexed by the Sun, then find a new balance. Upon exiting the shadow, we can hear the effect again."

In addition to making for some cool sounds, the phenomenon allowed the ISA team to confirm just how sensitive their instrument is. "This is an extraordinary situation," says Carmelo. "Since we started the cruise, we have only been in direct sunshine, so we did not have the possibility to check effectively whether our instrument is measuring the variations of the force of the sunlight."

When the craft arrives at Mercury, the ISA will be tasked with studying the planets gravity.

Magentosphere melody

The second clip is derived from data captured by BepiColombo's MPO-MAG magnetometer, AKA MERMAG, as the craft traveled through Earth's magnetosphere, the area surrounding the planet that's determined by the its magnetic field.

BepiColombo eventually entered the hellish mangentosheath, the region battered by cosmic plasma from the sun before the craft passed into the relatively peaceful magentopause that marks the transition between the magnetosphere and Earth's own magnetic field.

MERMAG will map Mercury's magnetosphere, as well as the magnetic state of the planet's interior. As a secondary objective, it will assess the interaction of the solar wind, Mercury's magnetic field, and the planet, analyzing the dynamics of the magnetosphere and its interaction with Mercury.

Recording session over, BepiColombo is now slipping through space silently with its arrival at Mercury planned for 2025.

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