Tuesday, 14 August 2012

WWII week: gravity's rainbow

Though after the war, these two locations on the Baltic (Ostsee) coast remained state secrets and off-limits under DDR leadership, being repurposed, occupied and then neglected, both the Colossus at Prora at the rocket research facility at nearby Peenemรผnde survived and are today exemplary edifices of the aspirations and determination of the NSDAP, well curated and accessible testimonials. The intended beach resort complex consisted of eight identical monolithic buildings and would have housed twenty thousand holiday-makers, planned as an affordable vacation destination for the average family and for soldiers on leave. The scale of this place was just unreal, cavernous and unending as it repaired into the vertical horizon along the shoreline.
There is a dock for cruise ships and dancehalls and cinemas. Work on this compound, a project of the KdF (Kraft durch Freude, Strength through Joy) programme, which also brought the Volkswagen to the public, had to be halted as the work escalated and the forced labour that went into the building was diverted to other more pressing concerns before it saw a single guest, like rocketry research and development at the Peenemรผnde laboratories.
Werner von Braun and other physicists and engineers here tested and perfected the jet-propelled V-1 armaments that were used to bombard Allied territory. Never before had war-makers the ability to hurl terror from the skies in this way and connive such destruction from a distance. Originally, the push was for another kind of action-at-a-distance with drone-bombers operated by remote-control but the prototypes were not tenable in the battlefield, and experimentation and application eventually saw use during the Cold War and in peace time with space exploration, often at the hands of the same architects. The laboratories demanded huge resources and had a dedicated power plant and railhead, in addition to the vast testing-grounds, dormitories and workshops. Both sites host excellent museums, chronicling their existence, legacy and the Zeitgeist.