Strength through Joy (KDF)

The governmental organisation, Kraft Durch Freude (also Strength Through Joy, or rather KDF for short) was organised by the German Labour Front. It was founded in 1933, and dissolved in 1939 as a result of the Second World War. It had the purpose of promoting Nazism through subsidised leisure activities and holidays, and aimed at providing incentives to workers.

It's parent organisation was the German Labour Front, a Nazi organisation that replaced the banned trade unions. It set wages and largely benefited the employers, rather than workers.

Strength through Joy gave workers a reward for their hard work, organising and providing activities for them.

Volkswagen (People's Car)

One of the popular schemes of the KdF was Volkswagen.

The aim of Volkswagen was to create a small family vehicle that would sell for less than a thousand Reichsmarks and be affordable for the vast majority of the population.

  • This was helped by the 'pay-before-you-get-it' instalment scheme. Workers paid 5, 10 or 15 marks a week, and once the 750 marks had been paid in, the buyer would receive a car.

  • On top of this, as part of Strength Through Joy, the car's production was funded by the German Labour Front.

A huge advertising campaign with the slogan "a car for everyone” successfully attracted 330,000 workers to buy and began paying for the Volkswagen cars. 125,000 men worked to build the Autobahn, and a new factory opened up for building the vehicles.

However, manufacturing soon turned to rearmament, which would be needed to start Second World War. As a result, not a single one of the workers who had paid received a Volkswagen and the project was temporarily shut down.

It was only in the late 1940s that beetles began to be produced on a mass scale for civilians. Amazingly, with over 21,500,000 produced between 1938 and 2003, the Beetle is the longest-running and most-manufactured single platform car ever made.

In 1935, Adolf Hitler had designed a "People's Car" and gave the drawings of his "beetle car" to Ferdinand Porsche to produce a prototype design. It was not ready until the end of 1937 and the first completed Volkswagen was showcased in Munich and Vienna during the Sudetenland Crisis. Hitler gave it to his girlfriend, Eva Braun, as a present.

Sport, leisure and cultural activities

The KDF offered subsidised leisure activities that were affordable for many workers and their families, such as cheap coaching for sports like tennis, golf, skiing, sailing and other typically upper-middle-class-sports, they promoted evening classes, amateur cultural activities, recitals and travelling art exhibitions, plays were performed in factories and specially organised KdF concerts, and there were mass outings to the theatre and the opera. The KDF had its own opera which toured the country, playing music in areas all across the German Reich. These activities were said to make ‘highbrow entertainment’ available to the ‘labouring man’.

Aside from this sort of cultural activity, seven million people each year took part in sports-related activities run by the KdF. In December 1935, Strength Through Joy arranged for 10,000 Germans to travel to London to watch their team play England at White Hart Lane, where they eventually lost 3–0.

Subsidised Holidays

The average wage of a German worker was 30 marks. For the first time, large groups of the workforce had the opportunity of a holiday away from home because of the KDF subsidised holidays.

  • One week in the Harz Mountains cost 28 marks

  • One week at the North Sea Coast cost 35 marks

  • A fortnight at Lake Constance cost 65 marks.

Hence, this allowed at least a third of all workers to go on holiday.

Workers which were better paid were able to go on international holidays, with a tour of Italy costing just 155 marks.

On top of this, Strength Through Joy commissioned the building of two 25,000-ton ships and chartered ten others for ocean cruises. These cruises could carry 1600 passengers and had 40 lavatories, 100 showers as well as 156 loudspeakers that broadcasted Nazi propaganda. The ships also contained a gymnasium and swimming pool to ensure healthy exercise on board. These cruises could travel as far as the Norwegian Fjords, Madeira, Finland, Libya, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Overall, after Strength Through Joy was founded in November 1933, in the year 1934, 400,000 people took part in its package tours, and this number rose to 1.7 million by 1937. On top of this, 7 million people enjoyed weekend excursions and 1.6 million participated in organised hikes.

The Colossus of Prora / Prora

As part of the Strength through Joy project, The Colossus of Prora, or simply known as Prora, was built between 1936 and 1939.

Hitler wanted Prora to be a gigantic sea resort, the "most mighty and large one to ever have existed", with room for 20,000 people.

It was to have a giant Festival Hall that would be able to accompany all 20,000 guests at once, two wave-swimming pools, a cinema, a theatre and a large dock for cruise ships.

Construction began in 1936 and lasted until 1939. During the construction period, all of the major construction companies of the German Reich and almost 9,000 workers were involved in the project. By 1938, construction costs had reached 237.5 million Reichsmarks, which is equivalent to almost a billion euros in 2009). Construction stopped in 1939 as the workers were transferred to producing equipment and arms due to the outbreak of the Second World War.

If the complex had been completed, it would have been the largest holiday resort in the world.