A movement against prudery in the German Empire. Around 1900, sun worshippers, socialists and Germanic enthusiasts outraged the prudish empire with their nudity propaganda. Conservative society demanded high-necked, ankle-length clothing. But from 1910 onwards, more and more people resisted these norms. The followers of the nudist movement, also known as light fighters and nudists, propagated uncovered nudity in social life. In cities like Munich and Berlin, they bathed stark naked in lakes and campaigned for naturism. It was not until 1925 that the movement was officially named Freikörperkultur (FKK).
The nudist movement, which formed with the slogan “Back to Nature”, rebelled against the enforced morality of a society perceived as neurotic and sick. Heinrich Pudor, a pioneer of this movement, criticised in 1893 the increasing unnaturalness of people who saw the naked body as an insipidness. The nudists regarded the naked body as a symbol of naturalness and cited Goethe as a proponent. Although the movement was small at the time, it attracted a lot of attention. Numerous writings discussed or ridiculed the nudists, and many of them were put on trial for alleged lewdness. Richard Ungewitter, Heinrich Pudor, Adolf Koch and other activists of the nudist movement were involved in criminal trials, which increased public interest. Maren Möhring, professor of comparative cultural and social history at the University of Leipzig, examines the history of the body and the emergence of the naturist movement
The movement was often denounced by Catholic morality associations who were outraged by the public display of naked bodies. In their opinion, nudists violated morality. The defendants cleverly countered: they claimed that the idea of a naked body without erotic intent was an expression of moral inferiority. Richard Ungewitter, a prominent figure of the völkische Freikörperkultur, emphasised this point of view. Nudist Heinrich Pudor argued similarly, stressing that clothing rather stimulated the imagination, while nudity symbolised honesty. Historian Maren Möhring explains that the idea of exposing oneself in order to penetrate to the true essence is a Western way of thinking. In other cultures, such as Japan, the opposite is the case: the art of covering is established there. For the followers of the naturism movement, clothing is a deception, while nudity represents truthfulness.
The return to nature was not a new idea, but had already been explored by philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In the 19th century, however, these ideas gained in importance due to industrialisation, urbanisation and cramped living conditions. The “life reformers”, a middle-class group of white-collar workers and teachers, sought a more natural way of life and a way to reposition themselves socially. Naturism (FKK) was part of this movement and wanted to change society through self-reform. Adherents believed in transforming the body through nude gymnastics and healthy eating. This idea promised equality and beauty for all, even if it seems unrealistic from today’s perspective. The self-shaping of the body was given a martial touch, ignoring psychological burdens. This idea of self-responsibility led to external deficits being regarded as self-inflicted, and social discipline was replaced by the compulsion to optimise oneself.
Nudity as an ideology
Freikörperkultur (FKK) was originally rooted in Germany, but also spread to Switzerland, Austria and England. In Germany, the movement was strengthened by the Protestant attitude towards the body and the advancing urbanisation. The unclothed body becamebecame a vehicle for different ideologies, from idealists to ideologues. The movement split into different directions: Socialist-proletarian naturist movements sought to combat the dehumanisation of the body through industrial labour, while völkisch movements incorporated racist and occult ideas into their ideology. During the Weimar Republic, naturism rose to become a mass movement, commercialised and popularised in magazines such as “Die neue Zeit”. Despite initial controversy, society accepted the sight of naked bodies until the National Socialists restricted the movement during their rule. After the Second World War, the naturist movement experienced a revival, this time without the ideological entanglements of the past.
At the beginning of the 20th century, there were efforts to de-taboo nudity. These movements emerged as a reaction to the effects of urbanisation and industrialisation. The motivation behind this was the promotion of health and the desire to return to natural nativeness. The belief was that clothing promoted unnatural prudery and false moral laws.
Between the world wars, naturism flourished, with the founding of many associations, including the Orplid. Four main currents were formed:
1. bourgeois naturism: this current created an umbrella organisation called the “Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Bünde deutscher Lichtkämpfer” (AGL), which became the “Reichsverband für Freikörperkultur” (RFK) in 1924. This organisation represented non-political naturism and had well-known representatives such as Therese Mühlhauser-Vogeler and Magnus Weidemann, of which Orplid was one.
2. proletarian naturism: Adolf Koch was the founder of this movement, but his contribution was viewed sceptically by the official naturist movement after the Second World War.
3rd Beauty Movement: Kurt Vanselow led this movement, which organised itself into various lodges. The scientific nudist lodge A.N.N.A. (Aristocratic Nudo-Natio Alliance) was the best known of these.
4. völkische Nacktkultur: This current had its roots in the work of Heinrich Pudor and was close to National Socialism. Important representatives were Richard Ungewitter and Hans Surén.
In 1933, all nudist clubs were banned because they were considered a threat to German culture and morality. A decree by Hermann Göring in March 1933 called on police authorities to suppress nudist culture. At the end of 1934, naturist clubs were allowed again, but only if they joined the ‘Bund für deutsche Leibeszucht’. The free lifestyle was over, now the Führer’s orders and body breeding applied.
The founding of the ORPLID in the crisis year of 1923
In 1923, in the aftermath of the First World War, the ORPLID was founded in response to the social turmoil. Under the leadership of Dr Hans Fuchs, members of the Wandervogel movement gathered and founded the “Bund für Geistes- und Körperkultur”. The association quickly flourished, organising outings with “light and air baths” and was officially registered in December 1924. In the late 1920s, the doctor Dr Günter joined the ORPLID and promoted the naturist movement through lectures. The association also experienced political tensions when left-leaning members split off and founded the “Free People” association.
With the rise of National Socialism, there were attacks by right-wing radicals. In 1933 the ORPLID site was closed and in March 1934 the association was banned and dissolved, its assets confiscated.
ORPLID as a programme and utopia
The name “Orplid” symbolises a programmatic orientation for a better, health-conscious, peaceful and nature-loving life. The term comes from a fantastic story by Mörike and Bauer about a remote island called Orplid. The island is described as a place of longing that is discovered by a group of European people who live a harmonious life there. Orplid as a project of the life reform movement
The founding of Orplid is part of a worldwide free body culture movement, embedded in the Lebensreform movement, which propagated a lifestyle close to nature, vegetarian nutrition, reform clothing and naturopathy as a reaction to the negative consequences of social changes in the 19th century. The life reform included areas such as vegetarianism, naturopathy, physical culture and settlement activities. Naturism was seen as part of this movement and was part of the self-image of organised naturism until the 1960s. The focus was on the comprehensive improvement of life, not as a political or revolutionary programme, but through self-reform. Life reform in Darmstadt
The founding statutes of 1924 of the “Orplid Bund für Geistes- und Körperkultur” (Orplid Federation for Spiritual and Physical Culture) in Darmstadt emphasised the life-reformist basic attitude and the goal of cultivating noble physical culture through gymnastic activity in the nude for spiritual, moral and physical higher development. The constitution also emphasised the involvement of at least one female board member. With regard to gymnastics, it was emphasised that the aim was not only to strengthen external muscles but to maintain the organism as a whole. The constitution criticised the emphasis on peak performance in sport and stressed that sport without playful elements becomes decay gymnastics.
The founding of Orplid was driven by the Darmstadt dentist Dr. Hans Fuchs, who was inspired by his naturist experiences in the 1920s. He organised lectures on the subject to which he invited prominent personalities such as the Grand Duke of Hesse and Count Kayserling. The Grand Duke showed great interest, but had to withdraw when his subjects mocked the “naked Grand Duke”.
Motives of naturism – a scientific definition
Nudist culture (FKK movement) is a liberation movement that aims to free the body from the restriction of clothing, which symbolises the evils of the time. Nudity is supposed to lead back to nature, to “natural life”, to morality and morality, especially in relation to gender relations. Originally, the movement was inspired by the natural healing movement, in which nudity was used as a form of medical therapy in air and water baths. Sporting fitness, body training and control played an important role from the beginning in of naturism to legitimise the use of nudity.
The youth movement and the Wandervogel also influenced naturism, with nude bathing being seen as part of a simple and natural way of life. Although the movement was influenced by natural philosophical ideas, members mainly emphasised medical-hygienic and functional arguments. Over time, the naturist movement increasingly emphasised the aesthetic and moral value of nudity.
After the Second World War, the ORPLID association was founded in Frankfurt in 1949. A local group was formed in Darmstadt in 1950. The German Association for Nudist Culture was founded in Kassel in 1949 and later developed into the German Association for Nudist Culture (DFK) under the leadership of Karlwilli Damm. The naturist movement was influenced by the division of Germany. In the FRG of the 1950s, public nude bathing was hardly possible, whereas in the GDR it was allowed from 1956 onwards if the local councils agreed. The re-foundation of the ORPLID Darmstadt took place in 1950 to allow communal sauna bathing. Despite initial resistance and a prudish atmosphere, the ORPLID association was refounded, with Helmut Schwabe as its first chairman.
Merst normidenannerredde, dann kimmtmeraach ins Gespräch
Helmut Schwabe negotiated with the mayor for the meeting place of the ORPLID foundation in 1950. A prudish citizen had denounced the foundation. The association had difficulties finding a site. The city rejected various locations until it allowed the expropriated Nazi site at the Täubcheshöhle. There was controversy over the site, but Heinrich Peters championed the city’s offer and was elected chairman in 1951. Membership rose to 43 through efforts to win back former members. The association was confirmed as the legal successor to the pre-1934 ORPLID. The early days were marked by improvisation, with a makeshift site and tentative club life.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the ORPLID had problems with peeping toms climbing trees to catch glimpses. The association tried to drive them away, but American soldiers in helicopters also carried out “reconnaissance flights”. Heinrich Peters describes how the site was inadequately secured against prying eyes. The Arheilger Post mockingly commented that the ORPLID could not tolerate people watching while they walked around naked.
Effective visual protection
In 1952, there was tension between tensioners and ORPLID-ians, which ended at the Arheilgen police station. A requirement demanded an expensive, two-metre high fence around the site. The association could not afford the cost, but thanks to intermediaries a cheaper solution was found to get through the year. In 1953, 170 iron posts and a wire mesh fence with a privacy screen were erected. Heinrich Peters left his mark on the first three decades of the ORPLID Darmstadt and was involved in sport in many ways, received numerous awards and contributed to the mental and physical care of people.
Development of the site and infrastructure
In the 1950s, there were improvised facilities on the ORPLID site, including a hand-wheel pump for body cleansing and a primitive toilet. A “thunder bar” served as a silent toilet, with a pointer to indicate “occupied” or “free”. Later, an outhouse was built, which today stands overgrown in the forest. In the 1950s, the construction of permanent structures began. In 1954, the shell of the groundsman’s hut was completed and it was inaugurated in 1956.
In 1959 – it was a hot and dry summer – it was decided to build a swimming pool, which was already completed in the spring of 1961.
The most important facilities and buildings on the site:
– Connection to the HEAG electricity grid (1963)
– Telephone connection (1964)
– Construction and expansion of volleyball courts suitable for sports
– The final size of the grounds, 8 ha, is reached in 1968.
– Construction of a paddling pool for children (1970)
– Conversion of the water supply: Ring system with pressure pumps (1972)
– Construction of the youth hut (1974, installation in the northern part of the site 1976)
– Construction of the clubhouse (1972, inaugurated on 23 May 1976)
– Opening of the sauna in the basement of the clubhouse (28 February 1976)
– Pizza oven at the youth hut (1983)
– Installation of a beach volleyball court (1997)
– ORPLID presents itself on the Internet (1997)
– Renovation of the outdoor area of the swimming pool (2002)
– Water heating by solar energy (2005)
– Purchase of a bouncy cushion (2008)
– Inauguration of the barefoot path (2012)
– Renovation of the clubhouse – heating, barrier-free sauna, windows… (2013/14)
– Topping-out ceremony sauna extension (18 April 2015)
Other facilities for sport and play on the site:
Table tennis courts – Football pitch – Boule court – Playground.
In the 1950s, the ORPLID received support from political parties such as the SPD and FDP as well as from former members such as the Lord Mayor Ludwig Metzger. In 1961, the association received 7,860 DM from the state of Hesse as reparations for the Nazi confiscation. In 1964 it lost its non-profit status, which was only restored in 1979. Public institutions granted financial support for sports facilities: in 1963, the city gave 10,000 DM, in 1965, the association received 3,000 DM from the sports department for volleyball courts, and in 1966, the state of Hesse and the city of Darmstadt approved a sports grant of 27,000 DM. Personal contributions, such as 10 hours of work per year for male members, also contributed to the expansion of the grounds.
In 1952, the ORPLID began with public naturist light picture lectures at the Technical College, such as “Sun and Mountain Home”. Later there were cooperations with the VHS, mainly on health topics and naturopathy. Travel lectures, e.g. on East Africa, were also organised. There were lectures on yoga, healthy eating, sauna bathing and sexual psychology. By 1967, there were 47 such events, which ended in the late 1960s.
ORPLID membership grew rapidly, with over 100 members in 1953, over 200 in 1961 and over 300 by 1962, growing to over 1000 by 1969. It fell in the 1990s, but stabilised around 800 members since 2011. In 1989, the association peaked at 1420 members, although internal records in the ORPLID archives show fluctuations.
ORPLID Darmstadt played an important role in the international naturism scene. Dr. Hans Fuchs founded the European Union of Naturism (EUFKA) in 1931, forerunner of the International Naturist Federation (INF). In 1963, ORPLID Darmstadt and Heliosport Troyes twinned. Heinrich Peters became INF Vice-President in 1968, and in 1969 the INF Central Committee met in Darmstadt. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were meetings with Kovo Praha (volleyball) in Darmstadt and Prague. In 1990, the GDR national volleyball team visited ORPLID. Since 2015, ORPLID has supported international beach volleyball tournaments in Gstaad/Saanen and, since 2017, has organised regular club trips to the Swiss twin city.
Transformation into a family sports and leisure club
In the 1960s, the German naturist associations changed. The life-reformist programme was toned down, the orientation towards vegetarianism and abstinence receded into the background. In 1965, the name was changed from “ORPLID – Bund für Geistes- und Körperkultur” to “ORPLID – Bund für Freikörperkultur und Familiensport”. Youth work was strengthened, with the founding of the youth group “Corona” in 1965 and the two-week federal youth camp in 1967. The 1962 annual general meeting shaped the programmatic orientation, with a stronger focus on public relations and sport, supported by members like Peters. There were similar developments in naturist clubs nationwide. The umbrella organisation (DFK) emphasised the transition to a pragmatic orientation, with sport as a family-oriented mass sport, while life-reform approaches moved into the background.
Popular, family and competitive sports and culture
In the 1950s and 1960s, ORPLID emphasised family and popular sports, with a focus on common sports such as volleyball, Indiaca, ring tennis and boules. The club helped popularise lesser-known sports such as volleyball. Originally, ORPLID distanced itself from competitive sports, but this attitude changed in the 1960s at the latest. The volleyball teams and individual members of ORPLID achieved regional and national sporting success.
Today, there are diverse sports in ORPLID. In 1977, a dance sport department was established, scuba diving began in 2010, and meditative archery has been available since 2015. Some sports are losing importance, new ones like MUMM and ORPLIDion are being introduced. Sports badges, gymnastics, water gymnastics, yoga, hikes and walks are fixed components of the club’s life.
Celebrating in the ORPLID – Memories by Klaus Pohlmann
In addition to sports, the ORPLID also enjoyed social activities. In the 1950s, the parties were held in the hall of the “Bockshaut” restaurant. There were annual dances and St. Nicholas parties for children. A coffee garden offered homemade cakes and later simple lunch dishes. Barbecues were organised by groundsmen. After the clubhouse was built, a team of volunteers took over the running of the clubhouse for 7 months, generating over DM 10,000 and organising large events such as New Year’s Eve balls and carnival events for over 300 guests.
Present of the ORPLID
In the last decades, the ORPLID experienced a consolidation and expanded its offers. Public relations work was done through radio appearances and participation in local events. Culturally, there was the founding of a choir, a painting group and the creation of a multi-generational garden. Regular events such as hat concerts, dance evenings and theatre performances were established. The vegetation of the site was affected by climate change, required measures against pests and led to the felling of pine trees. The pandemic of 2020-2022 affected the life of the association but could not stop it. The ORPLID offers diverse opportunities for sports and culture, for all ages and interests, and is ready for the decades to come.