From time to time naturism is still being pushed into the grimy corner, but anyone really dealing with the subject, will soon realize that there is much more behind naturism than just being na-ked. TRAVELBOOK reveals how naturism was created in Germany. Once upon a time ….. it was normal to swim naked. In the Middle Age, for example, people hopped naked into rivers and lakes or enjoyed wellness in bathhouses according to ancient or oriental models. Around the year 1300 there were about 15 such public bathhouses in Lübeck. The banishment of nude bodies from the public only began in the early modern history. First only the upper class was prude. The ordinary people continued to splash all nude till the 19th century. InhIbIted bIedermeIerDuring the Biedermeier period nudity was con-sidered very indecent. People wore swimwear, which covered almost the whole body, also for men. Yet, even in this veil public bathing was of-fensive. Already around the year 1800 there were the first bath carts: wooden dressing cabins with wheels driven into the sea, to protect bathers from the sight of others.The History of naturism in GermanySource: TRAVELBOOK | 29th September 2017In 1898 the fIrst naturIst club In Germany was founded In essenFor the first followers of naturism in Germany around the year 1900 it was not about bathing in a more comfortable and less cumbersome way, but about revolutionary social changes: the “way of life” wanted to break out of the unhealthy and non-natural conditions, which prevailed in the industrial cities. In 1898 the naturists founded the first naturist club of Germany in Essen. Berlin, too, was a pio-neer of the new movement. For the followers at that time nudity was a political message. Either it was about liberation from the social differences, which was also seen in the clothing, or about original Germanism according to the motto “nude and German”, with more or less latent anti-Semitism. Health often played a role, the overall concept then included, for example, also hardening, vegetarianism and renunciation of alcohol and tobacco.
Karl wIlhelm dIefenbach was mocKed as the “KohlrabI-apostle”.Even before the turn of the century, painter, ve-gan and social reformer Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach was an early pioneer campaigning for the nudity as part of a new philosophy of life. He was mocked as the “Kohlrabi-Apostle”, the police obstructed his meetings and public lec-tures, so that he left his adoptive city of Munich and lived in an abandoned quarry. Then he fled to Egypt and founded a sect-like commune in Vi-enna, before he died on the isle of Capri in 1913.Perhaps the most prominent ancestor of the German naturism was Richard Ungewitter, who in 1903 published the brochure “Wieder nacktge-wordene Menschen” (People naked again) and who founded the second naturist club in Germa-ny in 1908.Prudery on the beach of Norderney: bath carts protect high-necked clothed people from the public eye.Foto: dpa picture alliance
2Germany’s fIrst naturIst beachIn the wild ‘20ties naturism became more and more popular among the alternative intellectuals or the leftist workers. In 1920 Germany’s first naturist beach was opened on the island of Sylt. On 5th May 1931 the first public naturist swim-ming gala took place in Leipzig. When in the same year nude bathing outside of closed club grounds was banned, the naturist clubs drew more and more people. At the end of the Wei-mar Republic they had about 100.000 members.In the “Third Reich” these clubs were dissolved or incorporated into National Socialist orga-nizations, like sports clubs into the “Bund für Leibeszucht” (League for physical education). In 1942 the prohibition for nude bathing was reduced, nudity was permitted when away from other people. Yet, nudity was not free of racist-germanising ideology. The comments by Hans Surén and the pictures by Leni Riefenstahl were well known. free bodIes In east and westThere were trends in the two sides of the divided Germany for naturism, although nude bathing was considered as “typical East-German”. In 1949 the “Der Deutsche Verband für Freikörperkultur” (German Federation for Naturism) was founded in Kassel and was registered in the register of as-sociations in Hannover inn1953, in the same year also the “fkk-jugend” (Naturist Youth). After further naturist resorts had been esta-blished, among others, in France during the ‘50ies, textile-free swimming became more and more popular also in the Federal Republic of Germany. During the 68-movement nudity was considered as liberation from the shackles of pet-ty bourgeoisie. Anti-authoritarian parents let their children play all nude in everyday life. Sylt experi-enced a renaissance as ‘Naturism Mecca’: “There is a nude bum in every wave”, commented Romy Schneider after her visit on the island in 1968.the beGI nnInGs of naturIsm In the GdrArtists and intellectuals in the GDR started nude bathing in the early 50ties in Ahrenshoop. When conflicts came up between clothed and unclothes swimmers, nude swimming was banned in May 1954. The naturist fans protested, among them also celebrities, till the ban was lifted exclusively for Ahrenshoop. In other zones in the GDR nudity was not permitted, though. There were riots in which clothed bathers, who were suspected of being critics, were insulted, tied up or even stripped by force. After a wave of protest letters and public appeals at the GDR go-vernment, it decreed “The Order of settlement of public open-air swimming pools”. This permitted nude swimming in designated areas. During the 70ties nude swimming in the GDR became free to the general public – a little freedom in a dictator–ship, as some sociologists believed.the sex Industry has hIjacKed the term naturIsmToday the naturists in Germany simply want to enjoy the physical feeling of liberty, without connecting a mental attitude with it. “As child I always was at the naturist beach with my parents, at those days this was quite normal in the GDR”, says naturist fan Anne. Still today I like enjoying the beach without uncomfortable and wet clo-thes.”Similarly Elmar from Herrenberg, a long-term fan of the naturism movement and initiator of the fo-rum www.fkk-freun.de (in German only), describes the appeal of nude swimming and sunbathing: “A feeling of freedom, feeling good, feeling the wind, the heat or also the cold on your whole body, no wet swimsuit sticking on the body.” Like many other naturists he complains of the tendency to sexualize nude swimming and to put it into the ‘dirty corner’: “The sex industry has hijacked the term of naturism, in order to present itself in a better light”, he says, “this has made it a lot more difficult to show naturism as something positive.”more acceptInG for naturIsm, but clubs are losInG relevanceThe fact that naturist clubs have difficulties to find young people does not necessarily mean that nude swimming as such is ‘out’. “Fewer and fewer people are willing to commit themselves in a club”, thinks Elmar, “other than that I clearly observe the trend that naturism has also gained acceptance in non-designated areas. Nude hiking and nude biking are ‘in’ and there are more and more naturist zones in the public lidoes.”Wolfgang Weinreich, a former President of the International Naturist Federation, notices a trend towards travels abroad and to luxury among the naturist holidaymakers. “It could be that clubs are losing memberships because they are lacking young people, but that is not the case in tourism”, he says. Enjoying people, elder than 50, and young families – both are booking naturist holidays. “Naturism is still interesting.”