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A typical FKK designated area signage. Despite the general anglicisation, the recognised German abbreviation "FKK" is still used in Croatia and many other European countries.

The Freikörperkultur (FKK) is a social and health culture that originated in the German Empire; its beginnings were historically part of the Lebensreform social movement in the late 19th century.[1] The Freikörperkultur, which translates to free body culture, consists in the connection of health aspects of being naked in light, air and sun with intentions to reform life and society.[1] It is partially identical with the culture of nudity, naturism and nudism in the sense of communal nudity of people in leisure time, sport and everyday life.[1]

By the 20th century the culture of communal open air nudity and its benefits to public health blossomed in Germany as an alternative to the stresses of industrialised, urban life.[1] Today, there are only few legal restrictions on public nudity in Germany. Under the term's "naturism" and "nudism", it is now internationally widespread, with associations and designated recreational environments in numerous countries in Europe, North America, Australia, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean;[2] the largest distribution is still found in German-speaking countries and Scandinavia.[3]

In general[edit]


Freikörperkultur (FKK) respectively Naturism, is defined as an attitude and way of life, as follows:[2]

The practice of communal nudity is an essential characteristic of naturism, making, as it does, the maximum use of the natural agents of sun, air and water. It restores one's physical and mental balance through being able to relax in natural surroundings, by exercise and respect for the basic principles of hygiene and diet. It encourages many activities that develop one's creativity. Complete nudity is the most suitable clothing for getting back to nature, and is certainly the most visible aspect of naturism, even if it is not the only one. It exerts a steadying and balancing influence on human beings, freeing them from the stresses caused by the taboos and provocations of today's society and shows the way to a more simple, healthy and human way of life

— Definition of the International Naturist Federation (INF/FNI) from the Cap d'Agde World Congress, 1974


Behind the Freikörperkultur movement is an attitude towards life, according to which the naked body is no reason for feelings of shame. The communally practiced nudity of the Freikörperkultur is often experienced in this sense as liberating and goes hand in hand with mutual acceptance and a positive body image.[4][5] The focus is on enjoying nature, being naked or the realization of freedom. The nudity of naturism has no sexual relation.[6] Nudity on the beach and in water, in comparison to wearing swimsuits, is accompanied with a different body surface sensation, which is mostly experienced as pleasant.[7] In the sense of nudity propagated by the Freikörperkultur it does not address sexuality and is not directly related to it.

In the context of the Freikörperkultur, mostly bathing, sunbathing on bathing lakes or beaches (the "nudist beaches"), sports and other leisure activities are practiced naked. In numerous designated holiday resorts, campsites, country parks and sports club facilities the praxis of the Freikörperkultur are also applied. Nudists and naturists are organized in national and international nudist or naturism associations.

Nudity in intimate situations, as well as purely practical nudity such as in the shower or in the sauna, do not involve the Freikörperkultur. This nudity does not require a special group consensus.


Freilicht (Open Air) by German painter and photographer Max Friedrich Koch, ca. 1894: Early German nudists outdoors engaging in the athletic sport tug of war. One of many themed Freilicht photos by Max Koch depicting nudists outdoors.[8]

By far the most extensive collection on the historical and current situation of the Freikörperkultur (Naturism), the "International Naturist Library" (formerly the Damm - Baunatal Collection), is located in the Lower Saxony Institute for Sports History in Hanover, Germany.


In public bathhouses, even in the Middle Ages, people bathed in the nude, although moral or (with regard to disease transmission) medical concerns were occasionally expressed. In many parts of central Europe up until the 18th century, people bathed naked in rivers and lakes, albeit often separated by gender. Beginning in the late 18th century, public nudity became increasingly taboo, which was never enforced in the sparsely populated Scandinavia. At the same time, the Scottish judge Lord Monboddo (1714–1779) practised and preached unclothed "air-baths" for health and as a revival of Ancient Greek attitudes toward nudity. It found literary mention in Georg Christoph Lichtenberg's (1742–1799) book Das Luftbad (the air-bath).[9]

As early as 1853 the Swiss naturopath Arnold Rikli founded a "solar sanatorium" (Sonnenheilanstalt) and prescribed his patients the heliotherapy of unclothed outdoor "light-baths" (Lichtbäder) as a treatment for tuberculosis, rickets, seasonal affective disorder and other health or skin disorders. In 1906 there were also 105 so-called "air-bath" sanatoriums (Luftbäder) in Germany; unclothed exposure to outdoor air, as a treatment for long-term stay in unventilated, warm rooms which leads to softening, heat build-up in the body, headaches, nausea and circulatory disorders. The idea of the therapeutic unclothed air-bath, was connected with that of the light-bath, in the early 20th century, for example by the pastor and naturopath Emanuel Felke.

The painter and social reformer Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach (1851–1913), who practiced Freikörperkultur with his students in the Höllriegelskreuth hermitage near Munich and later on the Himmelhof near Vienna, is considered the real pioneer of naturism, namely outside of clinical-medical treatments.

"Nude culture" and the Life-reform (Lebensreform) movement – up to World War I[edit]

In 1898 the first official Freikörperkultur (FKK) association was founded in Essen, Germany. Around 1900, nude bathing in the Berlin area and on the German North and Baltic Sea coast became more popular.[1] A few years earlier, common bathing in public—even in the swimsuits of that time period—had been officially banned or was considered immoral in many places.

The first official Freikörperkultur association in Germany was founded in 1898 in the Ruhr area, although the centre of nude bathing has always been on the coast and around the liberal, adventurous Berlin.[10]

With political liberalization, conservative circles challenged the nude bathing which had become popular among urban intellectuals, seeing them as a corruption of morality.

Naturism between World War I and World War II[edit]

Illustration by Heinrich Zille (1858–1929), titled "As the outdoor public swimming pool appeared", postcard print 1919

After the First World War, Freikörperkultur (FKK) associations were increasing in Germany. After the first official nudist beach on Sylt Island was established in Germany in 1920, most of the FKK-associations joined together in 1923 to form the "Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Bünde deutscher Lichtkämpfer" (Working Group of Associations for German Light-militants, from 1926 Verband für Freikörperkultur/Association for Free Body Culture). The socialist groups united separately under the name "Freie Menschen. Bund für sozialistische Lebensgestaltung und Freikörperkultur" (Free People. Association for socialist Lifestyle and Free Body Culture) with (1932) approx. 70,000 members. In 1930 representatives from England, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Italy and Germany met in Frankfurt am Main and later founded a European Union for Naturism. The first dissertation about the FKK movement was written in the 1930s.

In 1933 after the Nazi Party came to power, nudist organizations were initially banned or integrated into Nazi organizations.[1]

One of the greatest dangers for German culture and morality is the so-called nudity movement. Greatly as it is to be welcomed in the interest of the public health, that ever wider circles, especially of the metropolitan population, are striving to make the healing power of sun and air and water serviceable to their body, as greatly must the so-called nudity movement be disapproved of as a cultural error. Among women the nudity kills natural modesty; it takes from men their respect for women, and thereby destroys the prerequisite for any genuine culture. It is therefore expected of all police authorities that, in support of the spiritual powers developed through the national movement, they take all police measures to destroy the so-called nude culture. Hermann Göring, 1933 Nazi edict

On 3 March 1933, the Prussian Ministry of Interior issued a circular to "combat the nudist movement". But with former German military officer, manager and teacher of the German Army Sport School in Wünsdorf—Hans Surén [de], the Reich Minister of Food and Agriculture Walter Darré and, in the end, with strength in the paramilitary SS, the Freikörperkultur found new supporters again. Some sources state that Himmler and the SS supported Naturism.[11] The first naturist Olympic Games took place in Thielle in Switzerland in August 1939. In the German Reich, the ban on nude bathing was relaxed by the Reich Ordinance of 10 July 1942, when nobody had to see it (valid in the West Germany until the 1960s, in East Germany until 1990). During the National Socialist era there was also a "racial nude culture", the best-known representative of which was the sport campaigner and author Hans Surén,[1] who glorified body ideals of the National Socialist's, and would later become honorary member of the Deutscher Verband für Freikörperkultur (DFK) (German Association for Free Body Culture). In 1940 the first color picture books appeared with depictions of martial nudity, such as by the sculptor Arno Breker.

From 1945 to present[edit]

Young East German women at a naturist beach in Rostock, 1988
At the Herzsprung naturist FKK lake park in Brandenburg state, Germany; one of the most popular FKK bathing parks in the Angermünde district. Here the workers in long and prolonged labour of the Angermünde district works for agricultural technology created a leisure and recreation centre for everyone (photo dated August 1983)
East German nude beach at the Bay of Wismar, 1984

In 1949, the Deutscher Verband für Freikörperkultur (DFK) (German Association for Free Body Culture) was founded, which today is a member of the German Olympic Sport Federation (DOSB) and the largest member of the International Naturist Federation (INF).

The first naturist holiday resorts were opened around 1950 in France (Centre-Hélio-Marin in Montalivet-les-Bains, Aquitaine, France).

The nude beach in Kampen on the island of Sylt in Germany was particularly popular due to extensive media coverage. FKK resorts in Yugoslavia, France and on the Baltic Seacoast became popular holiday places. Naturist organizations gained many new members in the 1960s.[12]

Social nudism and FKK-inspired naturism was particularly popular in East Germany, possibly because of a more secular cultural development.[13] It had ties to the workers' movement and became a symbol for people to escape a repressive state.[1]

In the later decades of the 20th century, naturism became very popular outside Germany. Beach culture was often intermixed – nude and dressed people would swim together and nudity was widely tolerated.[1]

One popular form of Freikörperkultur is Nacktwanderung, literally translated as Naked hike, where a walking group will collectively hike through the open countryside,[14] which is possible in Germany due to the liberal laws on non-sexual public nudity. This attitude does extend to Austria, where FKK culture enjoys a high degree of public acceptance,[15] but not to the German-speaking regions of Switzerland.[14]


In response to an influx of German FKK enthusiasts crossing the Alps, the Swiss canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, which became a popular destination for naked hiking, created laws making nude hiking illegal in 2009.[16] Local regulatory authorities punished public nudity with fines, which many naked ramblers refused to pay.

Many naked ramblers filed a group lawsuit, pleading for legalized nudity, but the case was dismissed in 2011. One naked rambler had to pay a fine after passing through a Christian rehab centre.[17] In 2012, a naturist from Austria overflew Innerrhoden by parachute, but was caught by local authorities.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Loxton, Richard (2019). "Why Germany's nudist culture remains refreshing". Bonn: Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
  2. ^ a b International Naturist Federation; WORLD NATURIST GUIDE (in French, German, and English) (22 ed.). Norwich, Vermont, USA: Elysium Growth Press. 1994. ISBN 9781555990497.
  3. ^ Hile, Jennifer (July 21, 2004). "The Skinny on Nudism in the U.S." National Geographic News. Archived from the original on 2017-07-28. Retrieved 2018-07-17.
  4. ^ West, Keon (2018). "Naked and Unashamed: Investigations and Applications of the Effects of Naturist Activities on Body Image, Self-Esteem, and Life Satisfaction". Journal of Happiness Studies. Cham: Springer Nature Switzerland AG. 19 (3): 667–697. doi:10.1007/s10902-017-9846-1. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
  5. ^ Barcan, Ruth (2001). "'The Moral Bath of Bodily Unconsciousness': female nudism, bodily exposure and the gaze". Journal of Media & Cultural Studies. Taylor & Francis Ltd. 15 (3): 303–317. doi:10.1080/10304310120086795. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
  6. ^ Smith, Glenn; King, Michael (2008). "Naturism and sexuality: Broadening our approach to sexual wellbeing". Health & Place. Elsevier Ltd. 15 (2): 439–446. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2008.08.002. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
  7. ^ Obrador-Pons, Pau (2008). "A haptic geography of the beach: naked bodies, vision and touch". Social & Cultural Geography. 8 (1): 123–141. doi:10.1080/14649360701251866. Retrieved 2021-07-24.
  8. ^ Koch, Max. "Max Koch; German photographer, active after about 1895". Palisades, California: The J. Paul Getty Museum. Retrieved 2021-12-03.
  9. ^ Lichtenberg, Georg Christoph (1845). Georg Christoph Lichtenberg's vermischte Schriften, mit dem Portrait, Facsimile und einer Ansicht des Geburtshauses des Verfassers: Vernischte Schriften (in German). Gottingen: Dieterichschen Buchhandlung. p. 64.
  10. ^ Rusch, Claudia (25 January 2010). "Körperkult: FKK und die nackten Tatsachen an der Ostsee" [Body cult: nudism and the bare facts on the Baltic Sea]. Welt (in German) (2). Berlin. Retrieved 22 July 2021.
  11. ^ "FKK-Online: Was ist Naturismus?". 2000-07-29. Retrieved 2012-02-14.
  12. ^ O'Sullivan, Feargus (21 April 2017). "Naked Germany, Straining at the Seams". CityLab. Retrieved 2018-07-17.
  13. ^ McLellan, Josie (2007). "State Socialist Bodies: East German Nudism from Ban to Boom". The Journal of Modern History. 79 (1): 48–79. doi:10.1086/517544. ISSN 0022-2801. S2CID 144281349.
  14. ^ a b "Was stört die Appenzeller an Nacktwanderern?". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). 17 November 2011. Retrieved 2018-07-17.
  15. ^ Reisinger, Eva (2018-08-05). "Urlaub im FKK-Camp: Nackt und frei in Kärnten". (in German). Retrieved 2020-01-25.
  16. ^ "Naked ramblers face Swiss fines". BBC News. 30 January 2009. Retrieved 2018-07-17.
  17. ^ "Nacktwanderer kapitulieren" [Naked Hikers Capitulate]. 20 Minuten (in German). 5 December 2011. Retrieved 2018-07-17.
  18. ^ "Nackter Fallschirmspringer provoziert Innerrhoden". (in German). 31 July 2012. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2018-07-17.

External links[edit]

  • "Deutscher Verband für Freikörperkultur", earliest & largest German NGO for FKK
  • INF-FNI, International Naturist Federation