Naturism in Germany

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Naturism is a cultural and political movement practicing, advocating and defending social nudity in private and in public. It is particularly strong in Germany where it goes under the name Freikörperkultur. It refers to a lifestyle based on personal, family and/or social nudism.[1] Naturism grew out of the German Lebensreform movement and the Wandervogel youth movement of 1896, and has been adopted in many neighbouring European countries and was taken by the German diaspora to North America and other continents. In 1974, the International Naturist Federation (INF) defined naturism as:

Naturism is a lifestyle in harmony with nature, expressed through personal and social nudity, and characterised by self-respect of people with different opinions and of the environment.[1]


In late 19th century Germany, the idea of taking off clothes in order to liberate oneself was revolutionary.[2] German naturism was part of the Lebensreform movement and the Wandervogel youth movement of 1896, from Steglitz, Berlin which promoted ideas of fitness and vigour. At the same time doctors of the Natural Healing Movement were using heliotherapy, treating diseases such as TB, rheumatism and scrofula with exposure to sunlight.[3]

At the start of the twentieth century the German naturism movement looked to Scandinavia as a model.[2] The term Nacktkultur refers to a network of over 200 private clubs in Germany which promote nudism as a way of connecting the individual to nature. The term was coined in 1902 by Heinrich Pudor, who published a 3-volume treatise in 1906 connecting nudism, vegetarianism and social reform. However, its roots might go back as far as the 1870s.[4] Its major promoters were Adolf Koch and Hans Suren. Germany published the first journal of nudism between 1902 and 1932.[5] The German naturism movement was careful to de-eroticise the naked body, which was not regarded as sexually provocative in itself. Instead it was believed that civilisation had taught us to look upon nudity as sexual.[2]

The naturist movement became well established in Germany from the 1920s onwards, more so than in any other country.[2] It was portrayed as health giving and also gained prominence for its Utopian ideals. It became politicised by radical socialists who believed it would lead to a breaking down of society and classlessness. It became associated with pacificism.[6] In 1926, Adolf Koch established a school of nudism encouraging a mixing of the sexes, open air exercises, as part of a programme of "sexual hygiene". In 1929, the Berlin school hosted the first International Congress on Nudity.[4]

The naturism movement in Germany also saw nudity as serving the objectives of "racial hygiene" and eugenics.[2] During the National Socialist Gleichschaltung era, naturism both benefited from official recognition and sponsorship for its health benefits, and was persecuted as officials argued over the concept of Nacktkultur. In March 1933, Prussian Minister of the Interior Hermann Göring passed laws limiting mixed sex nudism, as a reaction to what he regarded as the increasing immorality of the Weimar state. In January 1934, Reichmeister for the Interior, Wilhelm Frick passed edicts restricting naturism due to fears that it was a breeding ground for Marxists and homosexuals.

Reichmeister Frick's ban lasted one month. Within a year nudism was being practised with full state support again.[7] However, prohibition did not mean the end of nudism and supporters including even SS leaders. The rules were eventually softened in July 1942.[a] Nevertheless, all naturism clubs had to register with Kraft durch Freude, which meant excluding Jews and Communists. Also, they had to keep all activities well out in the countryside so there would be virtually no chance of being seen by others.

Young East German women at a naturist beach in 1988.

After the war, East Germans were free to practice nudism, chiefly at beaches rather than clubs (private organizations being regarded as potentially subversive by the government). Nudists became a large element in German Left Wing Politics. The Proletarische Freikörperkulturbewegung subsection of the Workers Sports Organisation had 60 000 members.[3] The popularity of naturism In East Germany was also partly due to the fact that religion played less of a role in that society. After German reunification, objections to naturism at the Baltic Sea beaches on the German-Polish border were raised among Poland’s predominantly Catholic population.[2]

In the West Germany, and today, united Germany there are many clubs, parks and beaches open to naturists.[8] Since reunification, however, nudity has become less common in the former eastern zone. Vacationing in Mediterranean France at the large Cap d'Agde resort also became popular for Germans when it opened in the late 1960s, and Germans are typically the most commonly seen foreigners at nude beaches all around Europe.


There are 147 naturist/FKK clubs in Germany, with a further 14 affiliated clubs in Kärnten, Austria,[9] along with a plethora of official beaches, and FKK zones in city parks.[10] For instance, the Englischer Garten in Munich has two large areas on the banks of the Eisbach, between the city centre and the university.[11]


Organised naked rambling is very popular.[12][13]

Ohne Kleid und ohne Schuh, wandere nackt in aller Ruh.[citation needed]

See also[edit]




  1. ^ a b Choin 2002.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Petra Märlender. "Nudity is Considered Quite Normal Nowadays". Goethe Institut. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  3. ^ a b Anderson 2016.
  4. ^ a b Toepfer 1997.
  5. ^ Oosterhuis 1992.
  6. ^ Hau 2003.
  7. ^ Ross 2005.
  8. ^ Choin 2002, p. 160-165.
  9. ^ "Naturist Club Addresses". Archived from the original on 2016-03-16. Retrieved 2014-02-12.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  10. ^ "FKK in Deutschland". (in German). Archived from the original on 8 February 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  11. ^ "FKK in München und Umland - das Nacktbaden Special" (in German). 2002-2013. 2013. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  12. ^ "FKK Wandern 2013" [FKK Hiking 2013]. Deutscher Verband für Freikörperkultur (in German). Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 12 February 2014.
  13. ^ "Nackt durch die Natur" [Naked by Nature]. Märkische Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Potsdam. 8 July 2013. Retrieved 2018-03-28.


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