It is known that the Germans are one of the least complex nations. Stories about joint baths for men and women, nudist beaches and nude parties in Germany have long since surprised anyone. But why do serious and pedantic Germans take their nakedness so easily? BBC journalists asked about this American journalist Christine Arneson, who lived in Germany for a long time and studied this interesting issue. (Caution! Nude).
Many Germans, especially those living in big cities, adore naturism and believe that it helps them get closer to nature. In almost every German park, you may be surprised to find people sunbathing in the nude, or even playing tennis or football.
Christine lived for four years in Berlin and, according to her, was able to imbue the German attitude to the naked body and understand their craving for relaxation in what her mother gave birth. For America, where the journalist has spent most of her life, nudity is sexual. But in Germany everything is different - there you can undress in a normal life situation and no one will perceive it as a sexual act.
At first, the American was surprised by some moments associated with nudity, but then she gradually got used to saunas, where it is customary to completely undress and to swimming pools, where everyone splashes naked by default. A year later, Arneson became much easier about nudity and even surprised the masseur by undressing in front of him without the slightest hesitation. He admitted to Christine that he almost always has to persuade Americans to completely get rid of clothes for a massage session.
But these are all trifles, the journalist believes, and a real "baptism" can be considered the moment when you first encounter mass exposure in a public place. For Christine Arneson, the “moment of instinct” came while jogging in Hasenheide Park in Berlin's Neukölln district. There, the woman saw a whole cluster of naked bodies sunbathing on the grass under the gentle summer sun.
Later, German friends told Christine that this was completely normal in Berlin and that it was not at all a sign of German hedonism, but just a manifestation of Freikörperkultur (FKK), a German movement whose name can be translated as "culture of the nude."
Proponents of this movement treat nudity as a kind of philosophy. They believe that naturism returns a person to his origins, to nature. FKK is not only about getting naked, but also following a healthy lifestyle and, last but not least, a healthy and healthy diet.
The strangest thing is that FKK originated in the GDR! Yes, it is in a socialist republic where, it would seem, such phenomena as nudism and naturism have no place at all. But to understand how the Germans were allowed to undress by their Communist Party, you need to plunge into the history of the issue, because the German attitude to nudity was formed long before the formation of the GDR, back in the 19th century.
Arnd Bauerkemper, associate professor of modern history at the Free University of Berlin, says:
“Nudism in Germany has a long tradition. In the late 19th - early 20th century. the Lebensreform philosophy became fashionable and spawned a social movement that promoted a return to nature, natural food, alternative medicine, vegetarianism, raw food and sexual liberation. Nudism was part of this broader movement against the industrialized society that emerged in the late 19th century.”
At the beginning of the 20th century, FKK beaches began to appear throughout Germany, which were in demand.But the real excitement around naturism rose during the existence of the Weimar Republic (1918 1929). The number of citizens who want to sunbathe in what their mother gave birth has increased several times and the beaches began to open even in the deep province.
Bauerkepmper believes that the popularity of naturism is associated with a sense of new freedom. The Germans received it after the departure of an authoritarian society and as a result of the rejection of the suffocating conservative values of imperial Germany, which had strangled the nation for many centuries. In 1926, Alfred Koch founded the Berlin School of Nudism, which promotes unity with nature and a healthy lifestyle.
The Nazis, upon coming to power, immediately banned the FKK movement, declaring it immoral. But by 1942, the nudity began to be treated more leniently and the supporters of naturism still managed to carry out some activities. After the end of the Second World War, a real renaissance came for the naturist movement, and, oddly enough, naturists were much more active in East Germany. Nudity was no longer considered a bourgeois phenomenon and became for many a kind of outlet in life.
In the GDR, where residents were under the strict control of the special services, were limited to foreign travel and constantly experienced a shortage of the most basic consumer goods, the FKK movement became a breath of fresh air and the authorities understood this, leaving this "safety valve" to relieve tension in society.
Hanno Hohmut, a historian at the Center for Contemporary History Studies in Potsdam, was born and raised in East Germany. He recalls how, as a child, he went with his parents to nudist beaches, which at that time was a kind of escapism available to every inhabitant of the GDR. At first they undressed with caution, but then it became the norm.
“East Germans have always had to obey the demands of the Communist Party - go to party meetings, work for free on subbotniks. And at first, the rebels had to sunbathe in the nude with an eye on the police - is the patrol approaching?"
But that all changed with the coming to power of Erich Honecker in 1971. If before that they simply turned a blind eye to nudists and all actions in relation to them were carried out at the discretion of the police, then under the new Secretary General of the FKK they were allowed and naturists could no longer be detained as petty hooligans.
Allowing to be naked, the GDR authorities were sure that they were getting a good trump card in their hands, rehabilitating themselves before the world community. They seemed to say: "Look, we are a free socialist society of happy people who can get naked if they like it." New beaches began to open in the country, the demand for which was impressive.
Interestingly, the FKK movement began to decline immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of East and West Germany. The totalitarian system fell and there was no point in proving something to the world, so support for naturists at the state level ceased.
To make sure that interest in naturism has declined, one has only to turn to dry statistics. If in the 70s and 80s hundreds of thousands of East Germans used beaches and campsites for nudists, then in 2019 the German Association for Free Body Culture had only 30 thousand participants, most of whom have long crossed the 50-year mark.
Despite this, FKK has become an integral part of German culture, and in order to undress in the park and sunbathe, you no longer need to consider yourself to be a movement - this is quite natural for any free citizen of the country. Christine Arneson says naturism zones are very easy to find in any city in Germany and are usually inextricably linked to sports and wellness.
Well, for those who certainly want to be involved in the FKK movement and communicate with like-minded people, there are clubs and whole organizations in the country for lovers of unity with nature.The most famous is the Berlin sports club FSV named after Adolf Koch, which offers nudist yoga, nudist volleyball, badminton and even table tennis.
Naturism finds its supporters not only among Germans, but also in British society, despite the long-standing Puritan traditions.
See also - Cradle of European naturism
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