In the 1950s Johannes R. Becher, the author of the text for the East German National Anthem, the President of the Academy of Arts and later the Communist Minister for Culture of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), went for a walk at the dunes of the Baltic coast and unexpectedly noticed a lady sunbathing in the nude. Outraged, he shouted to her, “Shame on you, you old sow!”. Some time later it was a special event held on the occasion of the presentation of the East German National Prize (Nationalpreis der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik) to the writer Anna Seghers. Johannes Becher was entrusted to welcome the prize-winner. He started his speech and addressed himself to Anna Seghers: “Dear Anna”. But he was immediately interrupted by the writer: “For you, Hans, still old sow!”
This anecdote can be found in Rainer Schmitz’s book “Was geschah mit Schillers Schädel?” (What happened to Schiller’s skull?) and it is very popular at the sites devoted to the German naturism. It is presented as a true story. In my previous posts I wrote a few words about the flourishing of the nudism in the Eastern Germany before Germany became united in 1990. But it was not that easy.
In March 1933 the Nazis banned all naturist clubs and associations. After the World War II, in the early 1950s Ahrenshoop, the seaside resort on the Baltic Sea, was the first place where East German artists and intellectuals introduced the nude bathing. In fact, it was the popular nude beach already in the times of Weimar Republic. Unfortunately, Johannes R. Becher with his pathos appeal to save “the eyes of the nation” from “some people with their deformed bodies provocatively exposed” was not an only opponent to the free body culture (FKK). Among the most influential opponents was Karl Maron, Police Chief, Deputy Interior Minister and later the Minister of the Interior of the GDR (from 1955 to 1963). In May 1954 the town administration of Ahrenshoop banned nude bathing. On August 14, 1954 the GDR government extended the ban on nude bathing (Nacktbadeverbot) for the entire East German Baltic Sea coast and from the Szczecin Lagoon. But some East Germans were ready to defend a tiny bit of private liberty. They began to protest, wrote letters and submissions to the government. The fact that the Communist GDR still supports the prohibition of nudism from the Nazi era did not strengthen the position of authorities. In June 1956 the GDR government had to introduce a new arrangement to regulate outdoor recreation. Henceforth, the nude bathing in “places to which everyone has access” became permitted if these places would “be explicitly marked and adopted by the relevant local councils“. Nude bathing received, with some restrictions, the state’s blessing and soon became the mass movement in the GDR.