Tag Archives: DDR


Period of free development

The late 19th century. Organized social nudism started in Germany. Sunbathing was recognized as an especially healthy form of recreation, and the nude body was rediscovered as an expression of naturalness and true morality [1]. The flourishing of nudism in Germany is also considered as a reaction to the extreme moral conservatism of 19th-century Prussia. On the other hand, conservative circles viewed nude bathing as a moral decay [2].
1920s – 1930s. In the Weimar Republic, the movement was accepted by the majority of the people and became part of mass culture. Nudism developed in many different branches and tested the legal boundaries of ‘indecent behaviour’ [3].

Strict prohibitions

1933 The Nazis had outlawed many of the nudist organizations for lewdness.
1945 The Allies prohibited nudist movement after World War II [3].
1954 The GDR government introduced the ban on nude bathing for the entire East German Baltic Sea coast

Under control

Late 1933. Some nudist organizations united under the umbrella of the Nazi sport movement and became legal.
1946 Various FKK clubs were allowed by the Allies
1940s – 1960s (the Adenauer era) In West Germany nudity was equated with pornography and nudist movement was unable to regain mass popularity [1].
1950s-1980s In East Germany FKK continued and even expanded its mass appeal even though FKK clubs were not officially allowed. East-German citizens could choose between FKK beaches and Textilstranden (textile beaches) where swimsuits were worn [1].

FKK-Strand im Bezirk Cottbus, July 1982 (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)

FKK-Strand im Bezirk Cottbus, July 1982 (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)


After 1990 With unification, the textiles began to dominate again at many beaches. But in the new millennium, the non-club-oriented, laissez-faire attitude seems to have won over most people. Nowadays, discussions about nudity flare up in the media, but in everyday life few people are offended to see someone strip completely, even in a public park [1].

1. Catherine C. Fraser, Dierk O. Hoffmann. Pop culture Germany. ABC-CLIO (2006)
2. Freikörperkultur – Wikipedia
3. A. Krüger , F. Krüger , S. Treptau. Nudism in Nazi Germany: Indecent Behaviour or Physical Culture for the Well-being of the Nation. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 19, (2002) 33 – 54.

Recently I’ve discovered a volume devoted to exploring the development and experience of life in East Germany. Katherine Pence and Paul Betts, Editors of the volume entitled East German everyday culture and politics (University of Michigan Press, 2008), write in the Introduction that

The reunification of Germany in 1989 may have put an end to the experiment in East German communism, but its historical assessment is far from over.

East German everyday culture and politics

East German everyday culture and politics

They indicate that most of the literature over the past two decades has been driven by the desire to uncover the relationship between power and resistance, but now the study of the everyday history of East German citizens advances to the forefront.

One of the articles in the book is written by Dagmar Herzog and entitled ‘East Germany’s Sexual Revolution’ (p. 71). The issue of FKK (Freikörperkultur), an important part of GDR culture, is touched upon as well. I’d like to give a few quotes from the article that may shed some light on the place nudism occupied in the life of East German people.

Starting in the middle of the 1960s nude bathing became acceptable for growing numbers of GDR citizens, and by the 1970s full nudity was clearly the norm at GDR beaches, lakeside or oceanside. Early attempts by municipal authorities to prevent this practice were simply overridden by the adamant masses, who stripped and would not move.

I found out a wonderful formulation dating back to 1956 (?): “… Nudism is a threat to public safety and it harms our workers. It is a life style of intellectuals and artists, not of workers.”

Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1989-0708-021, Berlin, Strandfest am Müggelsee

Berlin, Strandfest am Müggelsee

Nakedness for the whole family also within the home became increasingly standard practice as well, especially for that generation that had grown up together with the GDR…

The researcher writes that from the point of view of West Germans, the East German habit of naked display at the beach was variously interpreted as quaint and odd, as a trifle disturbing, or as (misplaced) compensation for East Germans’ lack of political independence.

After the reunification of Germany, the West Germans achieved what the GDR police had failed to do decades earlier.

The flood of Western pornography effectively demolished the Eastern culture of nakedness. … Many East German women no longer felt safe going naked now that they were viewed with Western men’s “pornographically schooled gaze” (pornographisch geschulter Blick). And they did begin to cover themselves.

I’ve chosen only a few quotes from the article and hope that this citation will not deprive the whole article of interest. The article is informative and allows to see the issue from the wider perspective.

Sometimes I think that almost every contradiction may be viewed as The Conflict Between East and West.

Seventeen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the cultural divide between former East Germans and West Germans is being laid bare at beach resorts,” reported Claudia Rach, Bloomberg News two years ago (see also The New York Sun from September 7, 2006).

K. Bacher in his famous “205 Arguments and Observations In Support of Naturism” quotes Lee Baxandall, according whom

“almost every town on East Germany’s coast has an FKK beach, some 90 sites serving 200,000 campers/lodgers annually; more FKK than textile beaches. A GDR poll found 57% of the population approving of nude recreation, 30% had no opinion, and only 13% opposed.”

FKK-Strand am Schwielochsee. Bild 183-1985-0817-002

FKK-Strand am Schwielochsee

Even, if the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was “Unrechtsstaat” (”unjust state”), while now East Germany is “free,” many of its beaches aren’t. The West is blamed for exporting to the East both pornography and beach restrictions.

Nowadays according to the estimations ascribed to the DFK (German naturist federation) as many as two-fifths of beaches previously used by nudists since Germany reunified in 1990 has lost their nudist statuses.

Claudia Rach wrote that

Since communism’s collapse in 1989, Baltic resorts have added new hotels and restaurants, renovated boardwalks and cleaned up water pollution.
That led to a surge in western tourists, with visitors to the Baltic coast jumping to 5.06 million last year from 1.98 million in 1992, according to the statistical office for the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.
Property prices in Germany’s Baltic region have risen 25 percent since 1995, more than the national average, according to a study by the GEWOS Institute for Urban, Regional and Housing Research in Hamburg.
“When people with money holiday in freshly renovated resorts, the last thing they want are naked bodies on their doorstep,” said Wolfgang Weinreich, head of the International Naturist Federation.

The reporter quotes Urs Wagner, the German naturist and Berlin retiree, 57, who said, “It’s a really intense feeling of nature that everyone should experience. But who knows for how much longer. We’re a dying breed.”

On the 21st of December 2007 Poland entered into the Schengen agreement and soon afterwards the Usedom beach on the German-Polish border between the German and Polish towns of Ahlbeck and Świnoujście (Swinemünde), became the scene of … the ‘Nudist war‘. At least the German tabloid Bild depicted the local conflict as ‘Nudist war on the German-Polish border‘. If you are interested in news about naturism or paying attention to anything weird you presumably didn’t miss this story. I think, any book or series of posts about German naturism would not be complete without it :-). So I’ll state it here in brief.

A map of the islands of Usedom and Wolin and environs, Germany/Poland.

A map of the islands of Usedom and Wolin and environs, Germany/Poland.

The Baltic Sea island of Usedom is divided by the border between Germany and Poland into the German and Polish parts. Usedom has six nudist beaches along its 40-kilometer stretch of coastline – one of which is just a few meters from the border. The beaches have been nudist beaches for almost fifty years, at least on the German side (The German part of the island belonged to East Germany between 1949 and 1990).

The oldest publications that I’ve found are dated August 2008, the newest are from April and May, 2009. At the end of 2007 and at the beginning of 2008 everything looked perfect. The online magazine cited Janusz Zmurkiewicz, president of Świnoujście, who said in December 2007: ‘Finally we will be able to cross over without showing our passports wearing only our swimming costumes in summer’. But, as Monika Stefanek, the author of the article in, noted, there was one thing he couldn’t have foreseen: not everyone on the German side of the beach covers themselves up. The problem came to light with the first summer temperatures.

Achtung Grenze: Die Polen auf Usedom sind entsetzt, wie nackt es auf der anderen Seite zugeht.

Achtung Grenze: Die Polen auf Usedom sind entsetzt, wie nackt es auf der anderen Seite zugeht.

When the border signs on Usedom island were removed, Polish holidaymakers moved their feet to yet unknown beach across the border and many of them were outraged by the nudists. “I do not want my four year old daughter to know the anatomy” said a 47-year-old Polish woman. Kazimierz Sajadeusz, the 68-year-old priest in Świnoujście,  stressed: “From a Catholic point of view the nudists are sinners.” Edward Zajac, a councillor for Świnoujście, a self-proclaimed ‘moral guardian’, wanted to relocate the nudist beach far from the Polish border. If this is not possible, the nudist area should be shielded from view.

The Germans replied that what people forget today is that Goethe bathed naked, Bismarck bathed naked, and the royal spa-doctor Richard Kind from Swinemünde on Usedom warned in 1828 against bathing in swimsuits, because they neutralize the beneficial effect of the pounding of the waves. … The bathing war is as old as bathing itself.

Ein Paradies für Nudisten: Auf der Insel Usedom hat die Freikörperkultur (FKK) schon zu DDR-Zeiten die Touristen angezogen.

Ein Paradies für Nudisten: Auf der Insel Usedom hat die Freikörperkultur (FKK) schon zu DDR-Zeiten die Touristen angezogen.

France24 concludes: ‘Passport controls between Poland and Germany may have vanished. But the border dividing sunbathers in swimming suits and those wearing nothing at all is as rigid as ever.’

Auf deutscher Seite sieht das am Strand oft so aus.

Auf deutscher Seite sieht das am Strand oft so aus.

A few months ago a nudist compromise between Germany and Poland or a ceasefire was set to end the nudist war on Usedom beach. A peace plan provides that signs written in both German and Polish should mark off the naked-friendly territory from the clothes-only section. Additional signs will be prominently placed to remind German sunbathers that the Poles want to keep their beach free of bare bum sightings (quoted from

The locals of the island don’t like the interest that they have provoked by this conflict. They believe that the international press seems to be much more interested in this affair than the local one. And that there are a lot of real important things which are worth to be published. The mentioned international mass media consider it as a conflict of values between open-minded Germans and strict Catholics in Poland. But I would not oversimplify the issue.

In one of my previous posts I wrote about a ban imposed by the East German Communist government on naturism in the 1950s. The book “Sex, thugs and rock ‘n’ roll” by Mark Fenemore may explain what was behind this decision. As always it was due to of ‘high politics’. In 1953 Stalin died in the Soviet Union. The Khrushchev‘s rush for power in the Communist Empire led him to denunciation of Stalin at the 20th Communist Party Congress in February 1956. This in turn led to plots and political manoeuvres under the slogans of ‘de-Stalinization’ in the countries of the Soviet bloc.

From 1950 the leader of Eastern Germany was Walter Ulbricht, the General Secretary of the SED (The Socialist Unity Party of Germany) Central Committee. It was believed that after the death of Stalin his position was in danger for some time, because of his reputation as a hard Stalinist. His opponents began criticizing his policies and style of rule with a view to remove him. They called for a more humanistic socialism.

Many utopian and eccentric ideas how to reform socialism emerged in 1953-56. It was suggested then that the health benefits of nudism warranted not only its legalization but the creation of a nudist mass organization in the GDR. Someone believed that nudism could help in creation of New Communist Man, because nakedness would ‘deconstruct old conditioned reflexes and construct new ones in their place’. Already in 1924 Leon Trotsky wrote in his Literature and Revolution: “The human species, the coagulated Homo sapiens, will once more enter into a state of radical transformation“. The most of the SED leaders did not support these ideas. As regards Ulbricht, he kept and even strengthened his power. In 1960 he became the Chairman of the State Council of the German Democratic Republic, i.e. official Head of State.

The struggle for power within the SED resulted in the zigzag policies in relation to gender, youth and sexuality. In 1954-55 there were numerous futile attempts to suppress nudism by force. Mark Fenemore wrote: “The reason why the communist leaders were so determined to repress nudism was that they viewed it as a dangerous (and contagious) form of Social Democratic immunity (or ‘resistance’ to ideological persuasion). They also felt that young people corrupted by the West were using nudism ‘as a cover for mischief’. As late as 1960, policemen were sent onto the beaches to repress nudist subculture armed with machine guns.

Freikörperkultur an der Ostsee

Freikörperkultur an der Ostsee

Nevertheless, nudism survived in the GDR. Already in the early 1960s it was not considered anymore as a suspect, minority activity and became a largely unpolitical mass- participation, mass-spectator sport.

P.S. Well, these East Germans just wanted to have a nice time by the sea and found themselves engaged in plots based on the idiotic philosophizing!