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.
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.”
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.