Vintage Season : The birth of the nudist movement

I began ‘Vintage Season’ with the Victorians because there were seismic social changes occurring during the era. Sea bathing for health purposes would have been one small change on the Victorians radar.

Indeed, a sense of health and well-being would have been creeping into everyday life.

What we can say is that the first naturist club, as we understand it in the modern sense, existed in British India in the 1890s. Disappointingly, it had just three members, all male, so the scene as portrayed by Don and Fi (below, set in an Indian sim) simply wouldn’t have occurred. I find this disappointing. The idea of the wives of British civil servants, those of a certain breeding and class, stripping off across India seems deliciously wicked.

don and fi india2_001

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By 1902 Dr. Heinrich Pudor had coined the phrase ‘nacktkultur’ (naked culture) and published three volumes in which he championed clothes-free sports (essentially a return to the sports arenas of ancient Greece) to which Richard Ungewitter factored in physical fitness, fresh air and bathing, thereby effectively framing the basis for nudism, and nudist clubs, for the next half century (and beyond). A world-wide explosion in naturism followed and, with photography now easily available, naturist magazines began appearing, and the first nudist club appeared in Hamburg, Germany, by 1903.


Of course, Europe’s capacity to tear itself apart on a regular basis did set back the growth of naturism. The Nazis, 1933-1945, effectively, particularly frowned on the practice of FKK (freikorperkultur – free body culture), declaring it to be degenerate initially (it ‘killed women’s sense of shame and men’s sense of respect for women’) but then integrated it into their odious politics -still excluding Jews and communists and also gleefully leaping on the ‘health’ and ‘fitness’ elements of the lifestyle for their own ends.

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You can read an article about Nazism and nudism, from German magazine Der Spiegel here.  What’s interesting is that the photographs accompanying the text all focus on physical activity of some form or another, that ‘fitness’ element being played up.


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 A selection of photographs from Nazi-era German nudist publications, above, show that the lifestyle was tolerated, and that there was a clear emphasis on dance, callisthenics and physical exercise.

 I think it’s possibly fair to say that, by the 1930s, nudism was so firmly imprinted on the German psyche that part of the reason Nazism tolerated or embraced it was to try to overcome some of the suspicions people correctly held towards Nazis.

Let me include two paragraphs from an absolutely brilliant synopsis of nudity through the ages from the young naturists america website, and their ‘History of Nudism’ page

Nudism and naturism continued the growing trend it had been enjoying since the 1920’s. As Hitler began his rise to power, nudism was first embraced and enjoyed a rise in popularity and in prominence. It became extremely popular with Gleichschaltung, which is a term meaning coordination, and was the process used by the Nazi party to establish their control over Europe. The party celebrated the health benefits and the idea of body acceptance. Hitler also believed in the message of making the body as physically and mentally close to perfection as possible, naturism and nudism and their ideologies of attaining good health fit in line with his hopes for a perfect Aryan race. By 1933 however, Hitler had fallen out of the good graces of the pacifist nudism and naturism practitioners and began having Hermann Goring pass laws limiting the mingling of the different sexes. As Europe under Hitler’s regime descended into a quagmire of what Hitler saw as moral and correct, Hitler began to believe that because the nudists and naturists practiced pacifism, that the camps and parks were also a place for homosexuals and for Marxists. Hitler and Goring then banned the various parks and camps and passed laws banning the practice of nudism.

Hitler was successful at banning these parks and clubs for exactly one month. Too many of the SS enjoyed partaking of the healthful benefits and continued to practice nudism. Hitler relented and began allowing the practice of nudism and naturism again, with full support of the state government. However, he did require that all nudist clubs and camps register with the Kraft durch Freude. Kraft durch Freude translates into strength through joy and was the name for the state controlled leisure organization in Nazi Germany. It’s aim was to promote tourism and to make daily activities and fun events accessible to the middle class. By including nudism and naturism, the Nazi Party hoped to overcome the distrust it was experiencing by some. Since it was regulated by the state however, this ensured that no Jews, Communists, gypsies or other undesirables could be a part of the nudism and naturism movement. Hitler also insisted that all nudist activities were kept confined to rural areas so that the rest of Europe and the world did not look upon Germans as being depraved. Hitler completely missed the point that nudism and naturism had nothing to do with sexuality

© Young Naturists America/YNA

I would encourage everyone to click the link and read a brilliantly written history of nudism since the dawn of time. Terrific stuff!

In Second Life there’s an absolutely brilliant Weimar Republic sim of 1920s Berlin, a time when nudism would have been taking hold in Germany, and indeed the sim do have a ‘naturist hour’ in the sim’s swimming pool, despite it not strictly being a naturist sim. I intend to do a standalone post on this pool night, at the Weimar Republic sim, at the weekend.

I really don’t want to encourage fighting/killing sims, there’s enough hate in the world without trivialising the entire period of history. But should WW2 be your thing, SL is awash with sims where you can role-play, and we’ve managed to get a photo of Honey in the Caen 1944 sim, embracing the Nazis tolerance of nudism juxtaposed to the horrors of war.

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I’m delighted to say that there is a strong intolerance of extreme right-wing views in SL, both from ‘the top’, Linden Labs themselves, and the game’s users. While some historical re-enactment is permitted, odious right wing views, from the 1940s or from today, will quickly be squashed by LL and the game’s users.

Even now, the whole ‘fitness’ element of naturism is very much in evidence in SL’s naturist sims. Gyms, where many forms of physical activity can be performed, are very much in evidence in SL’s naturist sims, and the ‘fitness’ element of RL naturism, from the group callisthenics of early naturism through to cycling, yoga and so on, will be very much in evidence on the sims and in RL naturist locations.

It’s not so much that the early pioneers of nudism started a trend which has created historical ripples through the entire history of naturism, more that the whole issue of being naked and indulging in physical activity goes cap in hand.

Even I, one of those seven-stone-wet-through weaklings who ‘could do with a good meal’, will find my physical exertions ratchet themselves up on RL naturist holidays. It’s hot! I go swimming. There’s a nice restaurant in the next village. I go cycling. I get up on a warm morning and I go walking. A typical naturist holiday will find me lose 3-4lbs in weight simply because the lifestyle is well suited to exercise. Which makes me wonder. In a world where obesity is an increasing concern, particularly in the developed world….would a nude Western world find itself becoming fitter, leaner, healthier?

My apologies for the gallop through the history of naturism in the first half of the 20th century. Work pressures, again! but I hope that it has given just a little insight into the way in which naturism developed between 1900-1950. We’ll flesh out some elements of this further during Vintage Season, but for now, for me, it’s back to work until the weekend, when I hope to cover that 1920s Berlin sim, and maybe look at the 1960s from both a SL & RL perspective, when social nudity began to be normalised and accepted in society. I have another post almost complete, in which I try to examine how attitudes to (semi) nudity, from bellydance to the burqa, have changed the Arab world (and beyond).

See you soon!



nb: To respond to a correspondent who sent me an IM, I’m not hyperlinking some of the sims mentioned in Vintage Season because they aren’t naturist, even if we’ve posed nude models in them. They should, however, be easily found using SL’s search tools.

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