Signs set into the pavement show exactly where the Berlin Wall sliced the city in two.
* Blog post title reads, in German, The Berlin Wall, naturism and the rebuilding of ideological borders
Twenty five years ago, next week, The Berlin Wall began to fall, quite literally, and thousands of Germans from both sides of the divided city spilled through it. Even though I was a child, I recall my parents watching the TV in amazement as ‘The Iron Curtain’ was dismantled over the next momentous year or so.
Of course, the dismantling process of the Soviet Bloc had begun before November 10th. Poland had begun the domino effect as recently as August 1988, as it sought to wriggle free of Soviet control. Other Warsaw Pact countries followed suit. Hungary had begun removing its barbed wire border fence with Austria, effectively meaning those in the communist east could walk straight into the democratic west unhindered. But it was on a chilly November night, 25 years ago, the symbol of Europe’s division came down.
Other countries’ revolutions (largely peaceful) would follow from there. With the great symbol of division between east & west gone, the game was up.
Two images of east German naturism, pre-1989 (source : wikipedia)
Behind the wall, life was very strictly regulated in East Germany. There were few freedoms, and people’s actions were controlled by the secret police, the Stasi. Because of this, naturism (‘FKK ‘, freikorperkultur or ‘free body culture’) was massively popular and remains so.
You can get a sense of how and why the FKK movement became so popular in East Germany here, in a (UK) Indedpendent newspaper report from 2009. In a way, naturism was one of people’s few freedoms, and they embraced it in a huge way.
Since the fall of the wall there’s been something of a mini-industry in books that have attempted to explain the movement’s appeal. You can also find a couple of videos here of archived TV footage (from the MDR channel) in which a female TV reporter, fully nude herself, interviews German naturists who are totally relaxed about being on TV naked. The one here (also listed in the previous link) is specifically about east German naturism, filmed in 1978.
Since then it has seemed as if that political earthquake that led to freedoms for millions who grew up under communism has, rather than shatter old certainties, seen them coalesce in different ways. The ideological border of communism has been replaced by a world oddly less free, and more intolerant, than it was 25 years ago.
I know you’re thinking that you know what I’m thinking. ISIL. Islamic fundamentalism.
Well, yes I am, and no I’m not. They’re easy targets as pillars of intolerance. I could probably reel of pages on what I find to be abhorrent about Islam compared to the paragraph or so which would cast it in positive light. But I could do exactly the same thing for Christian fundamentalism.
The issue is why is the world an increasingly intolerant place? In the last 25 years we’ve seen people commit vile inhumane acts on one another, a decrease in manners and patience, an increase in not being able to tolerate the views of others, be it in naturism, in aspects of religion or anything else. It’s all rather depressing that what might have seemed like a new, more liberal world 25 years ago has turned into a more conservative place, with the views of others not being allowed to thrive within their own boundaries. Some research will show that, where East Germany’s widespread embracing of the FKK lifestyle saw thousands bathe and sun themselves nude on the Baltic coast and around lakes, unhindered, 25 years ago, reunification with the west has shown an increase in intolerance to the lifestyle. Indeed, shortly after the fall of the Wall, and West Germans began holidaying in the east, the extent of naturism shocked them to the extent German media began referring to Höschenkrieg – the Panty War. In the home of naturism, where naturism was widespread in the eastern half, the Ossi’s (the Easterners) suddenly found their bare beaches would require labelling, to that everyone would know where they stood on the issue.