- Naturism in europe Part I - West Germany wasted no time in setting up shop for the nudists after the war...
West Germany wasted no time in setting up shop for the nudists after the war. On November 16, 1949, representatives from more than thirty newly formed clubs carne together in KasseL and founded the Deutscher Bund fur Freikarperkultur - the D.F .K. - now the largest national nudist organisation in the world. Everywhere there was poverty.
To stay alive was a struggle. The pursuit of leisure was a luxury which few had the time or the money to afford. Yet the first decade after the war proved a fertile seed bed for the new nudist movement. Half a century earlier Nacktkultur had been an expression of rebellion against the Industrial Revolution.
Now, to go back to nature was an understandable reaction to the sickening humiliation of defeat in war. And no activity could be cheaper than Freikarperkultur. Alongside the astonishing growth of the nudist clubs in Germany, the 'unorganised' nudists began to have a substantial impact.
"Unorganised": in nudist parlance, means those who go naked but choose not to belong to clubs: the do-it-yourselfers who are now so numerous in Europe that they threaten the clubs' very existence. Since the early part of the century, the island of Sylt, in the North Sea on the Danish border, had doubled as a holiday resort and a refuge for nudists.
Its long deserted sandy beaches gave ampIe room for both. As early as the 1920's, the govemment of Schleswig-Holstein had authorised naked bathing and a nudist colony had grown up there. One of its residents, Magnus Weidemann, an evangelical pastor, had edited an excellent and influential nudist magazine between 1924 and 1929 which told alI Germany ofthe joys of Sylt. For the people of Hamburg, struggling to reconstruct their beautiful city and its economy, so utterly destroyed by Allied bombs, Sylt was a summer weekend away from it alI. As the country's railway network was rebuilt, the citizens of Dusse1dorf, Essen, Dortmund and Cologne also escaped to the seaside, far from the devastation of the Rhine and the Ruhr. Many found themse1ves at Sylt, experiencing communal nakedness for the very first time.
The sun lovers of southern Germany and Austria meanwhile had discovered, to their surprise, just across the Alps, in Marshal Tito's newly communist republic, that tourists were welcome. Despite a terrible and bloody resistance to the Nazis which had cost Yugoslavia a million and a halflives - five times as many as Great Britain, in a population a third the size - the Yugoslavs were determined to rebuild their economy themselves and remain at a distance from the Soviet U nion. If this meant a welcome to detested enemies, it was perceived more as a quest for desperately needed foreign exchange. There was nothing to export. AlI Yugoslavia had to offer at that time was sun.
- Naturism in europe Part II - The island of Rab in the Adriatic had a tradition of naked bathing by foreigners going back to 1934...
The island of Rab in the Adriatic had a tradition of naked bathing by foreigners going back to 1934. By the early fifties it was business as usual again.
There were occasionaI police raids but these rapidly diminished as the deutschmarks and schillings (and, later, the pounds, the lire, the francs and the kroner) flowed in.
The Istrian peninsula had been part of Mussolini's Italy until the carve-up of Europe which followed the war. The Germans found the new Yugoslav citizens there less hostile tban in Croatia and Dalmatia, and the Adriatic quite as beautiful as further down the coast. It was here, fifty miles soutb of Trieste, that the German nudists discovered Koversada.
Koversada is a mere speck of an island, less than a quarter of a mile long with a rocky coast and treacherous sea urchins. Like so much of the Yugoslav coast, the island is shaded by dense pine woodland, a curtain of discretion which hums with the constant chattering of cicadas. This part of the Adriatic is a paradise. It makes the most glossy holiday brochure look cheap. In summer the pine-scented air is crystal clear, the heat neither humid nor stifling. God must be proud of tbis little bit of his creation.
The German nudists certainly gave Him full marks and they began to come in ever-increasing hordcs. Koversada's nudity was soon condoned by the authorities who sensed tbat encouragement would be more financially rewarding tban the blind eye. In 1982 Koversada celebrated its official21st birthday. Now the island is connected by a bridge to the mainland where there is a vast campsite with clusters of holiday bungalows and flats, restaurants and shops. Koversada can now accommodate 12,000 nudists at a time. More than 50,000 use it each summer season.
A high proportion of the holidaymakers is German but every nationality is to be found, particularly northern Europeans, but also Italians whose nakedness is frowned upon on the beaches back home. The Yugoslavs themselves were slow to join in and if, in the seventies, a nudist at Koversada felt himself to be on German soiI, the balance has now changed a little.
The language on the noticeboards and the loudspeaker announcements remind one of the German predominance, but the clientele is truly cosmopolitan.
- Naturism in europe Part III - Koversada was only the beginning of an explosion which has made Yugoslavia unique...
Koversada was only the beginning of an explosion which has made Yugoslavia unique.
Now there are forty-three designated nudist holiday centres, alI ofthem beautifulIy appointed - and still the cheapest in the world.
Naked sunbathing and swimming have spread far beyond the confines of the holiday centres. Anywhere on the Yugoslav coast you can come across naked people. Only in the towns and villages and near hotels is it expected, out of consideration for the textiles, that you should wear a bathing costume.
The freedom to swim naked or not, as you please, attracts millions of European holidaymakers - not just nudists. Tens of millions of pounds now pour into Yugoslavia every year: a windfaIl which was there for the taking by the first Mediterranean country to spot the trend and cherish the goose which lays the golden eggs.
Recently a Yugoslav tourist officia I made so bold as to justify his country's policy on politicaI grounds: 'Naturism and SociaIism are both concerned with the freedom of the individual: he proudly maintained, neglecting, conveniently perhaps, the text-book capitalism which brought it all about.
ltaly, with the Vatican breathing down its neck, is unable to compete. Greece cautiously put the brakes on before its GeneralElection in 1981. Spainis tip-toeing gingerlyahead and there are now three nudist holiday centres on the mainland. Only France is in serious competition with Yugoslavia. It has seventeen officiaI naturiste beaches and dozens more where nudity is practised; forty inland clubs which cater for tourists and nudist resorts dotted all aIong the east coast of Corsica.
The wave of permissiveness, heralded by the Beatles and Flower Power which swept away the cobwebs of the fifties, did not pass Denmark by. Copenhagen, like Amsterdam, became a byword for pomography, not because the Danes are especially sinful but because sexuaIity and the human body seem less traumatic to them than to the children of a Victorian ancestry or the faithful of the Roman Catholic Church. The Danes are a practicaI people. If they see something which they like but don't have, they set about securing it.
The nudists of Denmark saw what they wanted in Yugoslavia and France. Many of them took holidays there and resolved that it was time to have a little bit of freedom a little nearer home.
- Naturism in europe Part IV - In the summer of 1969 they decided to mount a peaceful demonstration...
In the summer of 1969 they decided to mount a peaceful demonstration. Orla Jess Jessen, a Vice-President of the International Naturist Federation, was amongst the demonstrators:
We advised the police that on the next Sunday there would be about 300 people bathing in the nude at a typical normal beach dose to Copenhagen.
It was a very nice day. We were met by the police but they were only there for one purpose - to protect uso When we took off our dothes we did it very quickly because we didn't want to be accused of having rnade a long-lasting striptease.
When we went in the water everybody was happy and having fun, splashing around. When we carne out of the water, the police suddenly had another rnission. They had to go round asking other people on the beach whether they had been offended and they found no one had. Everybody said: "It seerns quite natural. We can't tell who are the nudists and who are not".
The day was a great success. In the summer of 1969 they decided to mount a peaceful demonstration. Orla Jess Jessen, a Vice-President of the International Naturist Federation, was amongst the demonstrators: We advised the police that on the next Sunday there would be about 300 people bathing in the nude at a typical normal beach dose to Copenhagen.
It was a very nice day. We were met by the police but they were only there for one purpose - to protect uso When we took off our dothes we did it very quickly because we didn't want to be accused of having rnade a long-lasting striptease. When we went in the water everybody was happy and having fun, splashing around.
When we carne out of the water, the police suddenly had another rnission. They had to go round asking other people on the beach whether they had been offended and they found no one had. Everybody said: "It seerns quite natural. We can't tell who are the nudists and who are not". The day was a great success. Danish Television filmed the event. Soon everyone knew about it and still there were no complaints. The campaign continued and the press and politicians were vigorously lobbied.
The breakthrough carne in 1976. On July 30th, the Justice Ministry issued an orderthatnude bathingand sunbathing were not illegal 'under Clause 5 of the Bye Laws prohibiting indecent behaviour, except in cases of provocative conduct or demonstrative nakedness in the presence of other people on the beach': nakedness is now legaI on any beach. The Danes still have 'free' beaches, that is beaches which are predominantly nudist. A sense of comradeship and a desire not to offend those who still prefer to bathe with something on, bring the nudists together. These beaches have reached an equilibrium of common sense. One day, perhaps, the rest of Europe will follow where the Danes have led.
On an out-and-out nudist beach a textile feels uncomfortable. He may even be whistled and jeered at, as the French were by the British, on the island of Guernsey, nearly a century ago. On a textile beach a nudist can cause a scandal. On a Danish 'free' beach, however, those who wish to be naked mix freely and unselfconsciously with those who don' t and, to an on looker, it seems the most natural and normal scene in the world.
The British Sunbathing Association was formed in 1943 to prepare for postwar expansion but money and, particularly, land were scarce. Three years later there were stillless than 3,000 nudists in Britain. It was hardly surprising.
It was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for an Englishman to become a nudist. Applicants were vetted more rigorously than would-be spies. One club is reported to have conducted interviews for membership with the aid of a divining rodo Often candidates would be asked to drive to a deserted spot and wait there to be conducted to the nudist campo A committee member would then drive by and, if he did not like the look of the people, drive on without stopping.
Even to-day single men are treated with the utmost suspicion and excluded from most clubs. Some clubs still expel men when their wives.diea charmless exercise in cruelty.
In 1948, two family men, Ernest Stanley andJack Watkins, decided that they wanted to start a new club in Kent.
They took to their bicycles and scoured the county for likely sites. InJune they found one near Dartford on the outskirts of London and the North Kent Sun Club, now at Orpington, and the largest in Britain, was formed. It grew rapidly and encouraged other clubs to get started in the region.
Nineteen fifty-one was Festival of Britain year - a morale booster to raise the country from its post- war depression. The North Kent Sun Club decided to stage a Festival of Naturism to coincide with it and many leading nudists from the Continent carne along. The idea for the Intemational Naturist Federation was bom.
Flushed with the successof the Festivalof Naturism, theNorth Kent Club set out to establish a pIace for itself in the running of things. The Kent County Sun Batbing Association was inaugurated in October 1951.
Then the arguments started. No one is too clear to-day what it was all about except tbat there were "differences of opinion and personalities" - small ones: big fish in small ponds who could not or would not resolve their differences for the good of the movement as a whole.
In 1952, a group of clubs split from the British Sun Batbing Association and set up the rivaI Federation of British Sun Clubs. The Kent County Sun Bathing Association was one of the defectors. Twelve valuable years were wasted before the differences were settled and the CentraI Council for British N aturism was formed, bringing the warring factions together again.