When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.


The Beautiful German Evolution: From Nazis To Nudists

Britons and Americans used to depict Germans as obsessed with Nazi uniforms, now our supposed obsession is nudism. A friendly patriotic ode to letting it all hang out.

A German nudist beach
A German nudist beach
Brenda Strohmaier

BERLIN — Anglo-Saxons have discovered something about Germans known as the “FKK thrill.” FKK stands for Freikörperkultur, or nudist culture.

But things are not always what they seem. For example, in a recent New York Timespiece, an American who described himself as something of a prude wrote about having mustered the courage to go to a Berlin bathhouse. Eager to be culturally proper with the naked-loving Germans, he, his wife and a friend of hers draped towels around their nude selves, just for the trip from the changing rooms to the thermal pool. Just as the three of them, buck naked, slid into the warm salt water, they noticed that all the other people in the pool were wearing their bathing suits.

These days, English-language coverage of Germany often depicts German saunas and parks as naturist compounds of aesthetic oversharing. Until a relatively short time ago, there was a different stereotype applied to Germans: They tended to be in uniform. And not in a flattering way. But somehow all those Fritz and Blitz articles were more respectful than this current spate of writing.

Remember London Mayor Boris Johnson’s trip to Berlin last summer? In a column in The Telegraph, he reported afterwards with praise and fascination about “frenzied Teutonic relaxation” in Berlin. “The most serious public order problem at the moment is the tendency of Berliners to pursue the logic of their Freikörpeskultursic by actually fornicating in their many magnificent parks,” he wrote. His grandfather had warned him about Germans and the nation’s insatiable thirst for supremacy, which reunification would only fuel. But in the younger Johnson’s mind, reunification has done Germany a world of good, and there is absolutely nothing to fear from us Germans.

Pssst, here’s the truth

But Boris Johnson wasn’t seeing things right. We German nudists communicate in more subtle ways than the exhibitionist protest group FEMEN’s ladies. Our agenda is written on our breasts in invisible ink. And if you knew how to read it you’d find out about things like the new dress standards for all EU holiday areas: mandatory FKK for one and all!

[rebelmouse-image 27087936 alt="""" original_size="376x500" expand=1]

Photo: Pascal Willuhn

Do the Brits know what German Chancellor Angela Merkel was doing the day the Berlin Wall fell? Exactly! Relaxing in the sauna. Now is the time when Brits and other EU peoples should be overcome by fear. Yes, we Germans have stripped out of our uniforms. Because in times of asymmetrical war, uniforms are out.

The next EU conflict? Naked terror.

The kids are on the right path. Recently a friend of mine was driving through a deserted part of Brandenburg with her four children when they saw something so unlikely that the excited kids each described it piecemeal to their dad like this: Child 1: “We saw a man.” Child 2: “On a bicycle.” Child 3: “And he was.” Child 4: “Naked.” The children thought that biking through life naked was a pretty cool idea.

I recently trained for the nude toppling of the EU in a Hungarian hotel sauna. At reception, they told me to wear a bathing suit, but when I found myself alone in the sauna I got naked like any good German. No doubt about it: One look at my secret weapons and the term “sex bomb” will have to be redefined.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

That Man In Mariupol: Is Putin Using A Body Double To Avoid Public Appearances?

Putin really is meeting with Xi in Moscow — we know that. But there are credible experts saying that the person who showed up in Mariupol the day before was someone else — the latest report that the Russian president uses a doppelganger for meetings and appearances.

screen grab of Putin in a dark down jacket

During the visit to Mariupol, the Presidential office only released screen grabs of a video

Russian President Press Office/TASS via ZUMA
Anna Akage

Have no doubt, the Vladimir Putin we’re seeing alongside Xi Jinping this week is the real Vladimir Putin. But it’s a question that is being asked after a range of credible experts have accused the Russian president of sending a body double for a high-profile visit this past weekend in the occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

Sign up to our free daily newsletter.

Reports and conspiracy theories have circulated in the past about the Russian leader using a stand-in because of health or security issues. But the reaction to the Kremlin leader's trip to Mariupol is the first time that multiple credible sources — including those who’ve spent time with him in the past — have cast doubt on the identity of the man who showed up in the southeastern Ukrainian city that Russia took over last spring after a months-long siege.

Russian opposition politician Gennady Gudkov is among those who confidently claim that a Putin look-alike, or rather one of his look-alikes, was in the Ukrainian city.

"Now that there is a war going on, I don't rule out the possibility that someone strongly resembling or disguised as Putin is playing his role," Gudkov said.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest