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Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences
Department of History


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Twentieth-century efforts to create a fit and racially pure Germany, most clearly evident in the policies of Nazi Germany, tended to focus almost entirely on re-forming the national body while paying little attention to the personal body. The Freikrperkultur, or nudist, movement, is an important and unique exception, in that it focused on the personal body as a means of reinvigorating and regenerating the larger national or racial body. Naked Germany provides the first comprehensive history of the Freikrperkultur, a movement that anticipated Nazi ideology in many ways.From its earliest days at the turn of the century, nudism was conceived and practiced as a means by which the German race could reform itself, one person at a time, into a racially purer, better people. Contemporary observers believed that, physically and psychologically, Germans were becoming a degenerate Volk. The nudist formula for personal and racial regeneration was first to create healthy Germans by curing and preventing disease and moral hypocrisy through heavy doses of nudity, sunlight and air. The now healthy and beautiful Germans could then begin to replenish their national stock through better mate selection and marriages, ultimately breeding a racially pure and natural Volk, more akin to their distant Germanic ancestors. Nudist ideology was a potent combination of Darwinism, vlkisch nationalism and nature therapy - all deeply rooted in racial theory and designed to transform Germany into a nudist, racial utopia. In considering this often-overlooked aspect of German culture, Ross sheds new light on the popularity of Nazi theories of racial hygiene and the history of the body.