A FEW YEARS AGO, a black-and-white photograph emerged of three young women walking along a dock with an expanse of sparkling water behind them. All were smiling and were naked, and soon after the picture appeared online, gleeful commenters across the web began insisting that the woman on the left was Angela Merkel. The German chancellor’s office declined to comment, and while many now believe the photograph’s association with Merkel to be a hoax, there’s plenty of reason to think that Merkel, who grew up in a small East German town north of Berlin, came of age frolicking in the nude.
It would hardly count as conspiracy theory. Public nakedness is common in the former G.D.R.: Of the 8 to 12 million nudists in Germany, the majority live in the east and are over 50 years old. One regularly observes men and women of all backgrounds — from dull public servants to service workers to members of the German intelligentsia — relaxing and socializing without any clothes. They read alone in the park or chat in groups at the beach; some prepare to swim, while others wash down bites of bratwurst with pilsner.
They consider themselves members of an informal movement known as FKK, an abbreviation of Freikörperkultur, which translates to Free Body Culture. Despite the aggressive-sounding name, there is nothing confrontational or self-righteous or even erotic about it. Unlike in America, where public nudity typically has gay or countercultural connotations, in modern Germany it seems to have none. What began in the late 1800s as a kind of philosophy of physical health transformed, under authoritarian rule, into a mode of quasi-dissident leisure, and then later into something more temperate, a culturally ingrained but ultimately apolitical national pastime. Cont…Read full original article…
01 September, 2017, 5:50 pm