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Austin Cline

Nudes vs. Prudes on German Beaches

By August 9, 2004

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In an interesting battle of East vs. West, people in eastern Germany who had grown accustomed to using beaches in the nude are being pushed out by tourist from western Germany who are scandalized by the sight of all that naked flesh. Easterners blame religious prudery.

The Hindustan Times reports:

Local newspapers have said some angry westerners have gone so far as to hurl sand at nudists to chase them from the "fabric" sections. ... "In the communist era, about 90 per cent of the people here were nude," said Mock. "Now, only about 30 per cent are. It's not fair. We're being pushed off our own beach into a crummy little zone on the edge. Being nude is not a crime."
Easterners, raised in the atheist communist state, say the influence of the Catholic and Protestant churches are responsible for the comparatively prudish western attitudes. Westerners respond saying the shoddy workmanship of east German bathing suits made easterners prefer being naked. Some easterners admit that lying on the beach naked — in the middle of the communist state that controlled so much of their lives — represented a cherished, if limited, piece of freedom.

I find this report to be very curious. I lived in Germany for a year — specifically, in the relatively conservative region of Bavaria. In comparison to the United States, the people were not especially prudish. There were public nude sunbathing areas in places like parks that would never have such a thing if they were located in America. Thus, the reactions of visitors described in the article strike me as rather odd. Granted, they may not like entire beaches being nude and I can understand the desire to accommodate both, but still there is more extremism here than I would have ever expected.

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