Adolf Koch (9 April 1896 - 2 July 1970) was a German school teacher and leader of the German Freikörperkultur (naked culture) in the 1920s and 1930s.

Koch studied psychology and medicine at the Friedrich William Institut. He also studied with Magnus Hirschfeld at the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft. Subsequently, he trained to be a school gymnastics teacher, finding in nude physical exercise the symbol of 'a new beginning for a new society'. Finding difficulty in putting his radical body culture ideas into practice at two mainstream schools in Moabit in the early 1920s, with the support of the Prussian government he created its own Institute for nudist education, which by 1929 had 3,000 pupils.

The poet Stephen Spender remarked after visiting Germany (in World within World) on the extent to which the Freikörperkultur was visible in the Germany of the late 1920s...

"The sun - symbol of the great wealth of nature within the poverty of man, was a primary social force in this Germany. Thousands of people went to the open-air swimming baths or lay down on the shores of the rivers and lakes, almost nude, and sometimes quite nude, and the boys who had turned the deepest mahogany walked amongst those people with paler skins like kings among their courtiers."

Koch went on to developed thirteen schools in Germany. His was a primarily working-class movement, and although opposed to racial prejudice did however advocate eugenics and contributed to the mood of the times in relation to the need to physically regenerate the German people. German nudists generally were mildly harassed by the Nazis during 1933/4, but by 1933 a "Militant Circle for Racial Free Physical Culture" had been extablished, which acted as a pro-Nazi umbrella body for German nudist groups - and which excluded Jews and most communist nudist groups.

The working-class socialist-leaning Adolf Koch schools were banned, but the "Adolf Koch League for Social Hygiene, Body Culture and Gymnastics" (Institut fur Eubiotik und Lebensregelung), was still operating towards the end of 1934. In 1934 Koch published an article that stated... "We have pointed out often enough that racial biology and racial hygiene are crucial to this struggle for public health." and which praised the SA leader Ernst Röhm. This was not, however enough to prevent his organisation being closed down again by the Nazis. Koch even paid eighteen months of subscriptions as a "Supportive Member" of the SS to try to curry favour with the regime - but a de-nazification committee of 1947 found him not guilty of supporting the Nazi Party.

Further readingEdit

  • A. Krüger , F. Krüger , S. Treptau. (2002). "Nudism in Nazi Germany: Indecent Behaviour or Physical Culture for the Well-being of the Nation" The International Journal of the History of Sport Vol. 19, Number 4 / December 01, 2002. pp. 33 - 54.
  • Jefferies, Matthew (2006). "'For a genuine and noble nakedness'? German naturism in the Third Reich", German History 24, 1, Koch (Pädagoge)