German Boys' Clothes: Activities


Figure 1.--We have limited information on the games played by German boys at this time. Some photographstaken in the 1950s suggest that boys in Berlin were playing marbles.

HBC has collected information on a variety of activities in which German boys have participated in over time. Many of these activities involve specialized costumes. Other activities suich as play activities involved boys wearing their regular clothes. This helped fiollow clothing trends in German boys' clothing over time. Some of the activities include choir, choir, dance, games, music, religious observation, school, sport, youth organizations and many other activities. The various activities seem similatr to those activities pursued by boys in other countries. Music and school seems especially important in Germany. Youth groups als were very important until after Worlod War II. We often do not fully understand the activities in available images, but here our German readers have assisted us.

Arts

German boys are involved in a variety of fine arts disciplines. In Germany the most important fine art is certainly music. Germany is perhaps more famed for music thn any other country. Many of the most famed classical compsers were German. The German musical tradition is long and deep and at the hear of the western musical tradition. Learning and playing a musical instrument is an important tradition in many German families. German immigrants heped bring that tradition to America. In addition to instrumental music, there is also a strong choral tradition in Germany. Many countries of Western and Central Europe have a long tradition of church boys' choirs dating back to the medevil era. Germany has like, neigboring countries, has an important choral tradition. Germany includes formerly independent states with both protestant and catholic populations. The choral tradition in Germany is associated with both catholic and protestant churches. The dance tradition is much less important, but there are notable folk traditions. The drama tradition dates from the medieval passion plays. German boys also engage in the visual arts, something that childeen can begin to enjoy from an early sge.

Holidays

The standard holidays including New Year, Easter, and Christmas are important in Germany. German holiday celebrations have varied considerably as to the regime in power. During the NAZI era, Hitler's birthday was a major event during which 10 years old were inducted into the Hitler Youth. I assume that the Kaiser's birthday was celebrated during Imperial Germany. After World War II the Communists celebrations of May Day was a major event. Germany is best known for its Ocktober fest celebrations. The most important holiday for German children is Christmas.

Indoor Play

Children engaged in a lot of indoor play activities. It was a home that they played with their toys. The Germans were well known for creating many wonderful toys. And these varied by age. It is a little tricky defining just what to include in the toy list. We note play sets becoming popular in the 20th century. And buklding sets like erector sets and legos were popular for boys. Puppets of various kinds led to drama and pretend activities. In addition, to toys were a variety of games, they included board games. There were initially a fairly narrow range of board games and most were more for adults than children. But by the late-19th century many new board games began to appear, many especially designed for children. Many American children did not play with cards for religious reasons. We are less sure abnout German children. Indoor photography was complicated so here the photographic record is less complere than for outdoor play. Of course gender was a major factor. Girls' indoor play was more likely to be docused around dolls.

Outdoor Play: Games

We have limited information on the games played by German children at this time. Gere we are talking about outdoor games. Some photographs taken in the 1950s suggest that boys in Berlin were playing marbles. Many of the games were games played by other German children. We are guessing that there were also games played just by German children or just in regions of Germany. Our information here is still very limited. Hopefully our German readers will tell us about popular children's games they played as children.

Outings

German children enjoyed a range of outings. Some outings may be simply playing the the stree or sidewalk near the home. Often parents set limits as to how far younger children could go. There were also trips or erands to local shops. Or perhaps see a movie at a local theater. We see many children on city side walks, although we are not sure where they are headed. Some children are checking out a Litfaßsäule. Mom might take the children out on a shopping trip. Or they might go off th visit a friends home or nearby relatives. One of the most popular outings to local city parks. We do not yet know much about German urban parks. Some boys might go by themselves. Younger boys would be escorted. Some parks had beaches on lakes. Outings to beaches were popular in Germany, although actual sea beaches were only available in far north and the teperature of the water was rargher cold. Visits to zoos were always popular. A good example is an unidentified German boy in the 1930s. Sone very good zoos were located in Germany. Parents might take children to museums making a nice family outing, Outings to local parks were of course especially popular. Family outings in the country side seem especially popular with Germans. A good example is a unidentified family on a country outing in the 1930s. We notice many photographs of German boys with bikes.

Pets

One of the many joys of childhood is hving a pet. We note many images of German children with their family pets. Of course the most common were cats and dogs. Several breeds were popular in Germany. The three most associated with Germany are Dashunds, Dobermans, and German Shepards (Alsatians). And we see numerous images of German children having fun with both. Children in rural areas might have goats which were popular to pull carts with younger children. We also see a few children with birds. We seem to note more dogs in American than German 19th century studio portraits. This suggests that pets were more common in America, but we are not yet positive about that.

Religious Costumes

Germany is a predominantly Protestant country. The Reformation was born in Germany with Marin Luther posting his "95 Thesis. The resulting religious wars devestated Germany, especially the 30 Years War. Luthernism is the primary Protestant denomination. There is, however, a very sunstantial Catholic minority, especially in southern Germany. Boys of course dress up to go to church. Often new suits are bought for First Communion and Confirmation. In southern Germany, but mostlty Austria, there is also Firmung. Boys wear a variety of dress outfits for relious events ceremonies associated with formal religious events. Cathiloic boys often have special suits for first communion or seerve as altar boys. Protestant boys may get new suits for communion or confirmation. Boys may also have costumes for weddings, serving either as the ring bearer or ushers.

School

Germany has been a world leader in education and today operates one of the world's outstanding edicational system. The German educatuon system dates from the middle ages. With the exception of the NAZI era when the education system deteriirated severely, the country has cobnstantly been at the forefront of European educational development. German schools have never required school uniforms as in Britain and other European countries. Even during the height of the military's popularity in Imperial Germany or the NAZI years, there was no great interest in uniforms for school children--a fact some observers find curious. A specific school uniform seems to be more an Anglo-Saxon/Brtitish Empire institution. As a result, there is no traditional German schoolboy dress as is the case of British schoolboy caps and blazers or Italian and French schoolboy smocks. Two different school systems developed in Germany after the war, a democraric sysrem in the the Russian occupation zone and a democratic system in the American, English, and French zones. Post war Germans have been especially ill-disposed toward school uniforms. Some parents, faced with rising school discipline problems are beginning to reevaluate their long-held opinions on school uniform. The two post-war systems were merged after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unificatio of Germany in 1989-90.

Sports

Many of our modern team sports are largely English creation. The French court also palyed a major role in the early development of several sports. We have little information on sports in Germany before the 20th century. Nor do German schools appaer to have played an important role in the development of sport as was tghe case in Ehgland and America. Rather sports or athletic cluns appear to have been important in Germany and continue to be so today. One sport in the 20th century has dominated the interest of German boys--football (soccer).

Summer Camp

We believe that summer camps in Germany were primarily organized by youth groups. There may have been some private camps, but we have no information on these at this time. We note images of German boys at camp which we think were taken before World War I. We are not sure what type of camps they were. The boys mostly appear to be wearing kneepants. They are at a camp with substantial facilities. After the NAZI take over in 1933, the camps were all seized by the Hitler Youth. The NAZIs made summer camping a universal experience for nearly all German youth, regardless of their ability to pay. Summer camps were an important part of their program to mold the minds of a generaltion of German youth. Only Hitler Youth members could participate, but this came to mean virtually all healthy Aryan children. Jewish children were excluded and the summer camps that Jewish youth organizations owned were seized by the Hitler Youth without compensation. While we do not have information on summer camps in general, we have developed ome information on Hitler Youth summer camps.

Toys

Perhaps no country is more associated with toys than Germany, at least before World War II. The photographic record prpvides a great deal of information about German toys. Especially helpful are all the Christmas tree photographs. Less common are birthday photographs.Christmas is the most important German holiday and a portrait of the children with all theior loot under the Christmas tree was a family tradition. German companies were renowned for teddy bears, dolls, trains and much more. German was known for stuffed animals, especially teddy bears, but there were many other animals as well. Pull toys were also popular. A good example is a little German boy's friends about 1930. Mechanical and electric trains were a particularly popular toy for German boys.

Vacation and Tourism

The history of tourism in Germany begins with the grand tours that the wealthy began to take in the late-18th century. Those participating in the grand tour sought out cities with notable attractions as well as senic landscpes. Dresden, Munich, Weimar and Berlin became major stops on a European Grand tour. This was disrupted by the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic Wars. After the Napoleonic Wars, especially by mid-centuty, Germany began to be transformed by the industrial revolution and railroads. Spas and resorts located along the North and Baltic Seas andas well as the senic Rhine valley began to develoop as populr tourist sites. The ailroads mean that these sites could easily be reached in a short, inexpensive trip. This mean ghat the middle-class for the first time could have a vacation and visit tourist sites. In Britain, even the working-class could enjoy trips to beach resports. We zare less sure to what extent that tourism was available to the German working class. After World War I, the NAZIs gave considerable attention go developing tourism and making it available go a broader spectram of society than ever before. Hitler signed a law creating the Reich Committee for Tourism (June 23, 1933). It was establishished in the Ministry of Propaganda. Tourism had a range of attractions for National Socialism. There were many interesting historical sites and Hitler and other leading NAZIs had a sense of hidtory. There was also a mystical attachment with the countryside. And it could be provide workers an enjoyable experience without drawing significant resources from the rearmament program. In fact, it was seen as rejuvenating workers for renewed work in the war plants. [Semmens] The major promotion occurred through Dr. Robert Ley's Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labor Front--DAF). The program was Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy organisation--KdF). Tourism collapsed during the War and earky post-Wr era. This changed with the German Economic Miracle which by the 1950s rapidly brought prosperity to German workers as well as the middle-class. At first yhis meant tourism within Germany. By the 1960s, German tourist began to venture abroad, at first to Italy. Cheap air fares enabled trips to sunny spots like Spain.

Work

German boys in the medieval era mostly worked on fedual estates. Very few boys received a formal education. As in the rest of Europe, some boys worked as aprentices under the guilds which became an major institution in economic and social life. We do not yet have information specifically on German apprentices, although some information is available on guild appretices in general. After the decline of the guilds, boys continued to work as aprentices, although the arrangments were less regulated. Other boys were sold into indentured servitude. With the advent of the industrial revolution, many German boys as elsewhere in Europe worked in the factories that appeared in the growing cities. Their maegre earnings were often required to support the family. The conditions were described by Dickens and other English authors. Presumanly German authors also addressed the topic of child labor and urban slum life, but I am not familiar with the German literature. One nstitution that seems uniquely German is the Schwabenkinder. This began before the industrial revolution, but continued into the 20th century.

Youth Organizations

The first German youth group was the Wandervogel. Scouting also became popular, although its association with England was not an advantage in England. After World War I, the Wanndervogel splintered into many different groups. Competing political parties also organized their own youth groups. The Hitler Youth was one such group, organized by the SA as the NAZI youth movement. The NAZIs abolished or absorbed all youth groups after taking power in 1933. Scout was reorganized after the NAZI's defeat in 1945. The Wandervogel is also taday a popular youth movement, active all over Germany.

Sources

Semmens, Kristin. Seeing Hitler's Germany: Tourism in the Third Reich (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).







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Created: November 4, 2002
Last updated: 7:38 AM 11/22/2011