German University Clothing: Drinking Clubs

Germany is also notable for the development of some of the most prestigious universities in the world. The American Ph.D. is a degree derived from the German university tradition. One of the notable development of the German universities beside their academic prestige was the development of the university drinking clubs or brotherhoods. These drinking clubs were an important part of German school life. Our knowledge of these clubs is limited. Hopfully our German readers will provide some additional insights.

University Clubs

German university clunbs are also translated variously as associations or fraternities. The members wore distinclively colored caps and ribbons. An important aspect of these clubs was sword dueling matches with other clubs. For Germam university students, these clubs were the centers of social life. Until World War I, there were few women in German universities. (An important actpect of NAZI education policy in the1930s was to get the women who had begun atending the university, out of the university.)


Each club had its own Gasthaus or beer sellar. Drinking beer was a very important part of the socalizing. Members of these clubs quaf down one beer after another. Members sang songs remembering the knights and chivalrous epics of the medieval era. Not everyone rank. Members could obtain beer dispensation for mediacal reasons--these however were rare exceptions.


For German boys, these clubs and especially the duels were an essentiantial initiation to manhood. It was not the fencing and sword fishing skills that were important here. The important aspect here was the participants demonstration of his courage and ability to stand up to an ordeal without flinching. The inevitable stitchings of the wounds after these dools was an exercize in "Selbstbeherrschung"--iron self mastery.

Individual Experiences

Accounts exists for the university club experiences of many important Germans.

Otto von Bismarck

Bismarck as a university student fought many duels. He objected to the dominant liberal views of many of the other students and priofessors. Heated debate led to most of these duels. Bismarck was a particular good fencer and had a hot temper as well. Other students began ti think twice about discussing politics with him.

Heinrich Himmler

Himmler because of his weak constitution was granted a "beer dispenstion". Himmler attempted to make up for this "weakness" as it must have been seen by songs and recitations. Here is upbrining and his fathers teachngs gave him a huge reservoir of material from which he could draw. [Padfield, p. 40.]


Padfield, Peter. Himmler: Reichsführer-SS (Henry Holt Company: New York, 1990), 656p.


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Created: September 23, 2002
Last updated: 8:32 PM 2/14/2006