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Wandervogel is the name adopted by a popular movement of German youth groups from 1896 onward. The name can be translated as rambling, hiking, or wandering bird (differing in meaning from "Zugvogel" or migratory bird) and the ethos is to shake off the restrictions of society and get back to nature and freedom. Soon the groups split and they originated ever more organisations, which still all called themselves Wandervogel, but were organisationally independent. Nonetheless the feeling was still of being a common movement, but split into several branches.
The Wandervogel movement was officially established on 4 November 1901 by Karl Fischer, a former pupil of Herman Hoffmann Fölkersamb, who had formed a study circle at the boys' Berlin-Steglitz grammar school where he was teaching in 1895. The Wandervogel soon became the pre-eminent German youth movement. It was a back-to-nature youth organization emphasizing freedom, self-responsibility, and the spirit of adventure, and took a nationalistic approach, stressing Germany's Teutonic roots.
After World War I, the leaders returned disillusioned from the war. The same was true for leaders of German Scouting. So both movements started to influence each other heavily in Germany. From the Wandervogel came a stronger culture of hiking, adventure, bigger tours to farther places, romanticism and a younger leadership structure. Scouting brought uniforms, flags, more organization, more camps, and a clearer ideology. There was also an educationalist influence from Gustav Wyneken.
They had been around for more than a quarter of a century before National Socialists began to see an opportunity to utilize some methods and symbols of the German Youth Movement and incorporate it in the Hitler Youth.
This movement was very influential at that time. Its members were romantic and prepared to sacrifice a lot for their ideals. That is why there are many to be found on both sides in the Third Reich. Some of the Wandervogel groups had Jewish members; Jewish youth and adults had their own Wandervogel group called "Blau-Weiss" ("blue-white"), and this eventually became a Zionist youth movement; other Jewish scouting movements such as Hashomer Hatzair were influenced by the Wandervogel. Other groups within the movement were anti-semitic or close to the Nazi government. Therefore, one can later find prominent members subscribing to the Third Reich and other prominent members resisting it.
From 1933 the Nazis outlawed the Wandervogel, German Scouting, the Jungenschaft, and the Bündische Jugend, along with most youth groups independent of the Hitler Youth. Only Church-affiliated groups survived, lasting until almost 1936.
Before World War II, in a context of cordial relations with Germany, and in an effort to promote healthy activities for young people throughout the country, Japan's Ministry of education launched the movement among Japanese universities, calling it the Health Promotion Wandervogel Association (奨健会ワンダーフォーゲル部 Shōkenkai Wandāfōgeru-bu). The first WanderVogel student club was created in 1935 in Rikkyo University. It then spread to Keio University and Meiji University, and from 1937 on to several other universities around the country, especially after World War II, in the context of high economic growth and popularization of mountaineering.
The Wandervogel movement was refounded after World War II and exists in Germany to this day with around 5,000 members in many different associations, as well as in neighboring countries.
Some authors have seen the ethos and activities of the Wandervogel as an influence on later social movements, in particular the hippie movement which developed in the United States during the 1960s.
- German Nationalist Youth Groups: Wandervogel
- Priepke, Manfred (1960). Die evangelische Jugend im Dritten Reich 1933–1936. Norddeutsche Verlagsanstalt. pp. 187–189.
- Gordon Kennedy & Kody Ryan, Hippie Roots & The Perennial Subculture, excerpt from Children of the Sun; A Pictorial Anthology From Germany To California, 1883-1949, 1998 Archived 2007-08-30 at the Wayback Machine. ISBN 0-9668898-0-0
- Wandervogel adventures (commercial site)
- Howard Paul Becker. German Youth: Bond or Free. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946. Detailed history and sociology of the various aspects of the youth movement. Remarkable for the times, the discussion of homoeroticism and homosexuality within some of these groups is non-judgmental. OCLC 2083809 In 1998, Routledge reprinted this work as Volume 8 of its International Library of Sociology and The Sociology of Youth and Adolescence series. OCLC 761549797 ISBN 978-0-415-86351-3
- Walter Laqueur. Young Germany: A History of the German Youth Movement. Transaction Pub, 1984, ISBN 0-87855-960-4.
- Jon Savage. Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture. Viking, 2007, ISBN 978-0-670-03837-4
- Peter D. Stachura. The German Youth Movement, 1900-1945: An Interpretative and Documentary History. St. Martin’s Press, 1981, ISBN 0-312-32624-6
- John Alexander Williams. Turning to Nature in Germany: Hiking, Nudism, and Conservation, 1900-1940. Stanford University Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8047-0015-3