Fascist Physical Culture in 1930s Germany

In 1930s Europe, especially in the first half of the decade, the government sponsored fitness campaigns found in fascist regimes garnered a great deal of envy. As Charlotte MacDonald detailed in her fantastic work on the subject, democratic states like Britain, France and the United States were simultaneously fearful and fascinated by the implications of fascist physical culture. Images of hundreds, and at times, thousands of male and female exercisers seemed to declare that Germany, and to a lesser extent, Italy, were strong, fit and modern nations.

The Nazi Party was deeply aware of the propaganda opportunities offered by strength (for interest parties see Michael Hau’s work here). The above video, taken from British Pathé, provides an indication of the manner in which fitness was politicised. Published just two years before the outbreak of the Second World War, the message was clear – Germany was young, strong and ready. Sadly we all know what happened next.