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"Born Out of Necessity"

Dresden Hygiene Film
Bundesarchiv, Courtesy of Karl Höffkes

Many German medical professionals began recommending more preventive approaches to health care during the years of the Weimar Republic. New discoveries about the links between nutrition, lifestyle, and overall health led many doctors and public health officials to place greater value on exercise, fresh air, and sunlight.1 Public health professionals in Weimar Germany urged healthy lifestyles and outdoor physical activities to counterbalance the health impacts of daily life in industrial cities.

The featured film, “Born Out of Necessity,” was produced by the Dresden Hygiene Museum in 1930—roughly three years before the Nazi Party rose to power. First established in the years before World War I, the Dresden Hygiene Museum held public exhibitions on new innovations in medical science, public health, and theories of eugenics, or “racial hygiene.”2 These medical and cultural trends heavily influenced the development of Nazi ideology in the 1920s and 1930s. After the Nazi rise to power in 1933, the regime adopted a preventive approach to public health that promoted a physically active, “nature-loving lifestyle.”3

Focusing on the health risks of modern urban life, this film foreshadows several major themes that would become closely associated with Nazi public health policies. These include the importance of outdoor activities and healthy foods or campaigns against alcohol and tobacco.4 Coordinated mass exercise became a common feature of Nazi Party rallies, Nazi youth groups, and the regime’s “Strength through Joy” program, but these activities were all informed by pre-existing German traditions of gymnastics and outdoor recreation.5 “Born Out of Necessity” shows how many of the defining aspects of the Nazi regime’s public health policies were actually rooted in longstanding German traditions or the medical and cultural atmosphere of the Weimar Republic.6

 For an example of these themes in Nazi propaganda, see the Experiencing History item, "The English Disease."

For more on the connections between Weimar-era theories of "racial hygiene" and Nazi racial ideology, see the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's online exhibition, "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race."

The Nazi regime also embraced modern innovations in preventive public health, such as the widespread use of X-rays to screen for tuberculosis, cancer, and other diseases. Although the regime sponsored many mass X-ray screenings, some Nazi racial theorists and medical professionals opposed widespread X-ray use because of concerns that the radiation would have a negative effect on the genetic health of the so-called "Volksgemeinschaft" (German racial community). For more, see the Experiencing History item, Police Order on X-ray Screenings

For more on Nazi policies on food, alcohol, and tobacco, see the Experiencing History item "Nazis Hit Alcohol, Tobacco." For more information, see Robert N. Proctor, "The Campaign against Tobacco," in The Nazi War on Cancer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999): 173–247. 

For example, many youth movements in the first decades of the 1900s emphasized the value of hiking, camping, and getting back to nature. These groups included the German Wandervogel movement, the recently formed Boy Scouts, and various socialist, communist, or Zionist organizations.

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"Physical Exercise

Enough free time

But not like this—"

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Bundesarchiv, Courtesy of Karl Höffkes
Accession Number 2001.359.1
RG Number 60.3309
Source Number 2505B
Date Created
Duration 00:00:59
Time Selection 3:45–4:44
Sound Yes
Videographer / Creator
Dresden Hygiene Museum
Dresden, Germany
Moving Image Type Documentary
How to Cite Museum Materials

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