Kraft durch Freude (KdF, literally "Strength through Joy") was a large state-controlled leisure organization in the Third Reich, a part of the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront - DAF), the national German labour organization at that time. Set up as a tool to promote the advantages of National Socialism to the people, it soon became the world's largest tourism operator of the 1930s.
Another less ideological goal was to boost the German economy by stimulating the tourist industry out of its slump from the 1920s, and it was quite successful up until around the outbreak of World War II. By 1934, over two million Germans had participated on a KdF trip; by 1939 the reported numbers lay around 25 million people.
From 1933, KdF provided affordable leisure activities such as concerts, plays, libraries, day-trips and holidays. Large ships, such as the Wilhelm Gustloff, were built specially for KdF cruises. Above all, KdF was supposed to bridge the class divide by making middle-class leisure activities available to the masses.
Borrowing from the Italian fascist organization Dopolavoro ('After Work'), but extending its influence into the workplace as well, KdF rapidly developed a wide range of activities, and quickly mushroomed into one of the Third Reich's largest organizations. The official statistics showed that in 1934 2.3 million people took KdF holidays. By 1938 this figure rose to 10.3 million. By 1939, it had over 7,000 paid employees and 135,000 voluntary workers, organized into divisions covering such areas as sport, education, and tourism, with wardens in every factory and workshop employing more than twenty people.
The Nazis also sought to attract tourists from abroad, a task performed by Hermann Esser, one of the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda's secretaries. A series of multilingual and colorful brochures, titled "Deutschland", advertised Germany as a peaceful, idyllic, and progressive country, on one occasion even portraying the ministry's boss, Joseph Goebbels, grinning and hamming in an unlikely photo series of the Cologne carnival.
KdF managed to set up production of an affordable car, the Kdf-Wagen, which later became known as the Volkswagen Beetle. Buyers of the car made payments and posted stamps in a stamp-savings book, which when full would be redeemed for the car. Due to the shift to wartime production, no consumer ever received a Kdf-Wagen (although after the war, Volkswagen did give some customers a 200DM discount for their stamp-books). The Beetle factory was primarily converted to Kübelwagen (the German equivalent of the Jeep) production. What few Beetles were produced went primarily to the diplomatic corps and military officials.
KdF was awarded the Olympic Cup for the year 1939 by the International Olympic Committee. The movement more or less collapsed in 1939, and several projects, such as the massive Prora holiday resort, were never completed.
These activities were parodied in the 1942 Disney short Der Fuehrer's Face, where an overworked Donald Duck is told that it was "time for vacation", the vacation being a torn curtain depicting the Alps in front of which Donald was forced to exercise.
Strength Through Joy statement (2nd August, 1938)Edit
- Leisure Time - Life in Nazi Germany 1933-9 (PDF) (from the schoolhistory.co.uk website)
- Kraft durch Freude (from the private website feldgrau.com, research on the German armed forces 1918-1945)
- Kraft durch Freude at Lebendiges Museum Online (German)af:Kraft durch Freude
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