Strength Through Joy

Strength Through Joy

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 Arbeiterfront" - 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. [" [,1518,494971,00.html Wellness unterm Hakenkreuz] " (German) - "Spiegel Online", Thursday 19 July 2007]


The organization had the self-declared goal of creating "a National Socialist Volksgemeinschaft" ("people's community") "and the perfection and refinement of the German people." It aimed to reach this goal by organizing tight and thoroughly structured recreational programs. Robert Ley, one of KdF's founders, quoted Hitler: cquote|"I wish that the worker be granted a sufficient holiday and that everything is done, in order to let this holiday as well all other leisure time to be truly recreational. I wish this, because I want a determined people with strong nerves, for truly great politics can only be achieved with a people that keeps its nerves."

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 would 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. ["Social Policy in the Third Reich. The Working Class and the 'National Community" - Mason, T.W., Oxford: Berg. 1993, Page 160] 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 Olympic Cup] from the IOC website.] . The movement more or less collapsed in 1939, and several projects, such as the massive Prora holiday resort, never were 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 that Donald was forced to exercise in front of.

trength Through Joy statement (2nd August, 1938)

As of August 1 (1938), the great savings programme for the People's Car 'Strength-Through-Joy' will begin. I herewith proclaim the conditions under which every working person, can acquire an automobile.

#Each German, without distinction of class, profession, or property can become the purchaser of a Volkswagen.
#The minimum weekly payment, insurance included, will be 5 marks. Regular payment of this amount will guarantee, after a period which is yet to be determined, the acquisition of a Volkswagen. The precise period will be determined upon the beginning of production.
#Application for the Volkswagen savings programme can be made at any office of the German Labour Front and of 'Strength Through Joy', where further details can also be obtained. Factories and shops can submit collective orders.

A Volkswagen for every German—let that be our aim. That is what we want to achieve. Will all of you help in that; it shall be our way of saying 'thank you' to the Führer.


External links

* [ Leisure Time - Life in Nazi Germany 1933-9] (PDF) (from the website)
* [ Kraft durch Freude] (from the private website, research on the German armed forces 1918-1945)
* [ Kraft durch Freude] at "Lebendiges Museum Online" (German)

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