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The Truth About Youth Hostels
In August 1909, the German teacher Richard Schirrmann was caught by a violent storm during an eight-day migration with his pupils, and he found accommodation in a farmer’s barn.
While the pupils slept, Schirrmann lay awake all night.
Suddenly a thought came to him: “One would have to create places where young people and students who like to move around can get a safe and cheap overnight stay.”
He first published this idea in 1910 in an essay on “Voksschuelerherbergen” (“accommodation for primary school pupils”),
“…even the boys and girls of the common man must train a fresh cheerful movement as a counterweight to the parlor stool in the school years…how do I now imagine suitable and sufficient accommodation for a vast army of elementary school pupils?” ?… every city and almost every village has a primary school, which during the holidays almost waits with empty spaces for sleeping and canteens for moving cheerful children, two classes are enough, one for boys, one for girls. The banks are located partially above each other. This is a free area for a list of 15 beds. … each campsite consists of a taut sack and straw-stuffed pillow, 2 sheets and a blanket. . each child is stopped to return their camp site in order and neat…”
After the publication of this essay in the “Koelnische Zeitung” (Cologne newspaper), numerous monetary and material donations and offers of support came from all over Germany.
In 1912, the first youth hostel was opened at Altenia Castle in Germany
The first youth dormitory was arranged according to Schirrmann’s plans: 2 sleeping halls with 3-story beds made of solid wood, a common room, kitchen, washrooms and showers. The first manager of the hostel was Richard Schirrmann. He lived directly above the hostel rooms. In the same year, Schirrmann also published the first list of hostels with around 140 addresses.
In many of these accommodations, however, there were not even the basics of accommodation, e.g. there was nothing at all for the girls.
In 1913, there were already 301 youth hostels in towns and villages. A year later there were already 535 of them.
In 1920, the first issue of the magazine “youth hostel” appeared, and with approximately 700 addresses, the first handbook with addresses of youth hostels was published.
In the years 1924-1929, 1.5 million Reichsmarks were won in the first lottery for the benefit of youth hostels. In 1932, there were already 2,123 youth hostels in Germany. More than 4.5 million overnight stays took place. But by the end of the 1920s, more than 600 youth hostels had already been opened in other countries such as Poland, Holland, France, England and Switzerland.
On October 20, 1932, the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF) was formed in Amsterdam in the presence of land agencies from Switzerland, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, Great Britain, Ireland, France and Belgium.
Today, the Federation has its headquarters in Welwyn Garden City, near London. Richard Schirrmann was chosen as president. The working language was German.
Isabel and Monroe Smith from the USA also attended the following conference in 1933. They could open thirty youth hostels in the United States within a year. Also in 1933, the National Socialists came to power in Germany.
All political and religious youth combinations were dissolved and replaced by a system of compulsory university youth organizations under the line of “reich youth leadership”. Richard Schirrmann must step down as chairman of the German youth hostel factory.
He was impressed by the idealistic elements of the new movement and became honorary president of the Reich Federation for German Youth Hostels. A decision he would later bitterly regret.
In 1936 there was a break with the International Federation of Youth Hostels for political reasons. In 1947, after the end of the World War, 247 youth hostels were again counted in Germany with 1,158,500 overnight stays.
In the years 1949-1990, an extensive network of youth hostels also developed in the GDR. Still run as federations at first, they later became state-run youth institutions. Existing federations were dissolved. In 1960, there were the most youth hostels in the Federal Republic. More than 720 houses realized 11,300,312 overnight stays.
In 1990, after the demise of the GDR, associations of youth hostels were also established in the new states of the Federal Republic. In November, these unions joined the German Association of Youth Hostels.
Youth hostels today
There are more than 4,000 youth hostels in 65 countries worldwide, including more than 600 in Germany alone.
Youth hostels in Germany offer their guests much more than just a cheap night’s accommodation. In addition to small cozy old buildings or experiences in castles and residences, you will also find many houses in picturesque, wonderful surroundings even in big cities. More details can be found at www.smart-travel-germany.com/hostels-germany.html.
This true story was published in German by the German Youth Hostel Association and translated by Marcus Hochstadt.
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