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Lene Münch | The Secret World of Fraternities

“Freedom, Honor, Fatherland” may sound old-fashioned, but this is still the motto of student fraternities in Germany. They have the reputation of being ultra-conservative or even right wing, not only because they have been around for more than 200 years, foster traditional values and are almost exclusively all-male, but also because they tend to promote German nationalist sentiment. That has led to a drastic decrease in membership. Fifty years ago, 30% of all German students belonged to similar traditional communities. Today fraternity members represent only between 2 and 3% of the total student population.

Academic fencing, drinking bouts and drinking rituals which serve as a proof of masculinity weld together the community. This is the formula for lifelong men’s friendship and everlasting loyalty. Everlasting friendship forms the body of rules and regulations. The members of a German fraternity commit formally to keep in contact with each other.

As a usual citizen you hardly cross them in the street or the universities. The fraternity members like to be among themselves. In a secret world, where discipline, self-control, traditional customs and military virtues rule the daily routine. Once you are in, you’ll never get out again. All fraternities have one aim: to make lifelong friendships with like- minded people. They want more than just an ephemeral university acquaintance. They want a community for life.

(From PRIVATE 51 - Global Report 2, p. 74-77)

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