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The Deutscher Turnerbund

The Deutscher Turnverein (Gymnastics Association), or Turnerbund (Gymnastics League) as it later called itself, was founded by Friedrich Ludwig Jahn in 1807. By 1811, he had transformed it into a political association that provided patriotic education to young men to prepare them for wars of liberation, initially to overthrow French rule. By 1845, the Association had spread to Austria and the "Turners" were enthusiastic supporters of the 1848 revolutions. Consequently it was suppressed, but allowed again in Austria in 1860. By 1869 there were a sufficient number of local associations to form an Austrian Turner Federation and join the European "confederation" of Germanic Turners as the 15th Turnkreis Deutschösterreich (the Turner Circle of German Austria). By the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the Turnerverein had built developed an extensive, well-entrenched infrastructure throughout Austria. Immediately after WWI, the Nazis infiltrated and subverted the Turner movement, using it as their primary front organization.

   By 1934, despite the dissolution of 64 branches due to their activities, they were still able to mount a coup using using the Federation Hall on Siebensterngasse street in Vienna. The coup failed and the Hall closed, but was reoccupied in March, 1938, and the Turnerbund integrated into the German Reich Federation for Physical Education. At the right is an official celebration demonstration in front the Hall on July 27, 1938. This history is reflected in the development of Turnverein and Turnerbund stamps, pins and other artifacts.

Right Click image to enlarge.

The motto on the stamp at the left can be taken to mean either that Germans can only be helped or instructed by those who are also German, or that Germans can only only be helped or instructed using the German language.
   But what sort of instruction. The center of this stamp contains the Turner Cross, which was the logo of the Turner movement, formed by four "Fs" arranged back to back and top to top. These "Fs" stand for Frisch, Fromm, Fröhlich, and Frei, which mean Fresh, Devout, Cheerful, and Free.
   The earliest versions of this logo were more cross-like, such as the pin seen here to the left.

A Selection of Turner Stamps and Labels

The small selection below is designed to illustrate the symbolism and functions commonly embodied in labels issued by Turner groups in Austria. Since the Turnverein was organized in a hierarchy of local chapters, districts, circles, and the national and international organizations, hundreds of Austrian turner groups issued thousands of such labels. Because stamp collecting was very popular when these groups operated, a large fraction of their labels have survived and, in many cases, are almost all that survives of the legacy.


A) Gymnastics Hall Building Fund, Turnverein Windischgarsten, Upper Austria.

Such halls were frequently tow or three stories high and contained indoor courts, meeting rooms, offices and storage areas. They were surrounded by fields used for sports and drill instruction. They were often used for fairs, festivals and other community events.

Individual chapters often had specialties. In this case, the label suggests Windischgarsten was proud of its fencing program.


B) Building Fund, Turnverein Fussach, in Voralberg at the westernmost tip of Austria


C) xxx


D) xxx


E) xxx


F) xxx


G) xxx


H) xxx.


I) xxx


J) xxx.


J) xxx.


K) xxx


L) xxx.


M) xxx


M) xxx


M) xxx


M) xxx.


M) xxx.


M) xxx.


M) xxx.

Last updated 01/15/2014

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©2013-2014 by Charles M. Nelson
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