Fraternity Versus Studentenverbindung

German "fraternity" members of different stages and ages

American all-men fraternities, often associated with a college or university, have the reputation for service, friendship and often, partying.  Well, German fraternities, sometimes called Studentenverbindung, add sports and otherwise don’t seem to be drastically different.  Some German fraternities practice academic fencing.  This is kind of like normal fencing; however, in this type of fencing, a person cannot move and the sword may only hit your opponent’s head.  Long ago, fraternity members could be picked out of a crowd because of their head scars from this “academic” sport.  Thankfully, today the Germans don’t seem to be scarring their members, probably because it seems relatively insane to practice such a violent, possibly concussion-inducing sport.  Moreover, I would think that this practice would inhibit recruitment of new members.  Who really wants to be voluntarily hit on the head?

German academic fencers

Germans and Americans believe that the friends they make through their fraternity type organization are life-long. Although American fraternities are often associated with Greek letters, German fraternities are usually named after geographical areas or rivers like, Danubia.  There is no German hazing ritual, unless you count academic fencing (which, to me, seems like hazing and thus, should be illegal), as what is thought to happen in America.  American hazing is illegal and laws are enforced against fraternities in America caught hazing.

The first fraternities in Germany were founded nearly 200 years ago and many were forbidden during World War II, because they were thought to have Nazi association.  After the war, many of the fraternities reopened and continued their organizations.  Their links with Nazis have rightfully scarred their reputations. However, the organizations admit fault and have since attempted to make morally righteous decisions. These organizations are thriving in both the United States and Germany, as students like to find a way to make lifelong connections with other students and alumni who have the same interests and values.