Turnverein (tŏrnˈfərĪn) [key], society of a type originated in Prussia by Friedrich Ludwig Jahn. The first hall of such a society was built in 1811 on the Hasenheide athletic grounds, near Berlin. The organization emphasized gymnastic exercises, but it also had important social and patriotic functions. In the beginning it was an effective instrument in organizing opposition to French domination of Germany, and it had official approval and support. Similar societies were at once organized throughout Germany. After the fall of Napoleon, the Turnverein movement began to dissolve because German governments disapproved of the Turnvereins as centers from which liberal ideas might be disseminated. The Turnvereins were supported loyally by their members, and new groups were organized in other countries, including the United States, by members who migrated to those countries. Today the word Turnverein is used in German-speaking countries to refer to any gymnasium or similar site of physical recreation. The example of the Turnvereins has encouraged organizations under other names to combine gymnastic exercises with discussion and social pleasures.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.