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Germanmarker Burschenschaften (abbreviated B! in German; plural: B!B! ) are a special type of Studentenverbindungen (student fraternities). Burschenschaften were founded in the 19th century as associations of university students inspired by liberal and nationalistic ideas.


The Students of Jena Take to the Field in the War of Liberation, 1813 (Ferdinand Hodler, 1908-09)

Beginnings 1815–c. 1918

The first one, called Urburschenschaft (original Burschenschaft), was founded on June, 12, 1815 at Jenamarker as an association of all German university students inspired by liberal and patriotic ideas. Its original colors were red-black-red with a golden oak leaves cluster, which might be based on the uniform of the Lützow Free Corps, being a corps of volunteer soldiers during the War of Liberation against Napoleonic occupation of Germany. The colors were the basis of the German national colors black-red-gold. Even today, these colors are worn by many Burschenschaften.

The Burschenschaften were student associations that engaged in numerous social functions. However, their most important goal was to foster loyalty to the concept of a united German national state as well as strong engagement for freedom, rights, and democracy. Quite often Burschenschaften decided to stress the nationalist or the liberal ideas, leading by time to the exclusion of Jews, being considered to be un-German. Nevertheless, all Burschenschaften were banned as revolutionary by Klemens Wenzel von Metternich of Austriamarker when he issued the reactionary Carlsbad Decrees in 1819.

Many Burschenschafter took part in the Hambacher Fest in 1832 and the democratic Revolution in 1848/49. After this revolution had been suppressed, plenty of leading Burschenschafter, such as Friedrich Hecker and Carl Schurz, went abroad. After the foundation of the German Empire in 1871, the Burschenschaften movement faced a severe crisis, as one major goal had been achieved to some extent: German unification. In the 1880s, a renaissance movement, the Reformburschenschaften, led by the ideas of Küster, arose and many new B!B! were founded.


In 1939, all Burschenschaften were dissolved by the Nazi government or transformed and fused with other Studentenverbindungen into so-called Kameradschaften (comradeships). Both some Nazis (e.g. Ernst Kaltenbrunner) and Nazi opponents (Karl Sack, Hermann Kaiser) were members of Burschenschaften. Theodor Herzl, an Austrian Jewish journalist who founded modern political Zionism, was also a member of a Burschenschaft.


While in communist East Germany Burschenschaften were prohibited as representatives of a bourgeois attitude to be extinguished, in West Germany most Burschenschaften were refounded in the 1950s. Some of them had to be transferred into other cities, since Germany lost great parts of its territories after the Second World War as well as many Burschenschaften from East Germany tried to find a new home. The allied victors had forbidden refounding Burschenschaften originally, but this could not be upheld in a liberal surrounding. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Burschenschaften, as many other student fraternities, underwent a crisis: a lack of new members and strong attacks by the leftist student community. In the 1990s many Burschenschaften that had left Eastern Germany in the 1940s and 1950s returned to their traditional home universities in the East.


Roughly 160 Burschenschaften still exist today and most of them are organized in the Deutsche Burschenschaft-organization (DB) in the Federal Republic of Germany and Austria or in the Neue Deutsche Burschenschaft-organization (NeueDB) founded in 1996 as a collective for liberal Burschenschaften in the Federal Republic of Germany only. While the DB still insists upon Fichte's idea of a German nation based on language, thought and culture, the NeueDB favors defining Germany as the political Germany established by the German Basic Law (constitution) in 1949 and altered by the 1990 unification. Aside from these two bigger organizations there are some smaller and non-organised Burschenschaften.Because of the German emigration into Chile in the late 19th century, there are also some Burschenschaften in Chile, organized in the BCB (Bund Chilenischer Burschenschaften), in contact with the German and Austrian organizations.Most Burschenschaften are pflichtschlagend, i.e. their members must absolve a number of Mensuren. Academic fencing is still an important part of their self-understanding as well as political education.

Former US Secretary of the Interior Carl Schurz was a famous Burschenschafter.


It is affirmed that members of Burschenschaften are often affiliated with conservative parties. Burschenschaften themselves do not tend to a single party or group of parties.

Austrian Burschenschaften are, depending on their roofing bond (especially if they are member of the Burschenschaftliche Gemeinschaft, associated with neo-Nazism and extreme right-wing ideas, in particular with the wish for a German state encompassing Austria. Members of the Burschenschaft "Olympia" were involved in bombings in Southern Tyrol in 1961, have close ties to the extreme right-wing NDP, and have invited holocaust denier David Irving to give a lecture at Olympia.

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