Skip to main content

Records of YMCA international work in Germany

Identifier: Y.USA.9-2-48


Includes correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, books, pamphlets, maps, journal and newspaper articles and other records of the YMCA movement in Germany. Much of the collection covers work that the YMCA-run World Youth Fund and the Buildings for Brotherhood Program did in Germany post-World War II. This material primarily documents building projects in western Germany, including the cities of Berlin, Braunschweig, Bremen, Bruchsal, Bundershohe, Cologne (Köln), Dortmund, Duisburg, Dusseldorf, Emden, Essen, Frankfurt, Giessen, Göppingen, Hagen, Hamburg, Hannover, Kassel, Leer, Ludwigshafen, Mainau Island, Mannheim, Mulheim, Munich, Munster, Niedersachsen, Nurnberg, Oberhausen, Oberstdorf, Rastatt, Remscheid, Stuttgart, Siegerland, Solingen, Westfalen, Wuppertal-Elberfeld and Wuppertal-Ronsdorf. Work done by the World Youth Fund also included refugee relief programs, secretary training programs, development of technical vocational schools and the development of youth hostels and villages.

A significant portion of the collection also consists of yearbooks, devotional publications, and pamphlets from the early years of the German YMCA and its predecessor organizations. This portion of the collection dates back as early as 1834. Correspondence and reports dates from as early as the 1880s and cover German YMCA history through World War I, including mention of the development of the YMCA's Paris Basis. However, the bulk of correspondence and reports range from 1947 to 1965, when the North American YMCA assisted the German YMCA with post-World War II reconstruction.

References to Friederich von Schluembach and Dr. D. Erich Stange are made throughout a large portion of the collection as the primary leaders of the German YMCA, also known as Christlicher Verein Junger Manner or CVJM, movement. The contributions of Millard Franklin Collins, Milo Walter Henke, Robert Harry Miller and Elmer Frederick Ott are mentioned as well as contributors to the post-World War II German YMCA development, and the names Karl Krummacher and G. E. Autenreith appear frequently.


  • 1834-1998.
  • Majority of material found within ( 1940s-1960s).


Language of Materials

English, German

Use of Materials:

This collection is protected by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). It is the user's responsibility to verify copyright, ownership, and to obtain all the necessary permissions prior to the reproduction, publication, or other use of any portion of these materials.


The first youth society within the German world (Juenglings Vereine) was formed in Basel, German Switzerland in 1825 by a pastor, who became its president. Nine years later based on the Basel model, Pastor Mallet founded the first Juenglings Vereine in Bremen Germany. In 1848 the Young Men's Organisation of Rhine-Westphalia (Rhenish-Westphalian Bund [of] Juenglings Vereine) was founded in Elberfield. Germany. By 1855 there were 130 Christliche Juenglings Vereine societies within Germany. In 1855 the German Christliche Juenglings Vereine joined the YMCA's first international conference, held in Paris France. The World Alliance of YMCAs was founded there and the Paris Basis, the YMCA's first mission statement, was adopted.

In the 1880s the influence of the North American movement began to emerge. In time, partly due to this influence, city associations arose with buildings and employed secretaries. A German international secretary and evangelist who had worked with the YMCA in North America, Friederich von Schluembach, founded an association in Berlin in 1883 on the principles held in North America. It was thought necessary to choose a new name of Christlicher Verein Junger Manner (CVJM) -- in English, Young Men's Christian Association -- to represent the new North American ideals. The system of Juenglings Vereine was eventually abandoned in Berlin in favor of the YMCA. Von Schluembach also visited Stuttgart and through his influence the Juenglings Vereine there, though well established, also became a YMCA. Numerically, the German YMCA was the largest in the World Alliance of YMCAs after the North American Y. The majority of the membership in the German movement remained within church groups and although sports and physical education were not ignored, the emphasis of both the city and parish YMCAs was on bible study, religious fellowship and evangelism. The German YMCAs remained distinctly German and influenced by Lutheran pietism due to their Evangelistic origin.

In 1933 the National Socialist, or Nazi, Party took over in Germany. The National Socialist Revolution was welcomed by a large portion of German citizens who were struggling in the post-war period and supported its call for national honor outside of the country and social justice within it. The National Socialist Party wanted to unite the various religious denominations into one "State Church: and the "German Christians" wanted to synchronize Protestantism with national socialistic ideas. The leaders of the National Alliance of YMCAs within Germany, unaware that Reichbishop Ludwig Muller was an ally of Adolf Hitler, sought his help against the aspirations of the National-Socialist Youth League, which wanted to monopolize the whole of German youth leadership. The German YMCA was exposed as being oppositional to the German government, though they never contested the State's right to educate the German youth in civic matters. In 1935 uniform clothing, insignias, parades, flags, banners, pennants, the running of private orchestras or bands, hiking and camping under canvas in the open, physical training and exercise all were prohibited to all "confessional" youth movements besides the National Socialist Youth movement. Dual membership to Hitler Youth and Protestant church youth groups was forbidden if it could be proven that members were dependant organizationally or financially on leaders or members of the YMCAs. In practice, every German youth had to be incorporated into the Hitler Youth. Eventually, the YMCA had to abandon youth work. YMCA members who were assisting churches in their youth work were forced to give up their membership to the Y at once as well. Starting in 1938 YMCAs in the north began to close and members of these associations were prosecuted in case they rallied in private homes. After World War II broke out, soldiers were not even permitted to visit YMCA buildings. Our YMCA Press, a monthly magazine, was restricted and in May, 1941 forbidden. Gestapo spies were inserted within all YMCA work and classes. All YMCAs remaining in the North were closed and the secretaries examined. Buildings and funds were confiscated. Air raids and bombings from Allied powers also contributed to the destruction of YMCA buildings.

Following the war, the German movement found itself in a desperate plight. Dr. D. Erich Stange, the national general secretary, was able to find only a handful of secretaries and leaders. Most of the city YMCA buildings had been destroyed and the YMCA, abolished under Hitler, had become largely a church-affiliated youth movement. The national headquarters at Kassel-Wilhelmshohe was reopened, contacts were established with regional leaders and efforts were made to rehabilitate the work. Many national YMCA movements were alerted to Germany's emergency problems by the World Alliance and responded with portable buildings, program supplies, relief materials and so on. Emergency appropriations were included in the World Youth Fund and through other sources in North America as well.

The new German movement faced enormous social problems. A massive number of refugees crossed the "Iron Curtain" into Western Germany. An addition of over ten million former residents of Eastern Germany and the eastern lands taken over by Russia, 25 percent of whom were youth, were added to West Germany. A national refugee camp service was implemented initially by the World's Alliance of YMCAs and taken over by the CVJM. Within these refugee camps a new idea called "Haus fur Alle" (House for All), a small barracks community center, was initiated. These refugee camps lined the border from Flensburg to Munich and were manned by 100 secretaries. The CVJM also operated youth villages that offered character guidance and vocational training for the 200,000 plus vagrant boys in West Germany. Many city CVJMs also operated youth homes that housed approximately 100 boys. Returning prisoners of war from Russia, more than 18,000 a month, also added to the refugee problem. The YMCA had eight homes available to those who had been held within prison camps for at least five years.

The German YMCA petitioned the International Committee for specialists available for consultation. Elmer Ott, Milo Henke and Millard Collins rendered significant service. These were short term assignments only, averaging one to two years. The North American YMCA agreed to assist the German YMCA in funding their reconstruction. Prior to 1950 a small appropriation was included in the World Youth Fund campaign towards a number of buildings and a significant grant was made to the secretaries' Fellowship Fund for physical rehabilitation. Building projects were implemented in multiple locations throughout Western Germany. By 1954 the North American International Committee had only Robert H. Miller in Germany. It was hoped that he might become a permanent counselor to the German YMCA but his wife's illness forced them back to North America. Miller continued to visit Germany and promote understanding of the German YMCA in the United States. He raised funds and maintained assistance with the German Y's continual reconstruction program. He also helped to maintain fellowship between the German and North American YMCAs.

The German YMCA initiated many reconstruction projects and grew rapidly after World War II. A West Berlin association was reintroduced and became a symbol of the western world within the eastern portion of Germany. International work was developed. The German World Service Program included Ceylon, Pakistan and multiple nations within Africa. Throughout the 1960s more women and girls began to take part in the work of the YMCA in Germany. This lead to a name change in 1985. The name Christlicher Verein Junger Manner which meant Christian Association of Young Men became instead Christlicher Verein Junger Menschen, or Christian Association of Young People. The acronym stayed the same. Youth education and social work continued on to be essential portions of the German YMCA's program. Membership remained open to anyone regardless of their sex, race, denomination or social class. As of 2010 the German YMCAs continued their operation while staying linked together in a network, regionally, nationally and internationally, offering a chance for young people to learn from each other through meetings and mutual exchanges.

The following is a list of individuals who served as YMCA secretaries in Germany along with their dates of service:

Alexander, Chester Stephen (1917-1920) Henke, Milo Walter (1948-1950)
Arnold, Merle V. (1919-1923) Miller, Robert Harry (1952-1955)
Clark, Arthur Lee (1921-1923) Ott, Elmer Frederick (1947)
Collins, Millard Franklin (1948-1950) Ramish, Timothy E. (1971-1973)
Historical information largely adapted and quoted from World Service: A History of the Foreign Work and World Service of the Young Men’s Christian Associations of the United States and Canada, (New York: Association Press, 1957) by Kenneth Scott Latourette; from CVJM,, 2010; retrieved October 18, 2012; and from the collection.


10.4 Cubic Feet (21 boxes)


Correspondence, minutes, reports, financial documents, books, pamphlets, maps, journal and newspaper articles and other records of the YMCA movement in Germany, covering World War II refugee relief programs, secretary training programs, development of technical vocational schools, and the development of youth hostels and villages as well as building projects in western Germany.

Physical Location

See Detailed Description section for box listing.

Processing Information:

Processed as part of Fast Processing Project II, April 2009, as collection FP020. Material has been minimally processed. Folder descriptions may be general and material has not been grouped into series.

Catalog Record ID number: 6677570

An Inventory of Its Records
Finding aid prepared by Lara Friedman-Shedlov and Melanie Doherty.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Collecting Area Details

Contact The Kautz Family YMCA Archives Collecting Area