Brief histories of the first clubs of each geographic region
| Brief histories of the first clubs of each geographic region
Rotary Club of Hamburg, the First Club of Germany
Rotary International District
|The First Rotary Club in Germany – Hamburg
The most important events in the history of the 20th century in Germany were the two lost world wars. Their negative consequences could only be surmounted through the help of the United States. This is true for the moderation of the terms of the Versailles treaty through the Dawes and Young-plan and especially for the outstanding help by the Marshall-plan after 1948, which was essential for the West German economy miracle (Wirtschaftswunder) of the fifties and the sixties.
In this context, great importance must be attributed to the idea of Rotary. The movement originated from the United States for the mutual acquaintance of different classifications and the international understanding of all countries with a democratic society. The 75th anniversary of the founding of the first Rotary Club in Hamburg was therefore celebrated with due gratitude in October 2002. The Hamburg Rotarians were delighted, that their city was the first to bridge the divide to the United States through Rotary. In the next 18 month, this epochal initiative was followed by Frankfurt, Cologne, Munich, Stuttgart, Dresden and Berlin.
The city of Hamburg was especially suited for this role as a pacemaker, because most of the business contacts to oversea traditionally were initiated from this biggest German haven. Though in 1918 Germany’s former colonies were lost, it did not take long until successful business relations were taken up again. Many trades people, ship-owners and bankers were involved. Already in the summer of 1922 the Oversea-Club was founded, whose aim of international understanding can be compared with Rotarian principles.
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It is therefore hardly surprising, that the important persons, who founded the Rotary Club of Hamburg, already had positions in the Oversea-Club. The central figure at the beginning of Rotary in Germany, however, was Wilhelm Cuno. As early as 1918 he became general director of the important steamship line HAPAG. In 1922 he was nominated Chancellor of the Reich, but had to resign in 1923 because of a vote of no-confidence by the socialist party. He returned to lead the HAPAG company again. At the age of 51 he was elected as the first president of the Hamburg club for a two year term from 1927 to 1929. He was also the first German to speak at a Rotary world convention. (article at left) In the year 1930 he became the first governor for the by now 27 clubs in Austria and Germany.
The number of members increased from 33 at the foundation to 83 in 1931. Since 1932 the numbers decreased however because of the known political circumstances in connection with the coming to power of the National-Socialist Party (NSDAP). For the National Socialists an international movement was suspicious, especially one led from the United States. Therefore many career-orientated party members and Jewish friends had a reason or were forced to leave the club. When the German Rotary clubs dissolved voluntarily in 1937, the Hamburg club had only 39 members left. Nevertheless these members were the central nucleus of a Rotarian circle of friends during the years of war. In addition, they represented a substantial number of members when the club was readmitted on June, 7th, 1949. Today, the club has 98 members. Its partner clubs are the oldest club in Austria, Vienna, the Marseille club in France, also Hamburg’s twin city, and the Dutch club of Rotterdam, which was very helpful in readmitting the Hamburg club in 1949.
This article is the translation of a part of an article “75 Years Rotary Club Hamburg” published in the German magazine “Der Rotarier” (now “Rotary Magazin”), in September, 2002, written and compiled by Dr. Hellmut Kruse, member of the Rotary Club of Hamburg.