German sauna culture and how it almost ruined it all: A series

Since we are actually moving to HEL during the next weeks, updates on the blog will be irregular. Follow us on Instagram to see updates on what we are doing in the stories. But to give you something fun here as well, here's the promised post - or even, series of posts - on German sauna culture.


This is the story how Germans arguably became the second most sauna-loving country behind the Finns, but managed to ruin sauna in the process. This mostly has to do with the insane desire of Germans to make everything they do very serious business. Even fun things have to be organized and ritualized into a standardized process optimized for the generation of maximum joy. Which goes as well as you can probably imagine.


But with sauna, there’s a dark backstory to it. Because the reason that Germans love sauna so much lies in the darkest chapter of German history. So, if you are asking yourself “Will even sauna forever be ruined by dragging Hitler into it?” then the answer is a clear “yes”. The run-up to the second world war was defined by an insane amount of conflicting treaties and backstabbing worth of George R.R. Martin: After Hitler signed over Finland to the Soviets in the Hitler-Stalin-Pact, the Red Army attacked Finland during the Winter War as agreed, and while Finland kept it’s independence, it lost a lot of territory to Russia. But then Germany attacked the Soviets themselves and allied with the very Finns they just a few months earlier handed to the Reds on a silver platter. With German support, Finland first re-gained the lost territory, but then got pushed back during a counter-offensive. This continuation war ended with a truce which saw Finland not only lose even more territory, but also join forces with the Soviets to kick the Nazis out of Finland for good in the Lapland war. Got it? Well, you don’t have to understand all the side-switching and backstabbing. In the end, Benioff & Weiss will ruin it for you anyways.

A finnish soldier firing up the sauna at Pieni Karmanlampi during WW2 - Pic from SA Kuva, the Finnish Wartime Photography Archive

Back to sauna - Finns being Finns, they not only had mobile tent saunas for their soldiers, but even built-in saunas in the bunkers of World War II. And fighting a war in Nordic winter, Nazi soldiers quickly saw the light and even after their Finnish allies turned on them brought sauna home to Germany with them. Maybe, just maybe, being introduced by Nazi soldiers partly explains why there are even more rules on correct saunaing in Germany than for other leisure activities.


This is a four-part series of articles, in no particular order, on some of the things that make German sauna so awful.

  1. The Aufguss ritual

  2. Background music and hand clapping

  3. Silence!

  4. Themed Saunas

New parts will be published whenever we get to it.