My attention was drawn by the fact, it is around 600.000 different associations existing in Germany. So, there were 86.000 associations 1960, but ongoing growth hit the 598.000 2015. You can find a Verein for almost everything in Germany and some would even say you are not a real German if you are not a member of at least one. By the way, for newcomers to Germany joining a Verein can be a great opportunity to get to know locals, it can help you establish your first group of German friends.
The history of associations establishment started long time ago. The word «Verein» appeared in the German dictionary since 1774. The first associations were established for language learning and reading.
Later on appeared Work-associations (Arbeitsvereine), fighting for better work conditions. The boom of establishing of associations started in the middle of the 19th century. The base for it was ongoing industrialization and urbanization. The associations took over public tasks that the state did not fulfill at the time. The charities, such as Caritas, Diakonie and the German Red Cross were established that period. At the National Socialism time for keeping associations alive were highly important they are corresponded with the ideology of the national socialists. After the second world war development of associations were different in West and East Germany. While the associations movement was free in the FRG, there were officially no associations in the former GDR - except for sports.
How many members do you think must be in an association to be officially recognized? «Three germans - an association» so was it in the 19th century. Nowadays it is necessary to have at least seven members in association to register it. Quite interesting, the associations normally get founding from sponsors or exists on membership's fees.
One of the biggest associations in Germany is ADAC (Allgemeine Deutsche Automobilclub). Being established in 1903 it has now 16 millions members. The oldest one is "Patriotische Gesellschaft Hamburg», established 1765. Nowadays the assortion deals with almost every area that matters in the city. Instead of dealing with normal management tasks such as budgets, production numbers or computer problems, company executives go to a social institution for a week. For example, they take care of people with disabilities, accompany homeless people to social services, do homework with underage refugees, etc.
However the associations have a lot of advantages as well as disadvantages. «Although clubs create a sense of community and people join them to pursue common interests, they can have negative aspects as well. Two-thirds of German clubs say that their members have a similar cultural background. This suggests that people with multicultural backgrounds rarely join clubs. While clubs can support integration, they can also lead to the formation of groups within a society.» - explains Angela Stirken, project manager for the exhibition "Mein Verein" (My Club) in The Haus der Geschichte historical museum in Bonn.