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Niels Bukh
(1880 - 1950) Denmark

Niels Bukh

P.E. teacher


Niels Bukh, gymnastics school founder, developed the concept of "primitive gymnastics" to build perfect physique.

Bukh, the Danish gymnastics innovator, was perhaps the best known Dane abroad in the 1930s. From 1920 on he built imposing gymnastics schools in the small town of Ollerup on South Funen. First Niels Bukh became one of the great sons of the Danish nation; later he was branded as "un-Danish" by a wide section of the public, because, in the year of the Nazi seizure of power in Germany in 1933, he became a Nazi collaborator.

The story of Bukh became the story of the struggle waged over the symbolic meaning of his gymnastics. The lack of a fixed link between gymnastics as expression and the interpretations to which it gave rise meant that from one angle Bukh's team gymnastics could embody the democratic spirit of rural culture; but from another angle it could be seen an example of the unity of the Germanic tribe - a symbol of the "aryan race".

Bukh revolutionized the masculine aesthetics of international gymnastics. He used his gymnastic fame as a popular 'platform' from which to propogate right wing political propaganda and revolutionary ideas. The attraction of Bukh's gymnastics for several twentieth-century dictatorships lay in the discipline, stamina and strength promoted by his gymnastics system which had clear military, psychological and physiological advantages.


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