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History of Die Naturfreunde

Berg frei!

Die Naturfreunde, or The Naturefriends, was founded in Vienna, Austria in 1895 by elementary schoolteacher Georg Schmiedl, blacksmith Alois Rohrauer, and law student and future president of Austria Karl Renner, at a time when the Hapsburg monarchy and other elites still controlled access to most of the Austrian mountains. Berg frei—free mountains—was their slogan.1

Die Naturfreunde founders Georg Schmiedl, Karl Renner, Alois Rohrauer

Die Naturfreunde founders Georg Schmiedl, Karl Renner, Alois Rohrauer

Stamp, Karl Renner, President of Austria50 schilling coin, Karl Renner, President of Austria

Austrian stamp and 50 schilling coin with Karl Renner, President of Austria, 1945-1950

The organization dedicated itself to providing members and their families with places to go to enjoy nature, and encouraged the study of nature related subjects. The organization soon spread throughout Europe and then the rest of the world. Many lodges and clubhouses were built, usually in forests, ski areas, or close to wilderness areas.

Today, Naturefriends International (NFI) has 600,000 members in approximately 50 member and/or partner organizations throughout the globe. NFI is a member of the Green 10, the platform of the ten largest European environmental organizations.

The organization is also known internationally as Friends of Nature, Naturfreunde (German), Les Amis de la Nature (French), Amici della Natura (Italian), La Naturamikoj (Esperanto), and Natuurvrienden or NIVON (Dutch).

Berg frei!Berg frei!

“Berg frei,” “The mountains are free,” is the slogan of the Naturefriends


1Solnit, Rebecca. Wanderlust: A History of Walking. New York: Viking Penguin, 2000. Print.