Duelists Masochists: The Strange and Bloody Fun of 19th Century Students
Duelists Masochists: The Strange and Bloody Fun of 19th Century Students

One of the strangest German traditions, traces of which can still be found today on the faces of elderly Germans, is scale fencing. Such fights usually took place between representatives of various student fraternities, however, they differed from real duels in that their reasons were not at all enmity or quarrel, but often very far-fetched pretexts. Their main goal was the desire to assert themselves and, oddly enough, to get scars on their face. What was scale fencing like?

Menzour fencing

Menzur fencing refers to fights carried out in a confined space. The name comes from the Latin "mensura" - "measure, measurement". As a weapon in such fights, the “schläger” was used, which is a rapier with a narrow long blade. This type of fencing, which originated in the 16th century, became especially popular in the 19th century in Germany and Austria, as a form of student entertainment. The German city of Heidelberg with its oldest university was especially famous for its dueling traditions.

In the middle of the 19th century, the rules for conducting fights changed - they became more stringent. The soldiers wore leather armor that protected the chest, shoulders, neck, and their eyes were protected with glasses with a metal mesh. The swordsman's head remained open - it was she who was the target for striking.

before the duel

The distance between the duelists was carefully measured so that they could freely exchange blows without leaving the place.

During the duel, the duelists had to stand motionless opposite each other, it was forbidden to retreat and evade the body from blows. To deliver blows, it was allowed to use only the hand, which made it possible to produce only chopped blows, dangerous stabbing was excluded.

And strong chopped blows, due to the limited space between the duelists, were also difficult to inflict, so the wounds received were often shallow and did not lead to serious injuries.

Often, after the first wound, the duel ended, and the duelists, satisfied, dispersed.

Such fights served as a test of fortitude, courage and endurance. So the wounds received were often even more important than the victory. According to an unspoken tradition in the 19th century, each student during his studies had to take part in such a fight at least once. The characteristic scars from Schleggers for a long time, up to the middle of the 20th century, served as a distinctive feature of people who studied at German universities. Such marks "adorned" the faces of many German officers of the Third Reich and they were received, for the most part, not at all during the war.

SS Obergruppenführer Ernst Kaltenbrunner, SS Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny, SS Sturmbannführer Christian Tichsen

Facial scars were considered very honorable in the student environment and added credibility to their owners.

It was so prestigious to have such scars on their face that some students, who for some reason did not have them, deliberately cut their faces with a sharp razor. And so that the wound did not heal longer and the scar looked more effective, the edges of the wound were exfoliated, some even implanted horse hair into the wound …

One of the cartoons of that time showed a student expelled from the university, who lamented: ""

Although lethal outcome in such fights was practically ruled out, nevertheless, they were very dangerous. Due to the large number of injuries received by the duelists, scale fencing was banned several times. The 1895 ban did not last long, about five years, and the 1933 ban lasted 20 years. In 1953, the beaker was partially legalized, but the situation was rather paradoxical - participation in fights was punishable by a fine, but at the same time evading a challenge to a duel was considered a shame.

Although the craze for scale fencing is a thing of the past, it is still prevalent among German students today, but in a more humane form and on a much smaller scale. However, the daredevils, ready to fight the old fashioned way, have not yet died out …

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