Rotary International

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Rotary International
legal form NGO
founding 1905
founder Paul Percy Harris
Seat Evanston , Illinois , USA
motto Service above self
(Eng. "Selfless service")
Action space Worldwide
Members 1,200,000

Rotary International is the umbrella organization for Rotary clubs. These are internationally widespread service clubs , to which members of various professions have come together regardless of political and religious tendencies. The clubs are also used as a social and professional network. Rotary names humanitarian service, advocacy for peace and understanding, and service in everyday life as its goals. In German-speaking countries, members call themselves Rotarians.

Term and present-day presence

The name Rotary (English for rotating, turning) originally arose from the weekly changing meeting point of the members; today it is the custom to fill most of the offices in the club every year. Founded in 1905, Rotary is the oldest and one of the largest of the service clubs. According to Rotary, there are around 1.2 million people in over 34,000 Rotary clubs in 166 countries. Germany has 1,032 Rotary clubs with a total of 53,000 Rotarians (as of May 2015).



The lawyer Paul Harris (1868-1947) founded the first Rotary Club in Chicago on February 23, 1905 with three friends, the coal merchant Sylvester Schiele , the German-American mining engineer and Freemason Gustav Löhr and the clothing manufacturer Hiram Shorey . The founding members elected Schiele as president of the club and printer Harry Ruggles as treasurer .

With the merger, Harris is said to have pursued the goal of creating a stable and diverse community of values ​​in the big city as he experienced as a child in the country, where everyone supported others according to their skills if possible. The still followed principle of a “community of professionals” applied from the beginning. Paul Harris himself was not a Freemason.

The Rotary idea found an echo in 1925 in Switzerland , where the first club was founded in Zurich, and in Austria. The first club in the German Reich was founded on October 7, 1927 in Hamburg by the Rotary Club San Francisco and chaired by former Chancellor Wilhelm Cuno . Further clubs emerged in Frankfurt am Main (founded in 1927 by the Rotary Club Chicago ), Dresden , Cologne , Munich and Stuttgart .

The history of Rotary is linked to the history of the United Nations : In 1945, 49 Rotarians participated in the drafting of the United Nations Charter , UNESCO was founded on the basis of a Rotary conference, and Rotary International is still a non-governmental organization with the United Nations United Nations official observer.

time of the nationalsocialism

Already at the beginning of the National Socialist rule in Germany some, like the Rotary Club Munich, although not all German Rotary clubs, excluded their Jewish members. Elsewhere, Jewish or otherwise undesirable members were “advised” to quit Rotary and others left Rotary or the country of their own accord. Thomas Mann , for example, was one of the “lost” members who were actually excluded . In many places, however, Rotary clubs did not have “Jews and Marxists” as members before 1933. Rotary Germany shrank from 1,700 to 1,200 members in 1933. The National Socialist leadership was suspicious of Rotary because of its international organization.

1934 was the councilor, senator, Freemasons and sole owner of Herlitz , Fritz Beindorff been elected Rotary governor.

The Rotarians at that time also included 150 Freemasons who were kept as members of the Rotary clubs after the prohibition of Freemasonry of August 17, 1935. When in 1937 there were still 115 passive and former Freemasons among the Rotarians, the National Socialists forced Beindorff to abdicate. He was replaced by the declared National Socialist and Chemnitz District President Hugo Grille .

Although international Rotarians had assured the German government that Rotary was not politically active and had no influence on government affairs, officials and NSDAP members were prohibited from membership in Rotary. Some German Rotary clubs believed they could adapt to influence the Nazi government. In a memorandum dated August 13, 1937, the governor Hugo Grille issued a declaration of submission for the clubs to the Reich Minister of the Interior, Wilhelm Frick . This included 1. the declaration of absolute loyalty to Adolf Hitler, 2. the promise not to tolerate any “Jews” in the club, 3. to fulfill all the wishes expressed by the top party leadership, 4. the request that a high party member be with the leadership of the To supervise clubs and 5. the willingness to submit all future decisions of the clubs to the Reich leadership for approval. The Reich government did not accept this offer.

Three weeks later, on September 4, 1937, the governor Hugo Grille had to dissolve the clubs with effect from October 15, 1937. This was the synchronization . In Austria the dissolution took place about a week after the annexation of Austria .

However, members of Rotary clubs were denied entry into the NSDAP because of their membership , such as August Reuss .

Warsaw Pact states

In the European states under Soviet rule - including the GDR - the clubs were banned because of their cooperation with the Masonic lodges and because of numerous other international relationships, primarily with the USA and Western countries. In 1989 the first clubs were founded in Budapest and Warsaw.

Germany since 1990

After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the Rotary Club in Dresden , originally founded in 1928, was one of the first in the new federal states to be re-established on June 17, 1990. The first new club was founded in the Saxon city ​​of Freiberg on March 24, 1990, the club in Leipzig , founded in 1929, was re-established on March 27, 1990. In the following years the number of members and with it the number of clubs increased. By 2000, the number of districts grew to 14, and in 2013 it was re-divided into 15 districts.

Rotary current


Rotary forms a globally active, socially engaged network. The 2001 Rotary Manual of Procedure describes a "global community of professionals." The Rotarians' motto is: Service above self .

“Rotary's goal is to promote the ideal of service as the foundation of business and professional life by allowing its members to:

  1. develop friendly relationships in order to be useful to others
  2. Implement high ethical standards in business and professional life, recognize the value of every useful activity, and recognize the professional activity of every Rotarian as an opportunity to serve society
  3. Realize the ideal of service in the personal, professional, and public work of every Rotarian
  4. Promote international understanding and peace through a world community of professionally successful women and men united in the ideal of service. "
- Rotary over Rotary

Have each Rotarian base their behavior on the four-question test.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it fair for everyone involved?
  3. Will it foster friendship and goodwill?
  4. Will it serve the good of all concerned?

Charitable projects


In the "battle" against poliomyelitis (polio) Rotary began in 1979 initially a five-year project to disseminate the oral vaccine . The program reached six million children in the Philippines. In 1985 Rotary International expanded the program under the name PolioPlus: All children in the world should be vaccinated against polio by Rotary's centenary in 2005. Rotary supports efforts to eradicate local polio through its global network of volunteers. Rotarians help distribute the vaccine, mobilize the population, and organize the logistics of the vaccination campaign. PolioPlus is operated in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund ( UNICEF ), the United States' health authorities (CDC) and national health departments. So far ( Template: future / in 2 yearsas of 2019) two billion children worldwide have been protected from this disease.

PolioPlus resulted in a 99 percent decrease in infections. Recent estimates suggest that Rotary will have spent $ 1.2 billion to eradicate the virus, not counting the untold hours of up to 10 million volunteers. The polio campaign benefits from a partnership Rotary International has formed with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation . The object is funding of US $ 200 million, which both sides raised in November 2007 in equal parts. In January 2009, Bill Gates announced a further $ 255 million donation to Rotary International's polio program, with the expectation that Rotary, in turn, will contribute another $ 100 million by 2012. In total, donations from both organizations from 2007 to 2012 amounted to 555 million US dollars.

Connected to this is the lid that is close to the rotary . V. based in Nuremberg , which from 2014 to 2019 collected and sold plastic screw caps , which are normally made of polypropylene (PP) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE), a type of polyethylene (PE), nationwide , with the profit went completely to the PolioPlus project. The gain of around 500 lids, which corresponds to about one kilogram, made it possible to vaccinate the oral vaccine with the polio vaccine , which cost around 50 US cents each time. The association itself is financed purely through membership fees and meets the standards of the Transparent Civil Society Initiative . From the foundation of the association in August 2014 to April 2019, over 1,105 tons of lids were collected. Since the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation tripled the amount collected, a total of more than 3,315,000 oral vaccinations could be carried out. The project will be continued outside the association at individual locations

Student exchange

Rotary International operates one of the largest non-governmental youth exchange programs. The first exchange that the Rotary network took advantage of was probably the organization of an exchange by Club Copenhagen in 1929. The Youth Exchange has been an official part of the Rotary program since about 1965 .

The exchange program is not limited to children of Rotarians; it is open to all students. The majority of participants did not come into contact with Rotary through a relative. Rotary decides who is allowed to participate and where the exchange goes, in the individual clubs and at the higher level of the districts.

In return, a Rotary club that decides to recommend a student from its district for a stay abroad must also agree to host foreign exchange students (inbound). This principle helps reduce costs for Rotary and its exchange students. The family of the student sent out (outbound) only has to bear the flight costs, insurance premiums and visa fees . On site in the host country, the exchange student is looked after by the host family, the club's youth service officer (YEO) and a contact person (counselor) chosen by the club, who takes care of the exchange student throughout the year. In some cases, however, this supervisory function is also taken over by Rotex associations. In these clubs, under the auspices of Rotary, rebounds, i.e. former exchange students, come together at the district level. Rotex associations look after the young people at events they organize themselves. This promotes communication among the exchange students and facilitates entry into existing social networks through contact persons.


In Switzerland, many Rotarians have been promoting the "MINE-EX" project, which helps mine victims in Cambodia, in close cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) since 1996 . Every year the ICRC is given 500,000 SFr. made available. In the past ten years, more than 30,000 mine victims have been fitted with prostheses and cared for in the country mentioned.

Career information

Some Rotary clubs in Germany run career and internship information. In schools, at vocational training fairs, and at their own events, Rotarians report on their professional experiences and provide internships and apprenticeships, if available.

International Rotary Music Competition

The Rotary International Music Competition for children aged 8 to 12 has been held annually in Moscow since 2002 and is organized by the Rotary Club Moscow International and is a member of the European Union of Music Competitions for Young People (EMCY).

Rotary Youth Piano Competition

Since 2006, the Rotary Club Essen-Hellweg has organized the Rotary Youth Piano Competition every year . This competition has now seen international participation among the piano competitions .



Rotary consists of local or regional clubs at the grassroots level. Around 50 to 100 clubs are grouped together to form a district, and the districts are in turn organized into 34 zones worldwide. A district is headed by the one-year governor who is a member of the country's council of governors during his term of office. This is the link between the headquarters of Rotary International and the individual clubs.

In Germany, around 53,000 members have been organized in over 1,000 clubs in 15 districts since 2013. There are three districts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein with 206 clubs and around 11,400 members.

Austria is divided into the two districts 1910 and 1920. In addition to Eastern Austria, Slovenia, Bosnia and Croatia also belonged to the earlier District 191 - now District 1910. Since July 1, 2007 Hungary has formed District 1911 and since July 1, 2011 Slovenia has formed District 1912 and Croatia has formed District 1913. After these separations, District 1910 now unites 98 clubs (84 in Austria and 14 in Bosnia-Herzegovina) with over 4400 Members. There are 65 clubs with 3,234 members in District 1920.

To achieve the goal of a “community of professionals,” Rotary strives to have as many skilled professionals as possible. For this reason, a maximum of five members of the same professional class are permitted per club. The variety of professions in clubs and their autonomy (under the constitution and bylaws of Rotary International) are, according to Rotarians, one of the main reasons for the survival and success of their organization.

Women have been welcome as members since 1989. Worldwide, in 2003, out of a total of 31,256 Rotary clubs, 21,554 were mixed clubs, representing a 69 percent share. At that time, Germany had 23 percent of clubs with women. In Switzerland and Liechtenstein at the end of February 2006, 669 of the 11,421 members were women (5.86%). More than half of all 206 clubs have female members.

Table with the inventory figures as of September 26, 2013 (CH 2016):

Area Members Clubs Districts
Germany 52,687 1,032 15th
Austria approx. 7,200 about 140 2
Switzerland approximately 12,979 217 3
worldwide approx. 1,230,000 approx. 34,400 538


A Rotary club usually meets weekly in its clubhouse to hear lectures on current topics or from a member's specialty. Every Rotarian is expected to take an active part in these lectures. If possible, members should attend at least half of all meetings. In this sense there is an obligation to be present. It is a prerequisite for solidarity in the club. Members who are very busy professionally and cannot come to every occasion can be exempted from the obligation to be present. However, a Rotarian can attend to any other Rotary club (e.g. while traveling).

For a long time women were not allowed to join. From the 1970s, individual clubs began to accept women on their own initiative. This led to the expulsion of one of these clubs from Rotary International, which went to court and obtained a decision from California courts that, based on California anti-discrimination laws, ordered the resumption of the expelled club and prohibited gender restrictions on membership. The litigation ultimately ended in 1987 with a failure by Rotary International in the US Supreme Court . In the course of this ruling, membership was generally opened to women, but there are still all-male clubs, for example in Hamburg.


Each Rotary club is free to set its own membership requirements. However, you can not join a Rotary club yourself; you have to be suggested for membership by members of the Rotary club . This is followed by an admissions process, which is usually led by an admissions committee. After a positive vote by the admission committee and the board of directors, a candidate is accepted into the club if the club members do not raise a justified objection and if he does not refuse membership himself.

This type of member recruitment ( co-optation ) creates a strong feeling of togetherness among the members. However, it can also lead to closed and cohesive groups , as the members mostly recruit their own kind and can exclude those who think differently through their own unity. However, Rotarians believe that this will bring the best talent in a region to their community.


Intercountry Committees (ICC)

Through currently 31 international country committees and a further 30 contact points ( Template: future / in 3 years2018), each with a German section, international country meetings are organized that promote mutual understanding between Rotarians from different countries and support clubs and districts in establishing contacts with clubs and districts in other countries. A particular goal is the transnational implementation of world community service projects.


Rotary Fellowships are independent, international groups that pursue a common interest. Its members are typically Rotarians, Rotarians' spouses, and Rotaractors. The common commonalities of a fellowship can be leisure activities (sport, hobbies), professional interests or special service opportunities. The focus is on having fun and experiencing Rotary across clubs. Each fellowship has a global umbrella organization and is divided into regionally formed chapters, which are often organized across national borders.


Rotaract stands for “Rotary in action”. The organization was founded by Rotary International in the 1960s to promote the development of a sense of responsibility, international spirit, and ethical principles among young people aged 18-30. It consists of individual clubs in which young people get involved and is based on the three pillars of “learning - helping - celebrating”.

Rotaract is a global community with clubs in more than 184 countries. More than 250,000 members belong to around 11,000 Rotaract clubs. In Germany there are currently over 3700 members in 184 clubs. (As of October 2018). Each Rotaract club is formed under the sponsorship of a Rotary club. The German Rotaract clubs are grouped into 15 districts, which correspond to the Rotary districts, but have no counterpart in the national borders. The clubs elect a district spokesperson annually to promote communication between the clubs and to represent the district on the Rotaract Germany Committee (RDK). The RDK still consists of eight departments and a chairman who support and inform the clubs in terms of infrastructure. In addition, several assessors, with whom the chairman determines the main topics for the year, are determined. In addition, the Rotaract and Interact representative of the German Governor's Council is automatically part of the RDK.

At the European level, the Rotaract clubs are linked through the European Rotaract Information Center (ERIC).


Interact was founded in 1962 by the World President of Rotary International in Melbourne, Florida, USA to promote personal and community engagement among youth ages twelve to eighteen. The organization consists of individual clubs in which the young people get involved. The Interact motto is also “Learn - Help - Celebrate”. Interact clubs are sponsored by Rotary clubs, providing an opportunity for youth exchange program participants to meet local members.

At the dawn of the 21st century, Interact is a global community of over 200,000 members in more than 10,700 clubs in 109 countries.

Inner wheel

Inner Wheel is an international women's association whose members are female Rotarians. It dates from the time when women were banned from Rotary, so Inner Wheel was established as a close Rotary organization for women. Inner Wheel is also available to women Rotaract members, wives and mothers of Rotaracters, and current and former Rotarians. Since 2003, associate members can also be accepted without Rotary affiliation.

International Inner Wheel is an independent women's organization and, with around 100,000 members in over 100 countries, is one of the largest in the world. The historical roots are with Rotary.


Rotex ( Red ary Ex change - ex also represents former) is an organization under the umbrella of Rotary International, which is hanging up there at the district level, and the annual student exchange of Rotary supports. One example of this is the sponsorship program in Switzerland, in which Rotex members act as sponsors for new exchange students. The association also organizes regular meetings and activities where experiences are exchanged.

The majority of Rotex members (also known as Rotexers) are former annual exchange students who have been abroad with Rotary. But there are always members who either did not participate with Rotary or did not take part in a student exchange at all. As with the Rotary student exchange program, Rotex does not require parents to be Rotarians. In fact, only a small fraction of Rotex members are related to Rotary.

Since the structure and work of individual Rotex clubs differ from district to district, there have been increased efforts in recent years to use international conferences to simplify the exchange of experience among Rotexers and to expand cross-district cooperation. The first "International Rotex Convention" was held in Bordeaux in 2012 and since then Rotex conferences have been organized every two years.


Paul Harris Fellow

Rotary International awards the Paul Harris Fellow for outstanding service . This award is available to Rotarians as well as non-Rotarians. It is the highest recognition for personalities who have made a contribution to the goals or to Rotary International.


The Rotary clubs as well as other service clubs are described by various quarters as "generally overrated" and "sometimes quite elitist".


  • Edwin A. Biedermann: Lodges, clubs and brotherhoods. Droste-Verlag Düsseldorf, 2004, ISBN 3-7700-1184-8 .
  • Sebastian Gradinger: Service Clubs - for the institutionalization of solidarity and social capital. University of Trier 2006, ISBN 3-8364-4651-0 .

Web links

Commons : Rotary International  - collection of images, videos and audio files

References and comments

  1. a b Service Clubs: Quality counts more than vitamin B. In: of November 16, 2006
  2. ^ Networks - Klüngel and Co. In: of June 21, 2007
  3. Stefanie Kaune: Rotarian Network. In: Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung , November 12, 2010, p. 17.
  4. ^ Homepage and Article 4 of the Rotary International Constitution.
  5. This is Rotary. Rotary Germany, May 12, 2014, accessed April 1, 2016 .
  6. See Wolfgang Ziegler: Rotary and the Freemasons. From brothers and friends . In: Rotary Magazin , issue 4/2004, ed. by Johann Michael Müller, Wolfgang Heinrich, et al., Hamburg 2004, p. 12f.
  7. a b Directory of Rotarians Club and Membership in the Federal Republic of Germany 2002/2003
  8. all 1928
  9. Cf. Erwin Bischof: Thomas Mann and Rotary - How the German poet fought against the barbarism of National Socialism. Interforum publishing house, Bern 2013. ISBN 978-3-9524099-0-9 .
  10. a b On the history of Rotary in the Third Reich.
  11. Waldemar R. Röhrbein : The art on the lake , in ders. (Ed.): The Maschsee in Hanover. Its origins and history , Hanover: Schlütersche Verlagsanstalt und Druckerei, 1986, ISBN 978-3-87706-046-9 and ISBN 3-87706-046-3 , pp. 66–70; here especially p. 66f.
  12. a b Wendt-Dieter Frhr. von Gemmingen: Development history of charity clubs: Charity clubs as civil society actors , Bachelor thesis, University of Salzburg, 2009.
  13. ^ Street names in Vienna since 1860 as “Political Places of Remembrance” (PDF; 4.4 MB), p. 307ff, final research project report, Vienna, July 2013
  14. a b
  16. Governor's Manual, Appendix 2, p. 18; See also The Goal of Rotary on the Rotary International website ( memento of the original from January 1, 2008 on the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  17. a b Information on PolioPlus at
  18. a b Press release of Rotary International from January 21, 2009 ( Memento of the original from September 5, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , titled "Bill Gates announces new US $ 255 million grant for ending polio" [English] . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  19. Rotary International magazine article, June 26, 2013 , regarding PolioPlus funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  20. Lid drauf eV Official website , August 22, 2020
  21. Homepage for the youth exchange program.
  22. ^ Rotary Clubs Munich Career information for students. In: Retrieved August 19, 2016 .
  23. Rotary Club Germany: Membership Numbers ( Memento of the original from September 3, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  24. Rotary International Club Member Count by Country and Geographic Area ( Memento of the original from July 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (Data as of May 31, 2012 - document content as of September 29, 2012; PDF; 59 kB) [English] . @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  25. ^ Board of Directors of Rotary International v Rotary Club of Duarte. 481 US 537. Available online at, accessed December 14, 2013.
  28. Archived copy ( memento of the original from January 26, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  29. ^ Staufenbiel Institute, advisory services for young academics: Service clubs as career accelerators , accessed on August 19, 2014.