During the heatwave, the police reported fatal swimming accidents almost daily, with 15 children under the age of 15, and 40 young people, between the ages of 16 and 24, among the victims.
The German Lifeguard Association (DLRG) – which stations 40,000 volunteer lifeguards on Germany’s beaches – has attributed the cause of deaths to a lack of swimming lessons at primary schools and the reluctance of parents to encourage their children to pass the swimming test for the bronze badge.
Refugees are at a particular risk in water, according to the DLRG, because some of them did not receive formal swimming training in their country of origin.
The German Swimming Association (DSV) warned that Germany might turn into a country of non-swimmers if the state fails to offer “systematic support” in the form of more free swimming lessons and greater access to public pools.
Around a quarter of all primary schools in Germany do not have access to a swimming pool.
“Politicians must carry out their duty and provide the necessary facilities,” said DSV Chairman Stephan Wassmuth. “This includes trained sports teachers as well as swimming pools equipped for teaching in.”
In some federal states, however, health insurance companies along with charitable foundations support parents or caregivers with swimming lessons.
German lifeguards have also connected the increasing number of child drownings this summer to neglectful parents, distracted by their mobile phones rather than keeping an eye on their child’s safety, the Guardian reported.
Nevertheless, uneven swimming training nationwide cannot, alone, explain the fact that more than 300 people died in the water.
According to expert opinion, persistently high temperatures have drawn more people than usual to Germany’s lakes, rivers, and canals. Carelessness, risk-taking, and overestimating one’s abilities increases and are the most frequent causes of swimming accidents, according to DLRG.
DSV Education Officer Axel Dietrich stated that teaching children about proper swimming technique is not enough.
“People drowned this summer because they weren’t aware of the water temperatures and currents…or because they got a cram in their leg in the middle of the lake and didn’t know what to do,” Dietrich said.