Many secret societies begin with the young and those in universities. One group in Germany that rose up to create a united Germany was the Burschenschaft. They were the driving force of the 1848 Revolution.
In 1815, “youth associations” began to appear during the time of post Napoleonic period in Germany. They grew in number and power during the War of Liberation. The largest Burschenscahft was founded by Carl Follen. The liberal ideas that were exhibited by these groups led to them going underground around 1819 where they became extremely secretive and guarded. They would not be seen publically until 1848 when the revolution began.
The whole purpose of the Burschenscahft was to create a unified Germany without being under the control of any other country as they had been under Napoleon. Even those within Germany considered them a radical group. They learned in their underground era to remain secret and not divulge their actions. In fact, they became so secretive that most information that the public has on them is not reliable.
Some researchers see the Burschenscahft as the birthplace of the Nazi ideals that would appear on the European stage in the 1930s. The Burschenscahft were formed to overthrow non-German rulers and create a complete Germany. The Nazi party looked to a purified Germany and race. They took the Burschenscahft ideals and narrowed the focus to form a much more dangerous and secretive group.
Today, there are some Burschenscahft that still exist but most of them can be found in Nazi organizations that still exist around the world. The power they once had has been greatly diminished. In fact, most people have never heard of them unless they are a student of German history. These groups were powerful in helping develop the Germany of the late 19th century and set the stage for the Germany of the 20th century.
Though not a major secret society of today, they were major in European history. Like many groups who were plotting governmental overthrow, they had to go secret to protect themselves and to achieve their goals.