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Thread: The 1936 Olympics in Berlin

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    Post The 1936 Olympics in Berlin

    By Liz Lampman

    On May 13, 1931, the International Olympic Committee, headed by Count Henri Baillet-Latour of Belgium, awarded the 1936 Summer Olympics to Berlin. The choice signaled Germany's return to the world community after its isolation in the aftermath of defeat in World War I.

    Two years later, Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany. German sports promoted racial superiority and physical prowess. In sculpture and in other forms, German artists idealized athletes' well-developed muscle tone and heroic strength and accentuated ostensibly Aryan facial features. Such imagery also reflected the importance the National Socialists placed on physical fitness. In April 1933, an "Germans only" policy was instituted in all German athletic organizations.

    Movements to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympics surfaced in the United States, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands. Debate over participation in the 1936 Olympics was most intense in the United States, which traditionally sent one of the largest teams to the Games. Some boycott proponents supported counter-Olympics. One of the largest was the "People's Olympiad" planned for the summer of 1936 in Barcelona, Spain. It was canceled after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, just as thousands of athletes had begun to arrive. However, once the Amateur Athletic Union of the United States voted for participation in December 1935, other countries fell in line and the boycott movement failed.

    National Socialist Germany made elaborate preparations for the August 1-16 Summer Games. A huge sports complex was constructed and Olympic flags and swastikas bedecked the monuments and houses of a festive, and very crowded Berlin. The vast Olympic stadium was completed on time and held 100,000 spectators. 150 other new Olympic buildings were completed for the event. Germany skillfully promoted the Olympics with colorful posters and magazine spreads. Athletic imagery drew a link between National Socialist Germany and ancient Greece; symbolizing the that a superior German civilization was the rightful heir of a white culture of classical antiquity.

    Forty-nine athletic teams from around the world competed in the Berlin Olympics, more than in any previous Olympics. Germany fielded the largest team with 348 athletes. The U.S. team was the second largest, with 312 members and the American Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage led the delegation. The Soviet Union did not participate in the Berlin Games.

    Germany's athletic superstar of the time was Lutz Lang - a brilliant long jumper who easily fitted into the image of a blond haired, blue eyed Nordic.

    Germany emerged victorious from the XIth Olympiad. German athletes captured the most medals, and German hospitality and organization won the praises of visitors. Most newspaper accounts echoed the New York Times report that the Games put Germans "back in the fold of nations."

    Concerted propaganda efforts continued well after the Olympics with the international release in 1938 of "Olympiad," the controversial documentary directed by German film maker and Nazi sympathizer Leni Riefenstahl. She was commissioned by the N.S.D.A.P to produce a film about the 1936 Summer Games.

    Gallery of Photographs from the 1936 Olympics


    1. Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games' Most Storied Race (Chap. 11 "The Games of the XI Olympiad: Berlin, 1936")

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    Olympic Games in Berlin 1936 - Opening Ceremony

    A beautiful video:

    Olympic games in Berlin 1936 - Opening ceremony

    "The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn't separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That's why the Olympic Flame should never die."
    – Adolf Hitler, commenting on the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games

    "German sport has only one task: to strengthen the character of the German people, imbuing it with the fighting spirit and steadfast camaraderie necessary in the struggle for its existence."
    – Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels

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