Hitler's Olympics: The Story of the 1936 Nazi Games
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For two weeks in August 1936, Nazi Germany achieved an astonishing propaganda coup when it staged the Olympic Games in Berlin. Hiding their anti-Semitism and plans for territorial expansion, the Nazis exploited the Olympic ideal, dazzling visiting spectators and journalists alike with an image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany. In Hitler's Olympics, Anton Rippon tells the story of those remarkable Games, the first to overtly use the Olympic festival for political purposes. His account, which is illustrated with almost 200 rare photographs of the event, looks at how the rise of the Nazis affected German sportsmen and women in the early 1930s. And it reveals how the rest of the world allowed the Berlin Olympics to go ahead despite the knowledge that Nazi Germany was a police state.
banker and former Olympian who was asked by the IOC to canvas opinion on the Nazis’ response to inheriting the Olympic Games. (Author’s collection) Whatever his own view on the matter, a Munich banker, Karl Ritter von Halt, the 41-year-old president of the German Track and Field Federation who had represented Germany in the modern pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Games, was asked to canvas Nazi opinion. Ritter von Halt, a party member who had the ear of the Nazi hierarchy, made the enquiry
The Krupp company came up with stainless-steel torches, each 10½ins long, 6 ins in diameter and weighing 2lbs, with magnesium heads that would burn regardless of weather conditions. The torch was designed by the sculptor Walter E. Lemcke, who also designed the huge Olympic Bell. On the holder was the inscription Fackelstaffel-Lauf Olympia-Berlin 1936 (Torch Run …) with the Olympic rings and the Imperial Eagle superimposed. On the bottom part was engraved the line of the flame’s route from Olympia
joined him, although Hein, in third place, looked nervous. Yet in the final – to the accompaniment of a mighty chant ‘Hein! Hein! Hein!’ – he produced three magnificent efforts: 54.7 m; then a new Olympic record of 54.85 m; and finally a stunning 56.49 m (185 ft 4 ins) which would stand until 1952. Blask took the silver, Warngärd the bronze. In the VIP box, the Nazi leaders were beside themselves: The smile on Hitler’s face developed into a huge grin of Cheshire Cat-like proportions; Göring
the fact that one of his legs had been amputated below the knee following a tramcar accident. If there were never any realistic hopes for a German success in the swimming, down in the Dietrich Eckhart amphitheatre almost everything the host nation touched turned to gold. The Germans’ long tradition in competitive gymnastics ensured a crowd of nearly 17,000 each day; the majority of spectators – seated on stone tiers in the manner of the audience at an ancient Greek play – were rewarded with six
difficult to hold the International Olympic Committee even the tiniest bit responsible for that. They were also operating in different times. On 14 August – as the IOC and Organizing Committee enjoyed a luncheon party before going by steamer to Grünau to witness the final regatta events – there was great excitement in America’s Deep South where the great Olympian, Jesse Owens, had been born. In the town of Owensboro, Kentucky, 15,000 men, women and children held all-night parties as they waited