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1936 Nazi Olympics

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The 1936 Olympics have become a mere footnote in history, remembered mostly for the heroics of Jesse Owens. The events that followed in Germany, namely the Holocaust and World War II overshadowed the Berlin games. However, it is very important to note that a world gathering like the Olympics could take place in a country that was in the process of eliminating an entire race of people. These games were used by the Nazis as a huge propaganda effort for Germany to show to the rest of the world that they had again become a powerful nation under the leader of the Adolf Hitler. The games were a huge success in this regard, the Nazi regime was able to fool and world and prove to Germany that they were everything the Nazi had said. But did the Olympic Games have any effect on the chain of events that led up the Holocaust and World War II?

Germans became quite obsessed with sport in the 1870's following the end of the Napoleonic wars in Europe. Friedrich Ludwig Jahn popularized gymnastics which became a staple of the German education system. At this time gymnastics was not the sport we think of today, but instead more of a show of mass strength and to promote national unity in the newly formed Germany at the end of the nineteenth century. These ideas were very popular and every German youth was required to participate in them as part of their education.

Along with promoting sporting programs in school, the Germans played a major role in the reinstatement of the Olympics. Men like Jahn and Ernest Curtius went around the country giving speeches on the subject. The goal was to create a powerful state like the old Greeks, and the holding of annual athletic Olympics was a big part of this idea. With the help of the Germans as well as many other European nations the Olympics were reinstated in 1896, with the first Olympics being held in Athens Greece.

The Germans waited patiently and were extremely happy when they were awarded the With Olympiad, scheduled to take place in Berlin in 1916. By the time 1916 arrived most of Europe was involved in the "Great War" which was entirely blamed on Germany and these games were canceled to the great disappointed of the German sports officials. During the next three Olympics: Paris in Belgium in 1920, Paris in 1924, and Amsterdam in 1928 the Germans were not even invited to compete. During this time Germany's sports program was almost non existent, the only countries they competed with were there World War One allies and this was only sparingly.

During this time the Weimar Republic was beginning to rebuild itself in the eyes of the world and the International Olympic Committee met in 1933 to decide who would be granted the 1936 games they only had two proposals one from Spain and one from Germany. At this time most of the world was mired in a deep depression and Germany was more confident about their economic situation that the rest of the world because many of the National Socialists plans were working. The main reason the Germans were awarded the games was because they already had most of the buildings and equipment built from their preparations for the 1916 Olympics. The IOC was confident that the Germans would be able to put on the games financially.

Just months after the games were awarded to Berlin Hitler and the Nazi party began there astonishing political ascent in Germany. In July, just two months after the IOC met the Nazi party becomes the largest party in the Reichstag. In January of the following year Hitler is named Chancellor of Germany denoting him as the leader of the largest party in the Reichstag. On February 27th, 1933 just a month after he becomes Chancellor the Reichstag burns down. In March he gets congress to pass the enabling acts which suspends the Weimar Constitution and the personal liberties it guaranteed for four years. This set the table for his dictatorship, which he gained on August 3rd 1936 when President Hindenburg dies.

Anti-Semitism was rising in Germany even before the death of Hindenburg. Jewish people were already having there houses, apartments and Cenogouges ransacked. Anti-Jewish publication like "Der Sturmer" were very popular throughout Germany and Nazi propaganda from Joseph Goebbels calling for the mistreatment of Jews was prevalent. When Hitler became dictator the anti-Semitism was escalated by the Nazi's, Jews had their citizenship taken away from them when the Nuremberg laws were passed on November, 1935. These laws said that"a Reich citizen is only that subject of German or kindred blood who proves by his conduct that he is willing and suited loyally to serve the German People and the Reich." This law took the civil liberties away from many Jews in German, including athletes.

After the enacting of the Nuremberg the Reichsportfuhrer, Captain Hans von Tschammer und Osten gave this order to all German athletic clubs and associations. "Anyone who sets himself up as a defender of Jewry no longer has any place in our associations. Every personal contact with Jews is to be avoided. There is absolutely nothing for any Jew in German men's associations. Let us take as our example the heroic struggle that Julius Streicher, the Gauleiter of Franconia, has been waging for many years against the Jews. We too, with our societies, must help him on to final victory. It is the obvious duty of our associations to give the defense movement against Jewry our energetic support."

As a result of this statement no Jewish people or Mischlings were allowed to compete on German sports teams. This led to the dumping of some very good talent. Alex Natan, Germany's fastest sprinter defected to Great Britain. Dr. Daniel Prenn, Germany's best tennis player was kicked off of their Davis Cup team by the German Lawn Tennis Association when they announced that no "non Aryans" would be allowed to compete. The most celebrated example of Jewish discrimination was against Helene Mayer who was born to a Christian Mother and a Jewish father, making her a Mischling under the Nuremberg. Mrs. Mayer was the most famous female fencer in the world, when she was expelled from her fencing club and told she would not be allowed to compete in the upcoming Olympics.

Even though there was a lot of racial violence going on in Germany, there was no serious moral outcry for a boycott from most of the nations. Tentative movements for boycotting the Berlin games occurred in Sweden, The Netherlands, and Czechoslovakia. In the end though the only country to boycott the games was Ireland. In Great Britain Walter Maclennon wrote a pamphlet called "Under the heel of Hitler: The Dictatorship over sport in Nazi German", in which he called for protests against the nazification of German Sport. Maclennon was right



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