Hitler Begins Reclamation of Germany
One of Hitler’s goals as Chancellor of Germany was to make Germany whole again. He was determined to regain control of lands taken from Germany by the Versailles Treaty but also to bring ethnic Germans living outside the Reich back into Germany. If his plans were to have any chance of succeeding, however, it would first be necessary for Germany to re-arm. The Versailles Treaty had limited Germany to a total of 100,000 men at arms, a pitifully inadequate military force to support his ambitions. After mulling over what to do, Hitler convened a meeting with the Army’s General Staff and members of his Cabinet on March 15, 1935 and announced his decision that Germany would openly defy the military limitations set by the Versailles Treaty and re-arm. Not a single person present objected. All enthusiastically approved.
Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels held a press conference the very next day and announced to the world that the Fuhrer had decided that Germany would reintroduce military conscription and build a new Army consisting of 36 divisions, totalling 550,000 men. This was a brazen violation of the Versailles Treaty, and an open invitation for retaliation by France and Britain.
The German leaders then waited anxiously to see how Britain and France would react. Some of the more cautious generals were worried that France might attack Germany immediately. After all, France was well armed, with the largest army in Europe and Germany would have been powerless to defend itself. But nothing happened; absolutely nothing. Hitler had gambled and won!
Hitler knew that France was struggling with internal political problems and that Britain was still in the depths of the depression. Neither country, he wagered, had the stomach to take military action against him, and he turned out to be right. Hitler also had moral suasion on his side. Any sovereign country, including Germany, has an intrinsic right to the means of self defense and of defending its sovereignty. It was obvious that Germany could not do so with a military force limited to 100,000 men. In a positive light, Hitler’s decision to re-arm Germany could be seen as the “responsible” thing for a national leader to have done.
June 1935 – Hitler re-arms Germany. Here, new recruits line up for their enlistment physicals.
But Hitler was smart enough to understand that he needed to follow up his proclamation by being conciliatory. A couple of months after the conscription announcement, he spoke before the Reichstag and declared that, “Germany wants peace…None of us means to threaten anybody.” And surely, he meant it. He wanted to reclaim Germany’s lost lands, but he did not want war.
He announced before the Reichstag a thirteen-point peace program. He said that Germany would respect all other provisions of the Versailles Treaty, including the demilitarization of the Rhineland. Germany is ready, he said, to cooperate in a collective system for safeguarding European peace. He further stated that Germany was ready to conclude pacts of non-aggression with her neighbours.
This seemed to soothe the nerves of his gun-shy neighbouring countries. This method of diplomacy set a pattern which Hitler was to follow thereafter; a forceful announcement on a Saturday (Hitler’s Saturday surprises), followed by a conciliatory speech. After each such initiative, he permitted time to lapse so that everything could settle back down before making his next move. He knew what he wanted and knew what he was doing, and he played his hand very carefully.
He let a year pass before he took his next big gamble; the reoccupation of the Rhineland. Early Saturday morning on March 7, 1936, three German Army battalions crossed the bridges over the Rhine and entered the industrial heartland of Germany known as the Rhineland. This demilitarized area, the Rhineland, included all territory west of the Rhine River, stretching over to the French border, as well as a section east of the river. The Rhineland included the cities of Cologne, Dusseldorf and Bonn.
Hitler’s Foreign Minister, Constantin von Neurath, summoned the French, British and Italian ambassadors to his office at 10 A.M. the same morning and handed them a memorandum which stated that the German government had “restored the full and unrestricted sovereignty of the Reich in the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland.” This, of course, was also a violation of the Versailles Treaty.
At noon on the same day, Hitler appeared before a hastily called Reichstag assembly and announced what had happened. The totally surprised Reichstag members jumped to their feet in jubilation and began cheering wildly, with shouts of “heil” to the Fuhrer.
When they calmed down and returned to their seats, Hitler continued speaking. He said:
“First, we swear to yield to no force whatever in the restoration of the honor of our people, preferring to succumb with honor to the severest hardships rather than to capitulate. Secondly, we pledge that now, more than ever, especially for one with our Western neighbour nations…We have no territorial demands to make in Europe!…Germany will never break the peace.”
Saturday, March 7, 1935 – German troops cross a bridge over the Rhine River and enter the Rineland.
Hitler and his generals again waited nervously to see how France and Britain would react. The German troops even had orders to immediately abandon the Rhineland and cross back over the bridges if France were to attack. But, as before, nothing happened. The French and the British did nothing. The horrors of the First World War were too fresh in their memory, and the French in particular simply did not have the stomach for another war with Germany. The British did not act because most British leaders had already come around to the belief that the Versailles Treaty was unreasonable in many aspects and most of them sympathized with Hitler’s position.
This had been a tremendous gamble for Hitler because the French, with their one hundred division army could easily have overwhelmed the 30,000 lightly armed German troops now in the Rhineland, in which case Hitler could have lost everything. Hitler was later to admit:
“The 48 hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve wracking in my life. If the French had marched into the Rhineland, we would have had to withdraw with our tail between our legs…”
Several of Hitler’s generals were extremely fearful of the bold move, but his Foreign Minister, von Neurath, had calmly assured him, “You can risk it. Nothing will happen.” Hitler learned to ignore the trepidations of his generals and use his own judgment in such matters.
The German people in the Rhineland welcomed the troops with jubilation. The soldiers were met by German priests who conferred blessings upon them. Women threw flowers in their path. The people in Cologne went wild with joy. Inside Cologne’s magnificent cathedral, Cardinal Schulte lavishly praised Hitler for what he had done.
[Add. image — Hitler, Goebbels and Wagner near the radio during the Saarland vote, 1935. Our picture from left to right: Gauleiter of Munich-Upper Bavaria, Adolf Wagner, Reich Propaganda Minister Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler and the Reich Press Chief Otto Dietrich in front of the radio in Hitler’s private apartment at Prinzregentenplatz in Munich during the announcement of interim results of the Saarland vote on 13 January 1935.]
A few weeks later, on March 29th, another plebiscite was held. 99% of the registered voters went to the polls, and 98.8% voted approval of Hitler’s reoccupation of the Rhineland. Hitler had become the most popular man in Germany.
With this accomplishment securely in the bag, Hitler then went back to Berchtesgaden, his retreat in the Bavarian mountains, to relax while things calmed down, but also to ponder his next move, for he had many more moves to make in implementing his plan of irredentism for Germany.
Meanwhile, in Berlin and throughout Germany, preparations were underway to host the coming Summer Olympics. The Berlin Olympics would be a big opportunity for the Nazis to show off the new Germany they had created to people from all over the world.
The 1936 Olympics
Berlin won the bid in April 1931 to host the 1936 Olympic Games over Barcelona, its number one contender. The bid for the games had been won two years before the Nazis were elected into office in Germany. When the Nazis came to power, American Jewish organizations immediately demanded that some other venue be chosen for the games other than Berlin. The American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee staged rallies to oppose America’s participation in the games if the games were not moved out of Berlin.
[Add. image — A pedestrian pauses to read a notice announcing an upcoming public meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, December 3, to urge Americans to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympics. New York, United States, 1935.]
Avery Brundage, President of the American Olympic Committee, to his very great credit, decided, despite this pressure, that America would participate in the Games in Berlin as scheduled. International Jewry already had a propaganda campaign under way against the Nazis long before they came into office, and Brundage took the view that the attempted boycott of the Olympic Games was just another “Jewish-Communist conspiracy” against Germany, which, of course, it was. He stated that Jewish athletes were not being treated unfairly in any way by anyone. The Jews were nevertheless relentless.
[Add. image — Avery Brundage (born Sep 28, 1887) competed in the decathlon at the 1912 Olympic Games. He became president of the U.S. Olympic Association and Committee in 1929, then served as president of the International Olympic Committee (1952–72).]
The story most repeated about Hitler and the Olympic Games in Berlin, is that Hitler refused to shake the hand of the American black athlete Jesse Owens after he had won a race. This myth is widespread, and appears as fact in many journals and publications today, including, for example, in Microsoft’s Encarta Encyclopedia.
What actually happened is that Hitler personally attended the first day of the track and field competition on August 2, 1936, and personally congratulated the German athlete Hans Wollke, who was the first German to win a gold medal in the Olympics since 1896. Throughout the rest of the day, Hitler continued to receive Olympic champions, both German and non-German, in his VIP box.
The next day, August 3, the chairman of the International Olympic Committee, Comte Bailet-Latour, approached Hitler early in the morning and told him that he had violated Olympic protocol by personally congratulating each Olympic winner. Hitler duly apologized and said that he would hence forward refrain from shaking the hands of the winners.
Later in the same day, when Jesse Owens won his gold medals, Hitler did not shake his hand…or anybody else’s, during the remainder of the games.
It is, therefore, utterly false to claim that Hitler deliberately chose to snub Owens. In his autobiography, “The Jesse Owens Story,” 1970, Owens recounted how Hitler had stood up and waved to him:
“When I passed the Chancellor,” he wrote, “he arose, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticizing the man of the hour in Germany.”
During the afternoon of the first day, Hitler and his entourage left the stadium early because rain threatened. In fact, it had already begun to sprinkle. Coincidentally, the American black, Cornelius Johnson, had just barely beaten his American teammate in the high jump to win a gold medal shortly before Hitler left the stadium. The anti-German propagandists reported through the International Jewish press that Hitler had “stormed out” of the stadium in a tantrum because a black man had won an event. Hitler was much too sensitive to world opinion to have left himself open to negative publicity by any such inappropriate behavior.
But the facts would never stand in the way of a good anti-Nazi story. The Jewish owned New York Times carried on its front page, “Hitler greets all medalists except Americans,” the day after the first competitive events.
The headline on the next day’s paper read, “Hitler ignores Negro medalists.” Not by coincidence, the New York Times had earlier led the movement to boycott the Berlin games. Other newspapers picked up the story. “Hitler Snubs Jesse,” read the huge, bold headline of a black Cleveland paper, Call and Post. The Baltimore Afro-American carried the headline “‘Adolf’ Snubs U.S. Lads“. These were deliberate lies. Nothing of the kind had happened.
The Baltimore African-American newspaper, August 8, 1936.
Another story spread around about the 1936 Olympics by the anti-German press was that Owens’ victory “disproved the Nazi master race theory.” If anything, the Games supported that idea, if, in fact, such an idea even existed. Germany won 89 medals, while the United States, with two and a half times Germany’s population, won 56.
That Germany claimed to be the “master race” is another myth with no basis in fact; just more anti-German propaganda from the International Jewish press. The Nazis never made any such claim (though the Jews do claim to be God’s chosen people), and Hitler never used the term, “master race,” or anything close to it to describe the German people. Hitler used the term “Aryan” to represent all the Germanic peoples of Europe, including the British, Dutch, Swedes, Norwegians, Fins, Swiss, and all the other peoples of Europe of Germanic origin. Hitler believed that the Aryan people were culturally superior to most of the rest of mankind as manifested in all their achievements. He wrote in Mein Kampf:
“All the human culture, all the results of art, science, and technology that we see before us today, are almost exclusively the creative product of the Aryan…”
This idea was generally accepted by all Europeans at the time, and could hardly be disputed given the fact that almost all civilizational advances were accomplished by these people. The British have always considered themselves to be a superior race. The anti-German international Jewish press deliberately misinterpreted these general concepts to mean that the Germans considered themselves alone to be the “Master Race.” In fact, no such claim was ever made.
In what was to become an act of extreme irony, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, then running for re-election and concerned about the reaction of the southern states, refused to see Jesse Owens at the White House. Owens was later to remark that it was Roosevelt, not Hitler, who snubbed him.
Jesse Owens was the citizen of a country whose racism would have made Hitler blush. In Hitler’s Germany, Jesse Owens could share a bus or tram ride with white people. Treated equally in all respects before the law, he could sit in a movie theater next to whites, use public toilets, dine in restaurants, and stay in hotels without any discrimination being shown towards him. There were many things he could do in Hitler’s Germany that were forbidden at home in the United States. In the United States black athletes were required to eat separately from their white fellow athletes. If they were allowed to share the same hotel at all, which was unlikely, it would be necessary for them to use the service entrance. There were no blacks on any major league baseball team and there were no black swimmers. This was in the enlightened north. In the southern states there was no possibility of a black being allowed to participate in any sport, except to compete with other blacks. For the Jewish press to have smeared Hitler and the German people in general as “racists” was hypocritical in the extreme.
Jesse Owens evidently enjoyed his time in Hitler’s Germany immensely. In Germany he received a lot of pre-Olympic media hype and the German people idolized him.
“Once at the stadium, the mere appearance of Jesse Owens’ head from some pit below the stands would cause sections of the crowd to break out in chants of, ‘Yes-sa Ov-enss! Yes-sa Ov-enss!’” — Richard D. Mandell. “The Nazi Olympics.”
“Some mornings at the Olympic village the athletic hero of the hour was awakened by amateur photographers who flocked outside his bedroom window to click at the athlete before he could gather poise for one of his many appearances before the mobs in Berlin.” — Richard D. Mandell. “The Nazi Olympics.”
“Jesse Owens was cheered as loudly as any Aryan.” — Lawrence N. Snyder; Jesse’s coach. Saturday Evening Post, Nov. 7th, 1936.
When Jesse Owens first returned to the states, he denied that he had been snubbed by Hitler or that he had been mistreated in any way. But he learned soon enough that he could use the “snub myth” to his own advantage. In his postwar interviews, postwar public addresses, and in his “ghosted” articles and books, he began to claim that Hitler had, indeed, refused to shake his hand, and he also began to repeat the lie that Hitler “left the stadium in a tantrum” when a black athlete won a medal, because that is what people wanted to hear. As he discovered that anti-Hitler stories resonated well with American audiences, he began to exaggerate his “mistreatment” stories even further. Such exaggerations finally became the central feature of his talks as he described how emotionally torn apart he was by the “snubs” and other mistreatment by Hitler and the Nazis. The reality is that Jesse Owens was given the warmest ovation of his life by the German spectators, including Hitler.
Yet another myth still commonly believed as the result of the anti-German propaganda is that American blacks “ran away” with the gold medals during the Berlin games. It is true that Owens won four gold medals, but outside of track and field, the Germans dominated the Olympic Games of 1936 by winning more medals than all other participants combined.
These are only some of the flagrant distortions about Nazi Germany created by the International Jewish propaganda campaign. Since the victors write the historical accounts of events, Nazi Germany has been permanently smeared with these blatantly false stories.
Hitler’s “Film Expert to the National Socialist Party,” Leni Riefenstahl, made a documentary of the 1936 Olympic Games, called, “Olympia”, which nearly matched her earlier film, “Triumph of the Will”, in its propaganda value to the Third Reich. The film won many international awards.
Leni Riefenstahl shooting the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin
Germany scored a huge propaganda coup with the 1936 Olympic games, despite all efforts of the International Jewish press to denigrate it. The world was able to see firsthand “the new Germany” which had been created by Nazi rule. German hospitality won high praise from visitors from all over the world, and Adolf Hitler was seen as the man of the hour.
Despite efforts being made by international Jewry to discredit Nazi Germany in every way possible, most objective reports were favorable to Germany as a result of the Games. Frederick Birchall reported in the New York Times that the Games put Germany “back in the fold of nations,” and even made them “more human again.”
Hitler at the opening ceremony of the 1936 Olympic Games.
Berlin’s Olympic Stadium
But Jewish reporters consistently took only the most sinister interpretation of everything occurring in Germany. The Jewish journalist William Shirer, for example, regarded the:
“Berlin glitter on display for the world to see as merely hiding a menacing, racist, militaristic regime, … I’m afraid the Nazis have succeeded with their propaganda,” he wrote. “First, the Nazis have run the Games on a lavish scale never before experienced, and this has appealed to the athletes. Second, the Nazis have put up a very good front for the general visitors, especially the big businessmen.”
The most well intentioned and even the most praiseworthy activities of the Germans were seen by Shirer and other Jewish reporters only as a “front.”
The Jewish propaganda of that time was designed to smear and discredit Germany and the Nazis, not to present an accurate picture of actual events. Every event was deliberately twisted in the Jewish press to mean something it didn’t. Every word and gesture of Hitler or any Nazi was deliberately misinterpreted to cast them in the worst possible light. Sinister motives were attributed to every act and deed. When Hitler behaved in a courteous, considerate, statesmanlike manner, it was reported in the Jewish press that he was “wearing a false face,” and that he was “cynically manipulating world opinion for his own sinister purposes.”
Despite all that is now known to be true about the circumstances surrounding the 1936 Olympic Games, especially the personal conduct of Hitler himself, Jewish writers and historians continue, even to this day, to trot out the same old propaganda lies of the 1930s and 40s.
Shirley Povich, (July 15, 1905 — June 4, 1998) Jewish sports writer for the Washington Post newspaper.
A good example of this is an article written by the Jewish sports writer Shirley Povich for the Washington Post on July 6, 1996, titled, “Berlin, 1936: At the Olympics, Achievements of the Brave in a Year of Cowardice.” The article was written to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. (It is worth mentioning that the Washington Post is a Jewish owned newspaper, and was an enthusiastic participant in the international Jewish smear campaign against Germany during the 1930s and 40s. The Washington Post also participated in the effort to boycott the Berlin Olympic Games.) He begins his article by writing:
“It is about the 1936 Olympics in Berlin that Adolf Hitler turned into a sickening pageant of Nazi propaganda, supported by submissive U.S. Olympic officials and craven American track and field coaches who, like Nazi cousins, kicked their only two Jewish athletes off the 4 x 100-meter relay team. And it is about Hitler’s snub of America’s victorious black Olympians in their triumph.”
Povich’s description of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin is simply astonishing in view of what is known to be the real story about the Games today. The Nazis were defeated and destroyed in 1945, yet half a century later the preposterous Jewish anti-German propaganda campaign continues unabated.
In the article, he repeats the lie that our “own Jewish athletes were kicked off the team, in order to placate Hitler.” He also repeats the lie that Hitler snubbed Jesse Owens and the other black American athletes. He preposterously states that Hitler “already had the killing of six million Jews in mind.” He wrote that Germany did not permit German Jews to participate in the games. That was a lie. The Jewess Helene Mayer, for example, was a member of the German fencing team.
In the article, Povich accused Avery Brundage, head of U.S. Olympic Committee, of cowardice for refusing to participate in the attempted boycott of the Olympic Games. Povich claims that prominent Catholic, Protestant, as well as Jewish individuals and groups in the United States, were loudly clamoring for a boycott, as were, he says, trade unions and civic organizations. That was not true. The campaign to boycott the Olympics was a purely Jewish campaign. Catholics and Protestants had nothing to do with it, and did not support it. Trade unions did support it, but trade unions were totally dominated and controlled by Communist Jews.
Povich states in the article that Germany was humiliated by the American black athletes. In reality, Germany, at less than half of the population of the United States, won 89 medals to America’s 56.
Povich claims that two Jews were removed from the American team simply because they were Jews. Not so! The two Jews that were removed were replaced by two blacks who outperformed them.
Povich’s article was a reiteration of the blatant anti-Nazi propaganda spewed out of the Jewish controlled media during the Nazi era, without a word of truth in it. The article totally mischaracterized events as they actually occurred, yet, his version of events has become the official history of the 1936 Olympic Games, the history taught to children in school.
The Berlin Olympics
Adolf Hitler, who was not a sports fan, had been lukewarm toward the whole idea of hosting the 1936 Olympics. It had taken some effort by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels to convince him that the Olympic festivities could be exploited to advance the Nazi cause both inside and outside of Germany.
The Games had been awarded to Germany by the International Olympic Committee back in May 1931, before Hitler came to power. It was the second time the modern Olympics were scheduled to be held in Germany. The 1916 Olympics scheduled for Berlin were canceled due to World War I.
Under Goebbels’ direction, the Nazis intended to use the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin as a showcase for the “new Germany.” The Nazis also hoped to profit from the tens of thousands of souvenir-hungry tourists who would bring much needed foreign currency into the country.
The Nazi administration spent 42 million Reichmarks building an impressive 325-acre Olympics sports complex located about five miles west of Berlin. This was the same site that had been chosen for the canceled 1916 Games. The centerpiece of the new sports complex was the gigantic Olympic Stadium built of natural stone which could seat 110,000 spectators. Inside this stadium, the world’s largest, there was a special seating area built for Hitler and top Nazis.
While the ambitious Olympic construction project was underway in 1934-35, huge controversy erupted over the exclusion of Jewish athletes from Germany’s Olympic team.
The president of Germany’s Olympic Committee, Dr. Theodor Lewald, was himself ousted from this prestigious position after it was revealed his paternal grandmother was Jewish. He was replaced by a high ranking SA man named Hans von Tschammer und Osten.
Osten quickly established an Aryans-only policy in selecting Germany’s Olympic athletes. This was in keeping with numerous Nazi rules and regulations shutting out Jews from all facets of German society. Some of the Jews excluded from the Olympic team were actually world class athletes, such as tennis star Daniel Prenn and boxer Erich Seelig. They left Germany, along with other Jewish athletes, to resume their sports careers abroad. Prenn played tennis in England while Seelig moved to the United States. The Nazis also disqualified Gypsies, including Germany’s middleweight boxing champ, Johann Trollmann.
The Olympic Torch is carried along a German avenue toward the stadium in Berlin. Below: Aerial view of the massive Olympic Stadium. Below: Hitler enters for the opening ceremony accompanied by Theodor Lewald (left) and Count Baillet-Latour. Below: Germans inside the stadium salute their Führer.
The banning of non-Aryans from Germany’s Olympic team was condemned internationally as a violation of the Olympic code of equality and fair play. The Olympics were intended to be an exercise in goodwill among all nations emphasizing racial equality in the area of sports competition. The Nazis, however, had no interest in promoting racial equality and hoped instead to use the Olympics to show off Aryan athletes, whom they believed were naturally superior because of their race.
The Nazi attitude toward the coming Olympics brought international calls for a boycott of the Berlin Games along with requests to move the Games to another country. The biggest boycott controversy occurred in the United States, the country which had sent the most athletes to past Olympics and usually won the most medals.
For years now in the U.S., various Jewish and Christian leaders had been reading newspaper accounts of Nazi persecution of Jews, Christian churches, political dissidents, labor leaders and others. Throughout Germany by this time, Jewish athletes of all ages had been banned from city playgrounds and sports facilities, gymnastic organizations, physical education programs, public swimming pools, and even from horse racing. For many American critics of the Hitler regime, the banning of Jews from Germany’s Olympic team was the last straw.
The American Olympic Committee was headed by former U.S. Olympic athlete, Avery Brundage, who initially supported the idea of a boycott of the Berlin Olympics. He also sympathized with the hard-line position taken by leaders of America’s powerful Amateur Athletic Union calling for a boycott unless the Nazis allowed German Jews to fully participate.
The Nazis attempted to smooth things over by inviting Brundage to Germany and took him to see special training courses supposedly set up for use by Jews in Germany. Brundage was favorably impressed by what he saw and also by the extra-special VIP treatment he was given by the Nazis. As a result, Brundage returned to America and announced on September 26, 1934, that the American Olympic Committee officially accepted the invitation to participate in the Berlin Olympics.
The Amateur Athletic Union, however, was not so easily swayed. Its leader, Jeremiah Mahoney, declared that American participation in the Berlin Games meant nothing less than “giving American moral and financial support to the Nazi regime, which is opposed to all that Americans hold dearest.”
The outspoken Mahoney was supported in his position by various American Jewish and Christian leaders, along with liberal politicians such as New York Governor Al Smith. Forty-one college presidents also voiced their support for a boycott. In addition, America’s trade union leaders supported an Olympic boycott and also pushed for a complete economic boycott of Nazi Germany. They were strongly anti-Hitler as a result of the systematic dismemberment of Germany’s trade unions by the Nazis.
Responding to the mounting international pressure, the Nazis made a token gesture by allowing a part-Jewish athlete, Helene Mayer, back on their Olympic team. She had won a gold medal at the 1928 Games and was considered to be the world’s greatest female fencer. The Nazis also let the part-Jewish Theodor Lewald function as an “advisor” to Germany’s Olympic Organizing Committee.
Back in the U.S., Avery Brundage responded to his own critics by claiming the Olympics were meant for “athletes not politicians.” He succeeded in swaying a number of American athletes to his point of view. When the Amateur Athletic Union took its final vote on December 8, 1935, the boycott proposal was voted down by a razor-thin margin. The Americans would participate after all.
The U.S. Olympic team turned out to be its biggest ever with 312 athletes including nineteen African Americans and five Jews. The Nazis had given repeated assurances to the International Olympic Committee that black athletes would be treated well in Germany. The Nazis also reluctantly agreed to let foreign Jews participate.
However, some American Jewish athletes, including Harvard University track star Milton Green, chose to sit out the Olympics to protest Nazi anti-Semitism. Doing this meant passing up the opportunity of a lifetime in order to make a political statement. Jewish athletes from other countries also decided to sit out the Games as a protest, including star athletes from Austria, France and Canada.
In all, fifty-one countries decided to participate in the Berlin Games. This was the biggest number so far in the modern Olympic era. Germany had the largest Olympic team with 348 competitors. Soviet Russia had not participated in any of the Olympics thus far and was also absent from Berlin Games.
In mid-July 1936, the teams began arriving in Germany and were given the red-carpet treatment by their Nazi hosts with many lavish receptions held in their honor. Berliners had been repeatedly told by the Nazi administration to create a good impression by making international tourists feel welcome. The resulting over-friendliness of normally gruff Nazi Brownshirts and SS men seemed amusing to those who knew them better, such as foreign journalists stationed in Berlin.
Tourists entered a squeaky clean Berlin where all undesirable persons had been swept off the streets by police and sent to a special detention camp outside the city. Buildings everywhere were decorated with Olympic flags hung side-by-side with Nazi swastikas including all of the various facilities used for sporting competitions.
Berliners and tourists stroll about the Lustgarden at night amid a display of flags from participating nations. Below: An Olympic Flag is seen on the corner of Café Kranzler located upon the busy Unter den Linden.
The omnipresent ‘Jews Not Welcome’ signs normally seen throughout Germany were removed from hotels, restaurants and public places for the duration of the Olympics. Nazi storm troopers were also ordered to refrain from any actions against Jews. The virulent anti-Semitic newspaper published by Julius Streicher called Der Stürmer was even removed from newsstands. Interestingly, visitors wanting to talk to Jews in Berlin about their daily experiences or investigate Jewish life in Nazi Germany were required to contact the Gestapo first, after which they would be closely watched until they departed.
The opening ceremony of the XI Olympic Games was held on Saturday, August 1, 1936, inside the Olympic Stadium, which was jammed to capacity. Unfortunately, the Germans did not get the usual sunny ‘Führer weather’ which always seemed to accompany big Nazi events, but instead got a cloudy day with occasional rain showers. Hitler and his entourage, along with the Olympic officials, walked into the stadium amid a chorus of three thousand Germans singing the Deutschland Über Alles national anthem followed by the Horst Wessel Lied Nazi anthem.
Over 5,000 athletes from 51 nations then marched in according to alphabetical order, with Greece leading the whole parade and the host country, Germany, at the end. But even the opening ceremony was not without controversy – the question being whether athletes would give the Nazi salute to Hitler as they passed by his reviewing stand. There was some confusion over this issue, since the Olympic salute with right arm held out sideways from the shoulder could also be mistaken for the Hitler stiff-arm salute. Most countries gave either one or the other. Austrian athletes gave the Hitler salute. French athletes thrilled the German audience by giving the Hitler salute, although some French athletes later claimed it was the Olympic salute. The Bulgarians outdid everyone by goose-stepping past the Führer. The British and Americans chose a military style ‘eyes right’ with no arm salute.
The flag bearer of every nation was supposed to dip their country’s flag while passing by the Führer and the Olympic officials. The American flag bearer upset many Germans in the audience by ignoring this, adhering to the U.S. custom of only dipping to the President of the United States and no one else.
The magnificent Airship Hindenburg flew low over the stadium trailing the Olympic flag with its five rings representing the five participating continents. As a symbolic gesture, the Nazis allowed Olympics organizer Theodor Lewald to give the opening speech, which was followed by Hitler’s simple message: “I proclaim the Games of Berlin, celebrating the eleventh Olympiad of the modern era, to be open.” This was the only public utterance Hitler made during the Olympics.
Hitler’s opening proclamation was followed by the Olympic Hymn written by German composer Richard Strauss for the Games. The climax of the opening ceremony then occurred with arrival of the Olympic torch. It had been carried all the way from Olympia, Greece, by some three thousand separate relay runners over a twelve-day period. It was the first time in Olympic history this had been done.
Sporting competitions began the next day, Sunday, August 2nd, with the track and field events. During this week-long competition, the 100 and 200-meter sprints were won by Jesse Owens, an American track star from Ohio State University. He set new world records in both races. Owens went on to win four gold medals in all, setting a world record in the long jump and also helped set one in the 400-meter relay.
German broadcasters and journalists always referred to the African American Owens as “the Negro Owens.” The other eighteen African American athletes were referred to as “America’s Black Auxiliaries” as if they were not full-fledged team members.
Jesse Owens seen in the Long Jump. Below: Medal ceremony for the Long Jump – Owens with the Gold Medal for America; Japan the Silver and Germany the Bronze. Below: Owens about to win the 100-meter race as seen in “Olympia.”
Owens became an instant superstar in Berlin. German fans chanted his name whenever he entered the Olympic Stadium and mobbed him for autographs in the street. Hitler, however, never met him. On the first day of the track and field competition, Hitler had left the Olympic Stadium as rain threatened and darkness fell and missed greeting the three American medal winners in the high jump, two of whom were black. This upset Olympic officials and they advised Hitler that either he should receive all of the medal winners or none of them. Hitler decided to receive none of them from that point onward, including Owens.
International journalists covering the Olympics took note of this and speculated it was because Owens and his fellow African American athletes won so many track and field medals, fourteen in all. Some journalists went so far as to say their victories debunked the Nazi myth of Aryan racial superiority.
Owens later said he didn’t feel snubbed by Hitler. According to Owens, at one point during the track and field competition he glanced up at Hitler in his box seat and the Führer stood up and waved to him, and he had waved back at Hitler.
Another big news controversy erupted in America when it was revealed that the only two Jews on the U.S. track team had been dumped at the last minute from the 400-meter relay race. On the morning of the race, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller were informed by their head coach they would be replaced by Jesse Owens and Ralph Metcalfe. Glickman later speculated that Avery Brundage might have pressured the American coaches to drop the Jews to avoid upsetting Hitler. As a result, Glickman and Stoller wound up sitting in the stands watching the race which they might have easily won themselves since they were superb relay runners.
Throughout the fourteen days of athletic competition Hitler maintained a deliberately low-key presence at the Olympics. This was done to please Olympic officials who did not want him to upstage the festivities. It was also a good opportunity for the Führer to appear calm and dignified among the thousands of international observers who were watching his every move. To the surprise of his top aides Hitler became genuinely interested in the various sporting matches and took great delight in every German victory.
The XI Olympic Games concluded on Sunday, August 16, with Germany as the overall victor, capturing 89 medals. The Americans came in second with 56. The Games were preserved on film by Triumph of the Will director Leni Riefenstahl. Financed by the Nazis, she brought thirty-three camera operators to the Olympics and shot over a million feet of film. It took her eighteen months to edit Olympia into a four hour film which was released in two parts beginning in April 1938.
Remarkably, the Berlin Games saw the first-ever use of television at the Olympics, although the picture reception was not very good. At the Olympic Village, where all of the male athletes lived, a large recreation building known as Hindenburg Hall had a TV room where they could watch live competitions. Seventeen other sites around Berlin also featured TV rooms.
The Olympic Village itself received rave reviews from everyone who stayed there. The 130-acre village was constructed by the German Army under the direction of Captain Wolfgang Fuerstner. It was laid out in the shape of a map of Germany and contained 140 buildings including a post office and bank. Each of the athletes’ houses contained 13 bedrooms, with two athletes per room. There were two stewards always on duty in each house who spoke the athletes’ native language. Training facilities in the Village included a 400-meter oval track and a full-size indoor swimming pool.
Fuerstner’s Olympic Village was the finest housing ever provided to Olympic athletes up to that time. However, just before the Olympics began, Captain Fuerstner received a demotion because of his Jewish ancestry. He had to endure being second-in-command at the Village which he had brilliantly designed, while his non-Jewish successor, Lt. Col. Werner Gilsa, received the credit for his accomplishment. Two days after the Games ended, Fuerstner attended a lavish Nazi banquet held in honor of Gilsa. Afterwards, the despondent Fuerstner went back to his barracks and shot himself. The Nazis tried to cover up his suicide by giving him a full military burial, claiming he had been killed in an auto accident.
Overall, the Berlin Olympics was a big success for the Nazis. Hundreds of international journalists acknowledged that Germany had put on the most lavish and biggest Olympics ever. Many thousands of tourists also left Germany with happy memories of the courtesy extended to them by the Nazis and the German people, as well as the fantastic facilities and precise efficiency of the whole event. The Nazis had succeeded in getting what they most wanted from hosting the Olympics – respectability.
During the closing ceremonies the president of the International Olympic Committee had issued the traditional call for the next Games, requesting “the youth of every country to assemble in four years at Tokyo, there to celebrate with us the twelfth Olympic Games.”
But there would be no more Olympic Games for a dozen years. The 1940 Games scheduled for Tokyo and the 1944 Games were both canceled. Instead of competing with each other on athletic fields, the youth of many countries wound up killing each other on fields of battle in a new world war – a war Adolf Hitler was already planning.
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