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The 1936 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XI Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was held in 1936 in Berlinmarker, Germany. Berlin won the bid to host the Games over Barcelonamarker, Spain on April 26, 1931, at the 29th IOC Session in Barcelona (two years before the Nazis came to power). It marked the second and final time that the International Olympic Committeemarker would gather to vote in a city which was bidding to host those Games. The only other time this occurred was at the inaugural IOC Session in Parismarker, France, on April 24, 1894. Then, Athensmarker, Greecemarker, and Paris were chosen to host the 1896 and 1900 Games, respectively.

A stamp depicting a German football player issued on the occasion
Berlin, gate of the Olympic Stadium

Filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl, a favorite of Hitler's, was commissioned by the IOC to film the Games. Her film, entitled Olympia, introduced many of the techniques now common to the filming of sports.

By allowing only members of the Aryan race to compete for Germany, Hitler further promoted his ideological belief of racial supremacy. At the same time, the party removed signs stating "Jews not wanted" and similar slogans from the city's main tourist attractions. In an attempt to "clean up" Berlin, the German Ministry of the Interiormarker authorized the chief of police to arrest all Romani (Gypsies) and keep them in a special camp. Nazi officials ordered that foreign visitors should not be subjected to the criminal strictures of anti-homosexual laws.Total ticket revenues were 7.5 million Reichsmarks, generating a profit of over one million marks. The official budget did not include outlays by the city of Berlin (which issued an itemized report detailing its costs of 16.5 million marks) or that of the German national government (which did not make its costs public, but is estimated to have spent US$30 million, chiefly in capital outlays).

Bidding process

Only two cities - Berlinmarker and Barcelonamarker - bid for the 1936 Games.

The bidding for these Olympic Games was the first to be contested by IOC members casting their votes for their favorite host city. The vote occurred in 1931, before Hitler rose to power. Many commentators have noted the IOC's fascist leanings, which even the most generous historians characterize as "bizarre".

1936 Summer Olympics Bidding Results
City NOC Round 1
Berlinmarker Germany 43
Barcelonamarker Spain 16


The swimming venue today.

Basketball and handball made their debut at the Olympics, both as outdoor sports. Handball would not appear again on the program until 1972.

Demonstration sports

Nazi influence on and use of sporting events


Hans von Tschammer und Osten, as Reichssportführer, ie. head of the Deutscher Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (DRL), the Reich Sports Office, played a major role in the structure and organization of the Olympics. He promoted the idea that the use of sports would harden the German spirit and instill unity among German youth. At the same time he also believed that sports was a "way to weed out the weak, Jewish, and other undesirables." Many Jews and Gypsies were banned from participating in sporting events.

Von Tschammer trusted the details of the organization of the games to Theodor Lewald and Carl Diem, the former president and secretary of the Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen, the forerunner of the Reich Sports Office. Diem revealed himself as highly competent and made original innovations, like the Olympic torch relay from Athensmarker, that are still valued.

Jesse Owens

The participation of Jesse Owens was controversial because of his race, at a time when segregation and discrimination against blacks were the norm in much of the United States. Once in Berlin, Owens was able to freely use public transportation and enter bars and other public facilities without the difficulty he would face as a black man in the United States.

On reports that Hitler had deliberately avoided acknowledging his victories, and had refused to shake his hand, Owens recounted "When I passed the Chancellor 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.” He also stated "Hitler didn't snub me—it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram." While Hitler did not personally congratulate Owens, he did not in fact congratulate any athlete (including those competing for Germany) after the first day, in accordance with IOC guidelines that he should maintain Olympic neutrality. Hitler did, however, leave the Olympic Stadium just before another African-American athlete, Cornelius Johnson, was set to receive his medal. Journalist Siegfried Mischner claims Hitler did shake Owen's hand behind the honour stand and that Owens carried a photo in his wallet. Although it can not be verified as he is the only witness still living, Mischner stated that "The predominating opinion in post-war Germany was that Hitler had ignored Owens. We therefore decided not to report on the photo. The consensus was that Hitler had to continue to be painted in a bad light in relation to Owens."

However, Hitler's contempt for Owens and for those races he deemed 'inferior' arose in private, away from maintaining Olympic neutrality. As Albert Speer, Hitler's architect and later war armaments minister recollected in his memoirs Inside the Third Reich:

German crowds adored Owens, and he forged a long-term friendship with German competitor Luz Long.

Boycott debate

Prior to and during the Games, there was considerable debate outside Germany over whether the competition should be allowed or discontinued.

Boycott debate in the United States of America

Those who voiced their opinions on the debate included Americans Ernest Lee Jahncke, Judge Jeremiah Mahoney, and future IOC Presidentmarker Avery Brundage. The United States considered boycotting the Games, as to participate in the festivity might be considered a sign of support for the Nazi regime and its anti-Semitic policies. However, others argued that the Olympic Games should not reflect political views, but rather be strictly a contest of the greatest athletes.

Avery Brundage of the United States Olympic Committee opposed the boycott, stating that Jewish athletes were being treated fairly and that the Games should continue. Brundage believed that politics played no role in sports, and that they should never be entwined. He stated, “The very foundation of the modern Olympic revival will be undermined if individual countries are allowed to restrict participation by reason of class, creed, or race.” Brundage also believed that there was a “Jewish-Communist conspiracy” that existed to keep the United States out of competing in the Olympic Games.

Unlike Brundage, Jeremiah Mahoney supported a boycott of the Games. Mahoney, the president of the Amateur Athletic Union, led newspaper editors and anti-Nazi groups to protest against American participation in the Berlin Olympics. He contested that racial discrimination was a violation of Olympic rules and that participation in the Games was tantamount to support for the Third Reich.

Most African-American newspapers supported participation in the Olympics. The Philadelphia Tribune and the Chicago Defender both agreed that black victories would undermine Nazi views of Aryan supremacy and spark renewed African-American pride. American Jewish organizations, meanwhile, largely opposed the Olympics. The American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee staged rallies and supported the boycott of German goods to show their disdain for American participation.

Eventually, Brundage won the debate, manipulating the Amateur Athletic Union to close a vote in favor of sending an American team to the Berlin Olympics, winning by only two and a half votes. Mahoney’s efforts to incite a boycott of the Olympic games in the United States failed. President Roosevelt demanded the participation of U.S.A. in the Olympics, intending to keep the tradition of America being void of outside influence intact.

The 1936 Summer Olympics ultimately boasted the largest number of participating nations of any Olympics to that point. However, some individual athletes, including Jewish Americans Milton Green and Norman Canners, chose to boycott the Games.

Spanish boycott

The Spanish government led by the newly elected left-wing Popular Front boycotted the Games and organized the People's Olympiad as a parallel event in Barcelonamarker. 6,000 athletes from 22 countries registered for the games. However, the People's Olympiad was aborted because of the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War just one day before the event was due to start.


Olympic fire
Olympic Stadium

The games were the first to have live television coverage. The German Post Office, using equipment from Telefunken, broadcast over seventy hours of coverage to special viewing rooms throughout Berlin and Potsdam and a few private TV sets, transmitting from the Paul Nipkow TV Station. The Olympic Flame was used for the second time at these games, but this marked the first time it was brought to the Olympic Village by a torch relay, with the starting point in Olympia, Greecemarker.The Republic of China's Three Principles of the People was chosen as the best national anthem of the games.

The official book of the 1936 Olympics is present in many libraries containing all the signatures of Golden medals winners

United States Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage became a main supporter of the Games being held in Germany, arguing that "politics has no place in sport", despite having initial doubts. Brundage requested that a system be established to examine female athletes for what Time magazine called "sex ambiguities" after observing the performance of Czechoslovak runner and jumper Zdenka Koubkova and English shotputter and javelin thrower Mary Edith Louise Weston. (Both individuals had sex change surgery and legally changed their names, to Zdenek Koubek and Mark Weston, respectively.) . Gender verification in sports was not in place in 1936.

Politics and controversy

Despite not coming from fascist countries, French and Canadian Olympians gave what appeared to be the Hitler salute at the opening ceremony, although some have later claimed that they were just performing the Olympic salute, which was in fact a very similar action.

Gretel Bergmann, despite equaling a national record in the high jump a month before the games, was excluded from the German team because she was Jewish.

American sprinters Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman, the only two Jews on the U.S. Olympic team, were pulled from the 4 × 100 relay team on the day of the competition, leading to speculation that U.S. Olympic committee leader Avery Brundage did not want to add to the embarrassment of Hitler by having two Jews win gold medals.

Italy's football team continued their dominance, winning the gold medal in these Olympics between their two consecutive World Cup victories (1934 and 1938). Much like the successes of German athletes, this triumph was claimed by supporters of Benito Mussolini's regime as a vindication of the superiority of the fascist system. Austria won the silver; a controversial win after Hitler called for a rematch of the quarterfinals match to discount Perumarker's 4–2 win over Austriamarker. The Peruvian national Olympic team refused to play the match again and withdrew from the games. In the quarter-finals of the football tournament, Peru beat Austria 4–2 in extra-time. Peru rallied from a two-goal deficit in the final 15 minutes of normal time. During extra-time, Peruvian fans allegedly ran onto the field and attacked an Austrian player. In the chaos, Peru scored twice and won, 4–2. However, Austria protested and the International Olympic Committee ordered a replay without any spectators. The Peruvian government refused and their entire Olympic squad left in protest as did Colombia.

The Nazis demoted Captain Wolfgang Fürstner, the half-Jewish commandant of the Olympic Village, during the games, and replaced him with Werner von Gilsa. After the games' conclusion, Fürstner, a career officer, committed suicide when he learned that the Nuremberg Laws classified him as a Jew, and, as such, he was to be expelled from the Wehrmacht.

In the film Charlie Chan at the Olympics (1937) the filmmakers removed all Nazi symbols which appeared during the actual games, although actors playing members of the Berlin police force help Charlie apprehend the spies (of unnamed nationality) trying to steal a new aerial guidance system.

Sporting innovations

Basketball was added to the Olympic program. In the final game, the United States beat Canada 19-8. The contest was played outdoors on a dirt court in driving rain. Because of the quagmire, the teams could not dribble, thus the score was held to a minimum. Joe Fortenbury was the high scorer for the U.S. with 7 points. Spectators did not have seats, and the people (approximately 1000) in attendance had to stand in the rain.

In the freestyle, swimmers originally dived from the pool walls, but diving blocks were incorporated at the 1936 Olympics.

Notable wins

Germany had a prosperous year in the equestrian events, winning individual and team gold in all three disciplines, as well as individual silver in dressage. In the cycling match sprint finals, the German Toni Merkens fouled Arie van Vliet of the Netherlandsmarker. Instead of being disqualified, he was fined 100 marks and kept his gold. German gymnasts Konrad Frey and Alfred Schwarzmann both won three gold medals.

Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the sprint and long jump events. His German competitor Luz Long offered Owens advice after he almost failed to qualify in the long jump and was posthumously awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship. Glenn Edgar Morris, a farm boy from Colorado, won Gold in the Decathlon. Rower Jack Beresford won his fifth Olympic medal in the sport, and his third gold medal. The U.S. eight-man rowing team from the University of Washingtonmarker won the gold medal, coming from behind to defeat the Germans and Italians with Adolf Hitler in attendance.

In the marathon two Koreanmarker athletes won medals — Sohn Kee-chung (gold) and Nam Sung-yong (bronze) — running for Japan and under Japanese names; Japan had annexed Korea in 1910. British India won the gold medal in the field hockey event once again (they won the gold in all Olympics from 1928-1956), defeating Germany 8-1 in the final. However, Indiansmarker were considered Indo-Aryans by the Germans and there was no controversy regarding their victory. Rie Mastenbroek of the Netherlandsmarker won three gold medals and a silver in swimming. Estoniamarker's Kristjan Palusalu won two gold medals in Men's Wrestling, marking the last time Estonia competed as an independent nation in the Olympics until 1992.

The Egyptianmarker weightlifter Khadr El Touni set a record that lasted for 60 years, until the 1996 Games in Atlantamarker where Turkeymarker's Naim Suleymanoglu surpassed the Egyptian to top the list. After winning the middleweight class, El Touni continued to compete for another 45 minutes, finally exceeding the total of the German silver medalist by 35 kg. The 20-year-old El Touni lifted a total of 387.5 kg crushing two German world champions, El Touni broke the then Olympic and world records, while the German lifted 352.5 kg. Furthermore, El Touni had lifted 15 kg more than the heavyweight gold medalist, a feat only El Touni has accomplished. El Touni's new world records stood for thirteen years. Fascinated by El Touni's performance, Adolf Hitler rushed down to greet this human miracle. Prior to the competition, Hitler was said to have been sure that Rudolf Ismayr and Adolf Wagner would embarrass all other opponents. Hitler was so impressed by El Touni's domination in the middleweight class that he ordered a street named after him in Berlin olympic village.

Participating nations

Nations participating for the first time shown in blue.
A total of 49 nations attended the Berlin Olympics, up from 37 in 1932. Six nations made their first official Olympic appearance at these Games: Afghanistanmarker, Bermudamarker, Boliviamarker, Costa Ricamarker, Liechtensteinmarker, and Perumarker.

Medal count

These are the top ten nations that won medals at these Games.
1 (host nation) 33 26 30 89
2 24 20 12 56
3 10 1 5 16
4 8 9 5 22
5 7 6 6 19
7 6 6 19
7 6 5 9 20
8 6 4 8 18
9 6 4 7 17
10 4 7 3 14


See also



Further reading

  • Berlin Games – How Hitler Stole the Olympic Dream, by Guy Walters ISBN 0-7195-6783-1 (UK) 0060874120 (USA)
  • All That Glitters is Not Gold, by William O. Johnson, Jr. ISBN 0-399-11008-9 (USA)
  • Hitler's Games: The 1936 Olympics, by Duff Hart-Davis, ISBN 006015554X ISBN 978-0060155544
  • Hitler's Olympics: The 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, by Christopher Hilton
  • The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936 United States Holocaust Museum, by Susan D. Bachrach
  • The Nazi Olympics (Sport and Society), by Richard D. Mandell
  • Olympische Spiele Berlin / Olympic Games 1936: Erinnergunsalbum / Album-Souvenir unter dem Patronat des schweizerischen Olympischen Komitees, by Julius, ed., publ. Wagner
  • The Nazi Olympics: Sport, Politics, and Appeasement in the 1930s by Arnd Kruger and W. J. Murray
  • The Berlin Olympics (World Focus Books), by James P. Barry

External links

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