Olympics

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  • ROBERT KATZ

    August 20, 1936

    I’ve just watched the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Berlin – its hard not to feel optimistic after this impressive display of unity and celebration of talent, athleticism and courage. I’ve seen no sign of discrimination based on the colour of an athlete’s skin or their religious beliefs in any of the coverage. I’ve seen no evidence of the laws that people have been mentioning here?

      ELLEN BRANDT

      Hitler… wanted all anti-Semitic signs removed – I’m talking about physical signs as well as psychological signs, he wanted the German press to be very careful not to print anything anti-Semitic and Berlin became 1926 rather than 1936!

    • ELLEN KILSTON

      The Deception was rampant! Which was awful for us in some ways… because then people go back and say Jews are complaining? There is nothing going on – what are they talking about? 
       

      MARTY GLICKMAN (19 years old. United States)

      If I could use a single word to describe Berlin… the word would be “Carnival”… We were warmly welcomed but behind the pomp and pageantry were ominous signs… the Swastika was all over… on virtually every other banner we saw, there was a Swastika.

      ELLEN KILSTON

      For us, in another way, it was a reprieve, you could breathe a little easier… It is very difficult to tell people outside the country what was going on because there were hardly any signs of anything.

  • ERIC FRISCH

     I participated in the first… torch relay… when the flame ran from start to finish on the continent. From Olympia to Berlin, all by foot, day and night, for two weeks. It was figured out to precision. I ran approximately at midnight, in a cornfield. It was a little windy and the flame started to jitter and I prayed to God… God forbid that darn thing goes out while I am running, they will say a Jew did that on purpose. I went to Berlin… and I saw the flame coming in the stadium - the same flame which I carried maybe 4 or 5 days before in Austria.

      ROBERT KATZ

      Was anyone else at the opening ceremony?

    • MARGARETE

      I am a very good athlete and the athletes, the best ones, from schools in Berlin were selected to be in the Opening ceremony. And then they discovered that I was Jewish and I wasn't allowed to do that. It was very hurtful!
       

      RITA FEDER (Berlin)

      I was always interested in sports and all I ever wanted to do was go to the Olympic Games. No way, Jews weren’t allowed to go. But my father took me by the hand and he said: ”we’re going to stand where you can see”. 

      ELLEN BRANDT

      Every school was given two free tickets for the closing ceremonies, which were attended by Hitler, and of all the people in the world I got one of the two tickets. 

      ROBERT MITCHEL (23 years old, UK)

      The Olympic flame went out and then there was utter silence and utter darkness and it really was most impressive...  and then they started ‘Sieg Heil’ and that was when 100 000 people were going ‘Sieg Heil… Sieg Heil’ and I literally put my hands in my pocket to stop myself being hypnotized into doing it with them... it was absolutely hypnotic.

  • ANNA LIEBNER

    September 18, 1936

    I was wondering if any black athletes experienced any discrimination while they were here? Or noticed any?

      JOHN WOODRUFF (21 years old. Pittsburgh, US)

      No, I did not no, I did not notice any discrimination when I arrived in Germany. After I’d won my race, won my gold medal, I went downtown Berlin doing a little sightseeing of the city, and the people, the German people were very, very cordial. They just crowded around you for autographs. Very friendly. 

    • AGNES ADACHI

      I was there (Berlin) during the Olympic Games when Jesse Owens was running. And that is one thing that I will never forget because they are just as much against blacks as they are against the Jews. And Goering was there, big fat Goering, and Jesse Owens was actually flying he wasn’t running. And then he came to Goering he gave him the dirtiest look you can imagine. 

      JOHN WOODRUFF

      Now you’ve probably heard some stories about Hitler refusing to shake Jesse Owen’s hand. Well that’s, those stories were wrong. They were wrong. One time Hitler invited some of the athletes up in his sections that they had established for him and his lieutenants… And at the time that he invited these athletes up there, Jesse Owens was still competing.

  • ELLEN KILSTON

    I never could understand how the other countries could have the Olympics take place in the Third Reich country. That is beyond me. 
     

      ROBERT KATZ

      There were groups who campaigned in America for a boycott of the Olympic Games – claiming that financial gains would be used to strengthen the Nazi “murderous” regime.

      JOHN WOODRUFF

      There was some talk about boycotting the Olympics, but it wasn’t something that was a matter of conversation amongst the team members you see… We didn’t concern ourselves too much about it. All we knew that we’d made the team, we were on the boat, and we were going to Germany. That’s all. That’s all we were interested in.

      ANNA LIEBNER

      Robert Katz – there has been opposition in other countries as well.  This poster was issued by the British Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi Council in response to the planned games in Germany.

    • ANNA LIEBNER

      But didn’t athletes know about the situation in Germany or that Hitler was anti-black as well as anti-Jewish?

        ENDRE ALTMANN

        I was selected for the Romanian Fencing team for the Berlin Olympics and I refused to go to Berlin for the Olympics of Hitler. This decision, it is not easy to explain… it was somehow a stand of solidarity with what was happening to the German Jews… I don’t think that the Olympics did lose very much with my non-participating… but it was for my satisfaction.

        JOHN WOODRUFF

        No. No. Not at all. When we went to the Olympics, we weren’t interested in politics. We were only interested in going to Germany, participating in our events, and trying to win as many gold medals or medal as we could win, see, and come home. That was the, that was our interest.
         

  • MARGARET LAMBERT (BERGMANN)

    The reason why I was put on the German Olympic team was that the Americans, the French, the English, they all wanted to boycott the 1936 Olympics in Berlin… I was the token Jew.
     

      ROBERT KATZ

      I read a quote from Brundage where he stated: “The Olympic games belong to the athletes and not the politicians”

      MARGARET LAMBERT (BERGMANN)

      Mr Brundage  never spoke to any Jewish people. He just let himself be lulled into some false security by these Nazi… And he came back to the United States and said “Everything is fabulous over there and we’ll be going.” 

      ANNA LIEBNER

      Margaret Lambert! This is a photo of you in Suttgart – I am such a fan! I heard that you had left Germany… and then suddenly you were back but we never had the chance to see you compete in the Olympics – what happened? 

      MARGARET LAMBERT (BERGMANN)

      It was such a peculiar situation, a year ago I was called undesirable, inferior by the Nazis and all of a sudden I was supposed to be on the German Olympic team.

      ANNA LIEBNER

      How did you feel? Being a Jew on the German Olympic team? We so badly wanted to see you win a gold medal!

      MARGARET LAMBERT (BERGMANN)

      In a way I was hoping I would be able to do it. On the other hand I was so afraid. Supposing I am allowed to compete and supposing I win, and I was convinced that I would win a medal and possibly the gold. Supposing I do this what do I do, I am going to stand on that podium and say Heil Hitler like all the others? I was scared stiff. 
       

      ANNA LIEBNER

      It must have been a really hard time for you. What happened in the end – the next minute you were not on the team? 
       

      MARGARET LAMBERT (BERGMANN)

      One day a letter came and it said in view of the fact that you have been doing very poorly lately we did not select you for the Olympic team. Heil Hitler. And that was the end of it. 

      ROBERT KATZ

      Were there no Jews on the German team? How could they claim there was no discrimination?

      MARGARET LAMBERT (BERGMANN)

      There were some half Jewish athletes that competed… I guess half Jewish was only half as offensive as being all Jewish!
       

      ANNA LIEBNER

      If anyone is in doubt about who the Nazis found offensive just look at these two pictures – one comparing the “ideal” Aryan German athlete with a Greek god before the Olympics and the other I found in a children’s colouring in book! 

  • ELLEN BRANDT

    As soon as the last journalist had left the city, the anti-Semitism was put back into place in triple force. Thirteen new edicts came out… and it was no longer permitted for a Jew to be married to a Gentile, to a pure Aryan, Hitler started sterilization… the teachers were told they could no longer talk to us in class
     
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