1936 Olympics

Prior to the Berlin Games

Berlin's Selection

In 1931, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1936 Summer Olympics to Berlin. The choice signaled Germany's return to the world community after its isolation in the aftermath of defeat in World War I. Berlin won the bid over Barcelona, Spain by a rather vast margin. Berlin had several draws that made it irresistible for the Olympic Committee. First, Germany put several millions of dollars towards creating state-of-the-art facilities and buildings for the games. Also, Germany was going to make the 1936 Olympics the first televised Olympics ever, making the games viewable in dozens of countries. Finally, having Berlin as the host city would give people around the world an opportunity to see Germany's resurrection from the devastation it endured during World War I.

Threats of Boycotting

Movements to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympics surfaced in the United States, Great Britain, France, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands. Debate over participation in the 1936 Olympics was most intense in the United States, which traditionally sent one of the largest and most successful teams to the Games. Some boycott proponents supported counter-Olympics. One of the largest was the “People's Olympiad” planned for the summer of 1936 in Barcelona, Spain. It was canceled after the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, just as thousands of athletes had begun to arrive.

Motives behind the Berlin Olympics

Hitler's Plan

Around 1933, Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany and quickly turned the nation's fragile democracy into a one-party dictatorship that persecuted Jews, Roma (Gypsies), as well as all political opponents. The Nazi claim to control all aspects of German life also extended to sports. German sports imagery of the 1930s served to promote the myth of “Aryan” racial superiority and physical prowess. In sculpture and in other forms, German artists idealized athletes' well-developed muscle tone and heroic strength and accentuated ostensibly Aryan facial features. Such imagery also reflected the importance the Nazi regime placed on physical fitness, a prerequisite for military service.

Hitler saw the Games as an opportunity to promote his government and ideals of racial supremacy, and the official Nazi party paper, the Völkischer Beobachter, wrote in the strongest terms that Jews and Black people should not be allowed to participate in the Games.However, when threatened with a boycott of the Games by other nations, he relented and allowed Black people and Jews to participate, and added one token participant to the German team—a German woman, Helene Mayer, who had a Jewish father. Overall, Hitler wanted to dominate the 1936 Olympics with purely “Aryan” athletes, to show that the “Aryan” race was undeniably the perfect race.

Lasting Impressions of Berlin Olympics

A Great Host

The 1936 Berlin Olympics proved to be a success. Hundreds of thousands of spectators marveled over the spectacular events, German culture, and hospitality of the Olympics. Also, millions of people throughout the world were given the opportunity to view the games and cheer on their respective countries through their televisions.

False Image

Nazi regime tried to camouflage its violent racist policies while it hosted the Summer Olympics. Most anti-Jewish signs were temporarily removed and newspapers toned down their harsh rhetoric. Thus, the regime exploited the Olympic Games to present foreign spectators and journalists with a false image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany.

Final Medal Count

       Nation	                    Gold	Silver	Bronze	Total
* 1   Germany (host nation) 	     33	         26	30	89
* 2	United States                24	         20	12	56
* 3	Italy                         8           9      5      22
* 4	Sweden                        6           5	 9      20        
* 5	Finland                       7           6      6      19

Jesse Owens

Though, Germany won the overall medal count and the gold medal count by an outstanding margin, Chancellor Adolf Hitler was not pleased. An African-American sprinter and jumper from rural Alabama stole the spotlight from the German athletes, with captivating performances throughout the Olympics. Owens went on the win the 100 meters, 200 meters, 4 X 100 meters, and the long jump. In many of these events, Owens beat Hitler's “Aryan” athletes by a quite substantial margin. After winning his first of four gold medals in the 100 meters, Hitler stormed out of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin because Germany had been humiliated by a black man. Hitler, who had shaken hands the previous day with all the German Olympic winners, left the stadium furious that his Aryan supermen had been beaten by their supposed racial inferior.

Importance of Berlin Olympics

For the two weeks in August 1936 that the Berlin Olympics took place, Adolf Hitler's Nazi dictatorship camouflaged its racist, militaristic character while hosting the Summer Olympics. Slowly integrating its antisemitic agenda and plans for territorial expansion, the regime exploited the Games to bedazzle many foreign spectators and journalists with an image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany. Hitler wanted to show his German countrymen that the Aryan race was superior to all others through the domination of the Olympics games. At the same time Hitler was plotting and devising his plan to persecute European Jews, and slowly take over Europe.

German Terms

der Arier

Meaning “the Aryan,” it is a term that is used to describe a person who is a member of any people speaking an Indo-European language. The language is currently no longer in technical use. It is also defined as a Nazism or neo-Nazism, a non-Jewish Caucasian, especially one of Nordic type, supposed to be part of a master race.


The Olympiastadion was the magnificent stadium created solely for the 1936 games. The stadium held 110,000 spectators. It was the site of all the track and field events during the Olympics. The Olympiastadion was a masterful example of German architecture and still stands today.

der Jude

Meaning “the Jew,” defined as an adherent of Judaism as a religion or culture or a member of the widely dispersed people originally descended from the ancient Hebrews and sharing an ethnic heritage based on Judaism.

Völkischer Beobachter

Roughly translated as the “National Observer.” Created in 1920, it was the premier newspaper of the Nazi party. Included ample amounts of propaganda and aimed to brainwash the German common people to believe in the Nazi Regime.

die Diktatur

Meaning “the dictatorship.” A state or government under dictatorial rule. Absolute or despotic control or power.


“1936 Summer Olympics.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 June 2013. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.

“Berlin 1936 1st August - 16th August.” Berlin 1936 Summer Olympics. Official Website of Olympic Movement, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.

“Dictionary, Encyclopedia and Thesaurus.” The Free Dictionary. Farlex, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.

Hall, Allan. “Did Hitler Shake Hands with Black 1936 Olympic Hero Jesse Owens?” Mail Online. N.p., 11 Aug. 2009. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.

Holocaust Encyclopedia. “Nazi Olympics, Berlin 1936.” Nazi Olympics, Berlin 1936. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.

“Introduction.” JesseOwens.com. Jesse Owens Trust C/o Luminary Group LLC, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.

“The 1936 Berlin Olympics.” The 1936 Berlin Olympics. History Learning Site, n.d. Web. 10 Oct. 2013.

ger/101/2013/fall/1936_olympics.txt · Last modified: 2013/10/10 23:42 by spdierking
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