1936 Berlin Olympic Games Debuted 77 Years Ago Today

Thu, 08/01/2013 - 10:06am

Seventy-seven years ago today, the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games commenced in Germany. Memories of the XI Olympiad loom large in many Holocaust survivors’ minds: 171 testimonies in USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education’s Visual History Archive (VHA) mention the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games.

Berlin hosted the 1936 summer Olympic Games, and then-chancellor Adolf Hitler intended it as an opportunity to promote Aryan supremacy and denounced the United States for including black athletes on its roster. The 1936 Games are most known for American track and field athlete Jesse Owens’ record-breaking four gold medals.

Some VHA interviewees attended Olympic events and recall seeing Adolf Hitler there, watching competitions and presiding over medal ceremonies. In her testimony, Diane Jacobs describes watching Jesse Owens’ victory and medal ceremony for the 100-meter sprint from the press box with her uncle, a newspaper editor. Hitler refused to shake Owens’ hand and Owens, Jacobs noticed, refused to salute the Nazi flag.

Endre Altmann was an official member of the Romanian Olympic fencing team but he refused to compete in the 1936 Olympics out of “solidarity” with German Jews, he says in his testimony. Frances Jones recalls chasing after Hitler’s limousine at an Olympic event, too young to understand who he was.

The VHA is an online portal from USC Shoah Foundation that allows users to search through and view nearly 52,000 audiovisual testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides. These testimonies were conducted in 57 countries and in 33 languages.