1936 Olympics Exhibit at The San Diego Hall of Champions

Using historical photographs, written documents, film footage, and athlete testimonies, THE NAZI OLYMPICS Berlin 1936 chronicles the Nazi rise to power in Germany, the Nazification of German sport, the Olympic boycott controversy in the United States, the Olympic Games themselves, and their aftermath. Visitors to the exhibition learn that a beautified Berlin and extravagant Olympic pageantry were only facades designed to distract and seduce the international community. The Nazis exploited the Games as part of a propaganda effort to dispel international concerns about Germany's planned remilitarization program, and to mask the German government's policies of discrimination and persecution, which had begun shortly after Hitler's ascension to power in 1933. The exhibition features the stories of athletes who boycotted or were barred from the Games as well as those who participated in them. News articles and headlines of the period expose the racism and antisemitism of the Nazi regime, particularly in their coverage of Nazi reaction to the victories of track star Jesse Owens and other African Americans as well as the exclusion of German Jewish high jumper Gretel Bergmann from Olympic competition. The exhibition concludes with a sobering historical perspective: during the months before and after the 1936 Olympic Games, the Nazis toned down their anti-Jewish campaign for reasons of foreign policy and image. In the 15 months after the Games, Germany initiated its plans for expansion and the Nazi regime intensified its persecution of Jews and others it deemed "enemies of the State." Germany annexed Austria in March 1938, and by November of that year, Jews in Germany and Austria were subjected to the terror, mass destruction, and widespread arrests of a state-sponsored antisemitic pogrom known as Kristallnacht ("The Night of Broken Glass"). With Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939, World War II began. Using the war as justification, the Nazi leadership perpetrated the genocide of European Jewry known as the Holocaust. The last images in the exhibition are of Olympic athletes who died in the Holocaust.

Recommended Reading

This exhibit was produced in 1996 by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The 1936 Olympic Games in Germany by Arvo Vercamer and Jason Pipes

Universal newsreel 34-39, "25 Years Ago," 5/11/1961

revised 7/4/04 by Steven Schoenherr | WWII Timeline