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The Summer Olympics and Paralympics through the lens of social science

Contemporary publications from the Berlin Olympiad of 1936; with a bibliography. The 1936 Berlin Olympic Games are notorious for providing Hitler with a golden propaganda opportunity and for helping to legitimise the Nazi regime on the international stage. The Games had been awarded to Germany by the IOC in 1931, and when the Nazis came to power two years later, Hitler was at first unwilling to host the competition. The internationalism of the Olympic movement and its fostering of “mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play” were in stark contrast to his own doctrines of nationalism and “Aryan” racial superiority expressed through brutal struggle. But propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels saw the potential of the Games to showcase Hitler’s new Germany as a modern forward-looking country, fully recovered from the defeat of 1918 and the chaos of the 1920s and worthy of international respect.

The ‘original’ Olympic torch

Once Hitler came round to this point of view, the regime poured resources into the Games, determined to create a magnificent and unforgettable spectacle. The opening and closing ceremonies were to be the most lavish ever; the facilities the best and most modern. As an innovation, a relay of torchbearers would carry the Olympic flame from Greece to the stadium in Berlin. The German people – especially the young – were encouraged to feel involved with “their” Games, not least by purchasing fundraising souvenirs. And for the first time, television cameras would record the action.

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Sport and Society: the Summer Olympics and Paralympics through the lens of social science

Souvenir Olympic bell moneyboxes

The Nazi government, already obsessed with promoting physical fitness, also wanted the Games to foster an increased interest and participation in sport among the German people. A series of 26 Olympia-Hefte published in the run-up to the Games by the “Propaganda Committee for the Olympic Games� was part of this campaign. These small pamphlets, 15x10 cm could be bought for 10 Pfennigs each from party offices, workplaces and sports clubs.

Contemporary publications from the Berlin Olympiad of 1936

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Sport and Society: the Summer Olympics and Paralympics through the lens of social science

Each has a cover in yellow, black and white, all but one bearing a photograph, and most are richly illustrated, with pictures and text sometimes dynamically integrated in a way reminiscent of the avant-garde montage techniques which the Nazis professed to despise. The British Library’s set, a recent acquisition, has been collected together in an original cardboard slip-case.

First pamphlet in the Olympia-heft series

The first pamphlet in the series is a brief history of the Olympics and a preview of the 1936 Games. Each of the next 23 is devoted to a particular sport or group of sports, beginning with a short history or description before describing its current state in Germany and the prospects for the German Olympic team. Part 25 suggests sporting activities for the reader to try and explicitly sets out the regime’s wish for all Germans to keep fit through regular exercise, preferably under the aegis of the “Strength through Joy” movement, a government body which organised communal leisure activities. After this culminating piece of propaganda, the series ends with a fairly sober guide to the terminology used in various sports. This is also the only part with no illustrations, an oddly dull note on which to finish.

Contemporary publications from the Berlin Olympiad of 1936

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Sport and Society: the Summer Olympics and Paralympics through the lens of social science

Cycling montage in Olympia-heft 23

A less official and more lavish souvenir publication was the 2-volume Olympia 1936, one of a series of albums produced in the 1920s and 1930s by the “Cigaretten-Bilderdienst Altona-Bahrenfeld”, a subsidiary of the Reemtsma tobacco company. Reemtsma sold unillustrated albums fairly cheaply and the pictures to stick inside could be purchased with coupons given away with their cigarettes. The firm had issued albums to commemorate previous Olympic Games (1924, 1928 and 1932), but the 1936 Olympics volume seems to have been a particularly deluxe production with a handsome royal-blue binding and many illustrations (some in colour) already provided – including a large fold-out map of the Olympic site in Berlin.

The first volume of Olympia 1936 begins with a full account of the Winter Games, held in GarmischPartenkirchen in February 1936. This is followed by a general history of the modern Olympic movement and the Games since 1896, an overview of the countries competing in 1936 and a description of the preparations and the German team’s training for the summer games. The second volume covers the Summer Games in detail from the start of the torch relay, through the different events, to the final carving of the victors’ names on the stadium’s Marathon Gate, “to immortalise them for all time”. Both volumes give full results and related statistics for the

Contemporary publications from the Berlin Olympiad of 1936

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Sport and Society: the Summer Olympics and Paralympics through the lens of social science

events (including the artistic contests in architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture which were a regular part of the Olympics until 1948).

2-page spread from Olympia 1936

As propaganda, Olympia 1936 tows the party line in portraying the Games as a triumph for the new Germany, a country described as “an island of peace … in the sea of nations”.[vol. II, p.5] There is much talk of the coming together of nations and of comradeship and mutual respect between competing athletes, but the authors are perhaps overly keen to emphasise the ruthless aspects of competition and to suggest that success or failure in sport bears some relation to moral character. For example (from a piece about the women’s 100m race): “The Olympic struggle is the hardest and therefore the most merciless, and therefore the most just, and therefore the one which brings to light the most deeply-ingrained weaknesses which would otherwise have remained hidden for ever.” [vol. II, p. 17] Or, from an overview of the swimming events: “In the struggle all are subject to the inexorable law, all are fighters and nothing more. … The inner meaning of sport can never be the battle or the victory, but only the human being shaped by battle and victory.” [vol. II, p. 63] Reemtsma was clearly happy to support the party, having published a number of straightforward propaganda albums such as Deutschland erwacht! (Germany awakes!, 1934) celebrating the new regime, and one from 1936 devoted to Hitler himself. However, Olympia 1936 seems to have been intended first and foremost as a record for sports fans of the contests and their results, with numerous pictures of the Games and of the athletes both competing and relaxing. The reporting of the actual sporting events, which forms the bulk of the text, is generally even-handed. The achievements of Jesse Owens, acknowledged as “the most popular man in the track and field events”, and other black American athletes are fully recognised, as are the successes of Jewish medal winners (although without any reference, negative or positive, to their being Jewish).

Contemporary publications from the Berlin Olympiad of 1936

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Sport and Society: the Summer Olympics and Paralympics through the lens of social science

Friendly rivals: Owens and Long pictured in Olympia 1936 Of course it can be argued that any work celebrating “Hitler’s Olympics” and the regime that made them happen must by its very nature be tainted and guilty by association. Certainly part of the interest of this album is the horrible fascination of Nazi propaganda, but it can also stand as a record of sporting achievement for the athletes who competed in 1936 and of the excitement of those who, however naively, watched and enjoyed the Games as a purely sporting event.

Berlin Olympics bibliography ‘Olympia 1936, eine nationale Aufgabe’ in Gemeinschaft mit dem Reichssportführer herausgegeben vom Propaganda-Ausschuß für die Olympischen Spiele. Berlin: Amt für Sportwerbung, 1936. 26 parts. [Currently being processed] Richter,Walter Die Olympischen Spiele 1936 in Berlin und Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Hamburg-Bahrenfeld: Cigaretten-Bilderdienst, [1936]. 2 v. London reference collections shelfmark: Cup.408.l.28. Mandell, Richard D. The Nazi Olympics. New York, Macmillan [1971] DS shelfmark: A71/2041 Walters, Guy. Berlin games: how Hitler stole the Olympic dream London: John Murray, 2006. London reference collections shelfmark: YC.2006.a.19827 Hart-Davis, Duff. Hitler's games: the 1936 Olympics. London: Century, 1986. Contemporary publications from the Berlin Olympiad of 1936

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Sport and Society: the Summer Olympics and Paralympics through the lens of social science

London reference collections shelfmark: YC.1986.a.1658 DS shelfmark: 86/10369 Rippon, Anton. Hitler's Olympics: the story of the 1936 Nazi Games. Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2006. London reference collections shelfmark: YC.2007.a.8349 DS shelfmark: m09/.24868 Hilton, Christopher Hitler's Olympics: the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games Stroud: Sutton, 2008. London reference collections shelfmark: YC.2009.a.4561 Alkemeyer, Thomas. Körper, Kult und Politik: von der "Muskelreligion" Pierre de Coubertins zur Inszenierung von Macht in den Olympischen Spielen von 1936 Frankfurt/Main: Campus, c1996. London reference collections shelfmark: YA.2000.a.2890 National identity and global sports events: culture, politics, and spectacle in the Olympics and the football World Cup edited by Alan Tomlinson and Christopher Young. New York: State University of New York, 2006. London reference collections shelfmark: YC.2011.a.4354 DS shelfmark: m06/.18690 Large, David Clay. Nazi games: the Olympics of 1936. New York; London: W. W. Norton, 2007. London reference collections shelfmark: YC.2007.a.13948

The Nazi Olympics: sport, politics, and appeasement in the 1930s edited by Arnd Krüger and William Murray. Urbana, Ill: University of Illinois Press, 2003. London reference collections shelfmark: YC.2005.a.6360 DS shelfmark: m03/38258 Drees, Ludwig.Olympia. Götter, Künstler und Athleten.Stuttgart, Berlin, Köln, Mainz, Kohlhammer [c1967] DS shelfmark: L71/4269 Die Olympischen Spiele von 1896-1980 : Namen, Zahlen, Fakten zusammengestellt von Volker Kluge. Berlin: Sportverlag, 1981. London reference collections shelfmark: X.622/18768 1936: die Olympischen Spiele und der Nationalsozialismus : eine Dokumentation herausgegeben von Reinhard Rürup = 1936 : the Olympic Games and National Socialism: a documentation edited by Reinhard Rürup. Berlin: Argon, c1996. London reference collections shelfmark: YA.1999.b.5994 Bolz, Daphné. Les arènes totalitaires: fascisme, nazisme et propagande sportive. Paris: CNRS, c2008. London reference collections shelfmark: YF.2009.a.26546

Boch, Volker Berlin 1936 : die Olympischen Spiele unter Berücksichtigung des jüdischen Sports. Konstanz: Hartung-Gorre, 2002. London reference collections shelfmark: YA.2003.a.48720 Berlioux, Monique.Des jeux et des crimes: 1936, le piège blanc olympique. Biarritz: Atlantica, c2007. London reference collections shelfmark: YF.2009.a.11541 Brohm, Jean-Marie Jeux Olympiques à Berlin. [Bruxelles]: Editions Complexe, 1983. London reference collections shelfmark: X.808/41060 Contemporary publications from the Berlin Olympiad of 1936

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Sport and Society: the Summer Olympics and Paralympics through the lens of social science

Graham, Cooper C Leni Riefenstahl and Olympia .London: Scarecrow, 2001, c1986. London reference collections shelfmark: YC.2003.a.9688 British Olympic Association The Official Report of the XIth Olympiad, Berlin, 1936 edited by Harold M. Abrahams London, [1937.] London reference collections shelfmark: 07908.g.21. Riefenstahl, Leni.Olympia. Koln; London: Taschen, 2002. London reference collections shelfmark: LB31.c.13508 MINDT, Erich. Olympia 1936: die XI. Olympischen Spiele, Berlin, und die IV. Olympischen Winterspiele, Garmisch-Partenkirchen herausgegeben von Erich Mindt. Berlin: Niermann, 1937. London reference collections shelfmark: 7915.w.24.

Die Olympiade Berlin 1936 im Spiegel der ausländischen Presse herausgegeben von Jürgen Bellers. Münster: Lit, 1986. London reference collections shelfmark: YA.1986.a.9263 Olympic Games, 1936. Official organ of the XI. Olympic Games, Berlin, 1936. London reference collections shelfmark: Cup.1264.hh.33.

Berlin, 1936.

Krüger, Arnd. Die Olympischen Spiele 1936 und die Weltmeinung: ihre aussenpolitische Bedeutung unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der U.S.A. Berlin, etc: Bartels & Wernitz, 1972. London reference collections shelfmark: X.619/7712. So kämpfte und siegte die Jugend der Welt. XI. Olympiade Berlin 1936 von Franz Miller ... Baron P. v. le Fort und Dr. H. Harster. Mit 126. Abbildungen. 2. Auflage. auf Kunstdrucktafeln. München, 1936. London reference collections shelfmark: 7915.w.16. Olympische Spiele Berlin.Souvenir album / Olympische Spiele Berlin. [S.l.] : Wagner, [n.d.] DS shelfmark: Wq1/3254 Könitzer, Willi Fr. Olympia 1936. Berlin: Reichssportverlag, 1936. London reference collections shelfmark: 7915.w.19 Thimmermann, Hermann. Olympische Siege. München: Knorr & Hirth, 1936. London reference collections shelfmark: 7915.pp.34. American Olympic Committee Report of the American Olympic Committee. Games of the XIth Olympiad, Berlin, Germany ... 1936. IVth Olympic Winter Games, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany ... 1936 edited by Frederick W. Rubien. New York, [1937.] London reference collections shelfmark: 7913.w.9. Wolff, Paul Was ich bei den Olympischen Spielen 1936 sah. Berlin: Specht, [1936] London reference collections shelfmark: 7915.w.21. Online resources US National Holocaust Museum Nazi Olympics exhibition:

Contemporary publications from the Berlin Olympiad of 1936

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Sport and Society: the Summer Olympics and Paralympics through the lens of social science

Jewish Virtual Library Nazi Olympics site (with lists of Jewish and black medallists):

See the original German Games report of 1937 on the LA84 website

Contemporary publications from the Berlin Olympiad of 1936

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Contemporary publications from the Berlin Olympiad of 1936; with a bibliography