The Nazi Olympics
The 1936 Olympics in Berlin, also known as the “Nazi Olympics”, was a milestone in the history of the world. All of the attention of the Olympics that year was focused on Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. In 1933, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler became leader of Germany and quickly turned the nation's democracy into a one-party dictatorship. He took thousands of political opponents, holding them without trial in concentration camps. The Nazis also set up a program to strengthen the Germanic Aryan population. They began to exclude all one-half million Jews from the population, and German life. As part of the drive to "purify" and strengthen the German population, a 1933 law permitted physicians to perform forced sterilizations of psychiatric patients and congenitally handicapped persons, Gypsies, and Blacks (Encarta Encyclopedia 1996 [CD-ROM]). The 1936 Olympics in Berlin caused many worries, problems, and questions for America and other countries throughout the world.
On 13 May 1931, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1936 Summer Olympics to Berlin. The choice seemed to signal Germany's return to the world community after defeat in World War I. Berlin had forty-three votes, and Barcelona, Spain, the other option, had sixteen. The choice showed that Germany was being included once more in the world community. It also showed the International Olympic committee’s respect for Dr. Theodor Lewald, and Carl Diem, German sports leaders. Both men had been the planners for the 1916 Olympics that was scheduled, but was cancelled. Since then, they have been urging the Olympics to attempt to go back to Germany. Both Lewald and Diem were very pleased with the results (Mandell The Nazi Olympics 39).
On 30 January 1933, the German president, Paul von Hindenburg, selected Adolf Hitler to be the head of the government. This was very unexpected. Hitler was the leader of an extreme right-wing political party, the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party. Hitler sought to expand Germany with new territories and boundaries. Hitler also focused on rebuilding Germany’s military strength. In many speeches Hitler made, he spoke often about the value of “racial purity” and the dominance of the Aryan master race. The Nazi’s spread their racist beliefs in schools through textbooks, radios, newspapers, and posters. In Hitler’s “new Germany” there was no place for “non-Aryans”. Jews made up the largest minority group in Germany.
Soon after Hitler took power in 1933, questions began to arise from the United States and other Western democracies of whether or not they should support the idea of the Olympic Games hosted by the Nazi Regime. America was particularly concerned about the persecution of Jewish athletes that lived in Germany in 1933. In the United States, debate over participation in the 1936 Olympics was a hot topic. The U.S. always sent one of the largest teams to the...