German Olympics

by Andrew Stein

Both cities I visited in Germany had the privilege of hosting the Olympic games, Berlin in 1936 and Munich in 1972, and both occasions are remembered for their dramatic events and circumstances. The Hitler Games in 1936 were particularly controversial as only members of the Aryan race were permitted to compete for Germany. However, despite this glaring indication that Nazi Germany was heading down a dangerous path, other countries looked the other way, a feat made easier because the Nazi party removed their slanderous signs including those stating “Jews not wanted.” The Olympic Stadium itself contained Roman elements as Hitler aspired to lead a nation similar to that of Ancient Rome; however, most decorative aspects prevalent in Roman architecture were removed leaving behind square columns and clean, flat surfaces. With the rest of the world in Germany in 1936, there was an opportunity for anyone to recognize the signs of what was to come. There was the “cleaning up” of the gypsies as they were sent to camps. There was the no-Aryan rule. There were remnants of the discriminatory practice against the Jews. In an event meant to symbolize nations coming together to compete on the highest and fairest of stages, the German activities of the times did not embody those sentiments.

Berlin Olympic Stadium

The Berlin Olympic Stadium

As seen inside the Berlin Olympic Stadium

The Munich games 36 years later also had their share of turmoil. Known as the Munich Massacre, a tragic event involving the taking hostage and murder of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian gunmen overshadowed the games. During an Olympics designed to move forward from what had transpired during the Hitler games, this event achieved much of the opposite effect and continued to tarnish the German Olympic-hosting legacy.

Outside the Munich Olympic Stadium

Outside the Munich Olympic Stadium