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The Nazi Olympics

The Nazi Olympics: Sport, Politics, and Appeasement in the 1930s

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 280
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    The Nazi Olympics
    Book Description:

    The 1936 Olympic Games played a key role in the development of both Hitlers Third Reich and international sporting competition. This volume gathers original essays by modern scholars from the Games most prominent participating countries and lays out the issues -- sporting as well as political -- surrounding individual nations involvement._x000B_The Nazi Olympics opens with an analysis of Germanys preparations for the Games and the attempts by the Nazi regime to allay the international concerns about Hitlers racist ideals and expansionist ambitions._x000B_Essays follow on the United States, Great Britain, and France -- three first-class Olympian nations with misgivings about participation -- as well as German ally Italy and future ally Japan. Other essays examine the issues at stake in Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands, which opposed Hitlers politics, despite embodying his Aryan ideal._x000B_Challenging the view of sport as a trivial pursuit, this collection reveals exactly how high the political stakes were in 1936 and how the Nazi Olympics distilled many of the critical geopolitical issues of the time into a contest that was anything but trivial. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09164-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. 1-16)
    William Murray

    The 1936 Olympic Games are invariably remembered as the Nazi Olympics, sponsored as they were by the Hitler regime, but even without the political odium that hung over them these Games would have been a landmark event in the history of sport. The Eleventh Olympiad of the modern era, awarded to the democratic Weimar Republic of Germany in 1931 and hosted by the dictatorship of the Third Reich in 1936 (the Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in February and the Summer Games in Berlin with the sailing events in Kiel in August), came at a key moment in the development of...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Germany: The Propaganda Machine
    (pp. 17-43)
    Arnd Krüger

    The Olympic Games of 1936 are best known as the Nazi Olympics, yet many of the features that distinguished these Games were well established at that time and would become even more familiar in the future. Long before the Nazis came to power in Germany in January 1933, Germans had been used to their government involving itself in areas that elsewhere were the province of the private sphere. This Sonderweg, the way in which Germany took a radically different course from other European countries, could be seen in the German interpretation of Social Darwinism: while countries like Great Britain and...

  6. CHAPTER 2 United States of America: The Crucial Battle
    (pp. 44-69)
    Arnd Krüger

    Since the first modern Olympics in Athens in 1896, the United States had played a dominant role. As a host in the Depression Games at Los Angeles in 1932 it virtually swept the field, with forty-four of the 125 gold medals, well ahead of Italy, which placed second.¹ Competition in Berlin four years later looked like it would be tougher, especially as the Italians would be joined by the Germans of the new Reich who were eager to prove the superiority of their political and social systems. The press in the United States played its part as it prepared public...

  7. CHAPTER 3 Great Britain: The Amateur Tradition
    (pp. 70-86)
    Richard Holt

    The British occupied a special place in world sport between the wars. As the inventors of modern sport, Britain’s influence was out of proportion to its increasingly modest athletic performance. The British claim to sport was not only a matter of origins; they saw it as a question of values summed up by a single word: “amateurism.” This meant not only an absolutely clear distinction between paid and unpaid athletes but also clearly implied the rule of private voluntary associations run by largely unpaid officials and independent of the state. Of course, Britain had a large professional spectator sport “industry,”...

  8. CHAPTER 4 France: Liberty, Equality, and the Pursuit of Fraternity
    (pp. 87-112)
    William Murray

    Although France is better known for its intellectual culture than the feats of its athletes, it nevertheless occupies a special place in the history of sport. It was the birthplace of the baron de Coubertin, whose patriotic horror at the defeat of France by Prussia in the war of 1870–71 led him to found the modern Olympics. For this he has been honored in the special place given to France and the French language in the conduct and administration of the governing body of the Olympic movement, the International Olympic Committee. France was also the birthplace of Western liberal...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Italy: Mussolini’s Boys at Hitler’s Olympics
    (pp. 113-126)
    Gigliola Gori

    Italy came to the Olympic Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Berlin not only to build on the triumph of “Mussolini’s Boys” at Los Angeles in 1932 but also as an act of friendship toward its new political ally. It also needed to build up its image at home after the conflict in Ethiopia and the economic sanctions and moral reprobation that resulted from the unwarranted attack on that near-defenseless African country. Since the mid-1920s sports in Italy had been firmly tied to the Fascist regime, with the “fascistization” of sport only one part of the regime’s wider aim of gaining total...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Japan: The Future in the Past
    (pp. 127-144)
    Tetsuo Nakamura

    Japan was represented by two athletes in the Fifth Stockholm Olympics in 1912 and has been represented in every Olympiad since. As can be seen in table 6.1, the number of athletes, the participatory events, and the number of medals awarded has been increasing. The Tenth and Eleventh Olympics in Los Angeles and Berlin, respectively, were the turning points in Japanese participation and led to the decision to hold the Twelfth Olympic Games in Tokyo.

    In the period between the Tenth and the Eleventh Games, the tone of Japanese society was becoming increasingly militaristic and nationalistic. Japan was also becoming...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Finland: The Promised Land of Olympic Sports
    (pp. 145-161)
    Leena Laine

    Along with the rest of the Western world, Finland experienced a deep depression at the end of the 1920s during which it was confronted with a political crisis as well, as the unrest among the extreme right culminated in an attempted rebellion in 1932. The sports movement was also in a state of crisis: the bourgeois sports movement and its credibility were seriously undermined by the question of so-called covert professionalism, which culminated around the expulsion of Paavo Nurmi on the eve of the Los Angeles Olympics in 1932. The Worker Sports Federation (TUL) broke up in 1929–30, and...

  12. CHAPTER 8 Sweden: Business as Usual
    (pp. 162-174)
    Lars-Olof Welander

    During the first decades of the twentieth century Sweden was rapidly transformed from a mainly rural country to a modern industrialized society based on a considerable export trade.¹ As a result, Sweden, like other industrialized nations, was hit hard by the depression of the early 1930s, but unlike most of them it came out of the crisis in the mid-1930s and progressed steadily, through its expanding social democratic government. Unlike the other Scandinavian countries Sweden was not a belligerent in the Second World War, and as a result it has in some ways continued to replay the debates concerning its...

  13. CHAPTER 9 Norway: Neighborly Neutrality
    (pp. 175-194)
    Matti Goksøyr

    In Norwegian history the Olympic Games of 1936 have always evoked mixed feelings: on the one hand, the success of Birger Ruud, Ivar Ballangrud, Sonja Henie, and football’s “bronze team” evokes pride, while on the other hand, the inevitable reality of the Nazi presence generates a certain ambivalence. In terms of sporting success, the performances at the Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen were not matched until the Albertville Games in 1992. Although the term “Nazi Olympics”¹ has not been commonly used in Norwegian history books, this does not mean that general attitudes to the 1936 Olympics in Germany have been milder...

  14. CHAPTER 10 Denmark: Living with Reality
    (pp. 195-209)
    Jørn Hansen

    The picture of “charming little Inge” from Skovshoved, the twelve year-old Danish bronze medalist, remains a classic reminder of Danish Olympic participation in Berlin in 1936 . Strange as it may seem, however, Denmark’s part in the 1936 Olympic Games has not been studied in any depth. And yet discussion in Denmark about playing games with the Nazis was as intense as elsewhere, in some senses even more so, as it took place against the background of a mighty neighbor whose history warned the Danes that they had to treat it with care. Such issues were never far from the...

  15. CHAPTER 11 The Netherlands: In the Shadow of Big Brother
    (pp. 210-228)
    André Swijtink

    The swastika, the Nazi salute, and theHorst Wesselsong were seen and heard for the first time in the Netherlands during the women’s international dual meet in track and field against Germany in September 1933. Dutch sports organizations, then, were the first to be faced by the issue of how to deal with the coordinated sports under Nazi influence. A small minority, mainly consisting of Jews and socialists, was against such sports contacts, while the large majority insisted upon the so-called political neutrality of sport. The Olympic Games of 1936 in Berlin stood at the center of this dispute.


  16. Epilogue
    (pp. 229-242)
    Arnd Krüger

    By focusing on the major countries involved in the 1936 Olympics, some questions concerning issues of general importance warrant further study. The Olympic boycotts of 1976, 1980, and 1984 taught us a great deal about how boycotts of the Olympic Games work, about the amount of government and parliamentary involvement, and the resistance of the sports culture against such influences.¹ Considering that the Nazis were a masculine brotherhood (Männerbund), many of their actions in such highly symbolic spheres as the Olympic Games could also be regarded from a gender perspective. The question of female participation was still on the agenda...

  17. Appendix
    (pp. 243-246)
  18. Bibliographic Essay
    (pp. 247-252)
    Arnd Krüger and William Murray

    The endnotes to the various chapters in this book give a detailed summary of works in particular countries in regard to the 1936 Olympic Games. What follows is a more general guide.

    In contrast to books on Hitler and the Third Reich, where publications in English dwarf those in German, the vast amount of works on Nazi sport and the 1936 Olympic Games in particular have been published in German. This flow of constant research had been started and was strongly influenced by the late Hajo Bernett. His publications began only when all of the major actors of the 1936...

  19. Contributors
    (pp. 253-254)
  20. Index
    (pp. 255-260)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-264)