“The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn’t separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That’s why the Olympic Flame should never die.”
— Adolf Hitler , commenting on the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games
In 1936, Nazi Germany hosted both the summer and the winter Olympic games. The Summer Olympics were held in Berlin and the Winter Olympics were held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, in Bavaria.
Hitler used the Olympics as the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the prowess of the Third Reich and these Olympics were the first ever to be televised, with radio broadcasts reaching 41 different countries around the world. Hitler’s Nazi regime built a brand new, state-of-the-art 100,000-seat track and field stadium, six gymnasiums, and many other smaller arenas.
Originally, Hitler wanted to bar Jews and blacks from competing in the games, but after some backlash and threats of boycott, international Jews were allowed to compete. German Jews remained banned and many nations, including the U.S., did not allow their Jewish athletes to compete as to not offend the Nazi regime.
In an attempt to help ‘clean up the city,’ the German Ministry of the Interior authorized the Berlin Chief of Police to arrest all Romani Gypsies and put them in the Berlin-Marzahn concentration camp. The Nazis arrested over 600 people and imprisoned them. Those deemed fit were forced to work. The rest were killed.
During the opening ceremony, there was a moment in which the Olympic Committee released 25,000 pigeons, who flew overhead, circling the stadium. Following the release of the birds, there was a symbolic cannon shot which, quite literally, scared the excrement out of the pigeons. It rained down all over the stadium. As remembered by U.S. distance runner Louis Zamperini, “you could hear the pitter-patter on our straw hats, but we felt sorry for the women, for they got it in their hair, but I mean there was a mass of droppings, and I say it was so funny…”
The Nazis spent lavish sums in preparation for the Olympic games. Here, German officials show the extent of the Olympic village using a scale model. Berlin, Germany, July 1936. — Robert Hunt Library A display advertising the 11th Summer Olympic Games which were held in Berlin, Germany, 1936. — National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md. Jesse Owens gets some practice in whilst en route for Germany on the S.S. Manhattan Photograph- Joe Caneva: AP Adolf Hitler passes through the Brandenburg Gate on the way to the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games. Berlin, Germany, August 1, 1936. — National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md. On August 1, 1936, Hitler opened the 11th Summer Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany. Inaugurating a new Olympic ritual, a lone runner arrived bearing a torch carried by relay from the site of the ancient Games in Olympia, Greece. This photograph shows the last of the runners who carried the Olympic torch arriving in Berlin to light the Olympic Flame, marking the start of the 11th Summer Olympic Games. Berlin, Germany, August 1, 1936. — National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md. On August 1, 1936, Hitler opened the 11th Summer Olympic Games. Inaugurating a new Olympic ritual, a lone runner arrived bearing a torch carried by relay from the site of the ancient Games in Olympia, Greece. This photograph shows an Olympic torch bearer running through Berlin, passing by the Brandenburg Gate, shortly before the opening ceremony. Berlin, Germany, July-August 1936. – National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md. The Berlin Olympics were the first to host the torch relay and the first to be broadcast on television. This photograph depicts the running of the torch to mark the beginning of the eleventh Olympic Games. Aug. 1, 1936. Imagno—Getty Images The final moment before the ceremonial torch is lit to mark the beginning of the 1936 Olympic games. Sun Times Media The Olympic fire in Berlin, 1936 Summer Olympics. A German precision gymnastic performance at the Berlin Olympics. Getty Images 1936 Olympic Games, Berlin, Germany, Five young women take part in a display of the Olympic Rings (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images) The Nazi flag and the American flag parading through the snow. Getty Images A scene from the opening ceremonies of the 1936 Olympic Games. Berlin, Germany, August 1, 1936. — National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md. Crowds in front of the Berlin Olympic Stadium in 1936 (photo credit- Wikipedia) View of the Olympic Stadium, the centerpiece of Berlin’s Reich Sports Field. Berlin, Germany, 1936. — US Holocaust Memorial Museum A German technician checks the Television canon put in the Olympic Stadium, 01 August 1936, a huge electronic camera built by Telefunken, which broadcast live for the first time, 8 hours each day, the Berlin Olympics Games show. (Photo credit should read CORR/AFP/Getty Images) A street scene showing displays of the Olympic and German (swastika) flags in Berlin, site of the summer Olympic Games. Berlin, Germany, August 1936. — DIZ Muenchen GMBH, Sueddeutscher Verlag Bilderdienst Exhibition of Nazi publications—carefully purged of anti-semitic titles—on display during the Berlin Olympics. The poster shows countries in which Hitler’s MEIN KAMPF had been translated into the native language. Berlin, Germany, August 1936.— National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md. An American travel agency displays images of a peaceful Germany sent by the German Railways Information Office to attract visitors to the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. United States, prewar.— National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md. Sculpture of athletes built for the 1936 Berlin Olympics Statues of athletes in Berlin. German (swastika) and Olympic flags bedeck Berlin during the Olympic Games. Berlin, Germany, August 1936. — National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md. The Olympic Flag flying over the Olympic Stadium, Berlin 1936 German SS troops relaxing at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin The Hindenburg passing at low altitude over the Zeppelinfeld, in Nuremberg. Notice the Olympic Rings on the side The Hindenburg floating over Berlin’s Olympic Stadium during the 1936 Olympics opening ceremony. At a ceremony during the 1936 Olympic Games, German spectators spell out the phrase, directed at Adolf Hitler, Wir gehoeren Dir [We belong to you]. Berlin, Germany, August 1936. — National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md An enthusiastic crowd greets Adolf Hitler upon his arrival at the Olympic Stadium. Berlin, Germany, August 1936. — Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie Adolf Hitler and Nazi elite saluting in one of the stadiums. Getty Images Hitler watches the Olympic Flame before the start of the 1936 Olympic Games. Photograph- IOC Olympic Museum: Allsport Dr. Joseph Goebbels, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler, Reichs Sports Leader Hans von Tschammer und Osten and Generalfeldmarschall Werner von Blomberg observe the Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany in August 1936. (AP Photo) In the Olympic Stadium, German spectators salute Adolf Hitler during the Games of the 11th Olympiad. Berlin, Germany, August 1936. — National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md. Spectators giving the Nazi salute during one of the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics medal ceremonies. (photo credit- FOTO-FORTEPAN: LŐRINCZE JUDIT VIA CC BY-SA 3.0) Adolf Hitler salutes the Olympic flag at the opening of the Olympic Games in Berlin. Germany, August 1, 1936. — US Holocaust Memorial Museum A rare color photograph of Hitler speaking to an Olympic crowd.
Spectators in the Olympia stadium during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. By Heinrich Hoffmann. Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels sign autographs for members of the Canadian figure skating team at the Winter Olympic Games. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, February 1936. Garmisch station adorned with huge Nazi banners. Austrian Archives Hitler peers out of the window of his residence to greet the assembled crowd. Keystone-France Hitler being saluted as he walks out of the Olympic House in the snow. Austrian Archives Adolf Hitler greeting cheering crowds. Fratelli Alinari Museum of History of Photography Karl Ritter von Halt, president of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympic Organizing Committee giving a speech below the slopes. AFP Adolf Hitler at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Hulton-Deutsch Collection:CORBIS: Corbis via Getty Images Norwegian figure-skating legend Sonja Henie, who, though she later became a U.S. citizen and made an anti-Nazi film when she turned to acting, was a personal favorite of Adolf Hitler’s when she was in her skating prime. AP Images Guinness planned to advertise in Nazi Germany during the 1936 Olympics (It’s time for a Guiness) 1936 Olympic Games, Berlin, Germany, Basketball, Action between the Philippines and Mexico (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images) 1936 Olympic Games, Berlin, Germany, Women’s 80 Metres Hurdles, The start of the race which was won by Valle of Italy (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images) 1936 Olympic Games, Berlin, Germany, Women’s Javelin, Germany’s Tilly Fleischer who won the gold medal (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images) The racing cyclists Robert CHARPENTIER, Guy LAPEBIE, Jean GOUJON and Roger LE NIZERHY just after having won the team race at the Olympic Games of Berlin in August 1936. Sport. 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Gisela Mauermayer, Germany, winner of the gold medal in the Discus event at the 1936 Olympic Games. Berlin Olympic Games, Jesse Owens, and Helen Stephens, 1936, Germany, Private collection. (Photo by Photo12/UIG/Getty Images) 1936 Olympic Games, Berlin, Germany, Men’s 100 Metres Final, USA’s legendary Jesse Owens on his way to winning one of his four gold medals (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images) American Olympic runner Jesse Owens and other Olympic athletes compete in the twelfth heat of the first trial of the 100m dash. Berlin, Germany, August 3, 1936. — National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md. Olympic winner Gustav ‘Gummi’ Schaefer, German rower, with the laurel wreath during the Summer Olympics in Berlin-Gr¸nau in August 1936. Photo by: Schirner Sportfoto/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images The 13-year springboard diver Marjorie Gestring at the Olympic Games in Berlin. 12th August 1936. Photograph. (Photo by Austrian Archives/Imagno/Getty Images) Winner of the men’s javelin throw event at the Summer Olympic Games, German athlete Gerhard Stoeck in action on August 6, 1936, in Berlin, Germany. (AP Photo) Here, the Norwegian champion Birger Ruud executes a record jump of 71 meters in a training run as swastika banners fly Keystone-France Here, Masaji Iguro, of Japan, flies in front of a Nazi banner during a training session. Asahi Shimbun:1936 Alpine skiing made its debut in the 1936 Winter Games. Here’s German skier Chistl Cranz performing in front of a crowd that included uniformed Nazis in the women’s alpine combined Getty Images The German female javelin throwers Tilly FLEISCHER (gold medal) and Luis KRUGER (silver medal) as well as the Polish bronze-medalist Marja KWASNIEWSKA, standing on the podium of the Olympic Games in Berlin on August 2, 1936. Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone—Getty Images 1936 Olympic Games, Berlin, Germany, A stonemason at work records the feat of USA’s Jesse Owens, winner of four gold medals in the Games (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images) In this Aug. 11, 1936 file photo, Olympic broad jump medalists salute during the medals ceremony at the Summer Olympics in Berlin. From left on podium are: bronze medalist Jajima of Japan, gold medalist Jesse Owens of the United States and silver medalist Lutz Long of Germany. One of the four Olympic gold medals won by track and field star Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games is for sale in an online auction that runs from through Dec. 7. (AP Photo/File) Closing ceremonies of the 4th Winter Olympic Games. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, February 16, 1936. — US Holocaust Memorial Museum