July 2, 1999

The Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936

A special traveling exhibition from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, The Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936, is now on display at the new San Diego Hall of Champions Sports Museum in Balboa Park. The exhibition examines the issues and controversies surrounding the 1936 Games, including the Nazification of German sport, Hitler's attempt to present a peaceful and tolerant Germany to the world on the eve of World War II and the remarkable performance of African-American athletes.

With the Nazi rise to power, the Berlin Olympics became a focus of controversy. Many observers in the United States and other Western nations questioned whether participation in the 1936 games would represent an endorsement of Hitler's regime. Others argued that sports should remain separate from politics.

Although the internationalist spirit of the Olympics was contrary to the extreme nationalism espoused by the Nazis, the Games afforded an irresistible opportunity: to exhibit, on a world stage, a revitalized Germany whose athletes exemplified Nazi racial theories of Aryan superiority. In the end, 1936 became the year of "Hitler's Games." This exhibition examines the tensions that characterized the "Nazi Olympics"--Games which, intentionally or not, afforded temporary international legitimacy to their host's fascist regime.

The mission of The Nazi Olympics is to broaden public understanding of Holocaust history, the Museum in 1996 developed an exhibition that examines the Berlin Games in the context of mounting repression in Nazi Germany.

The exhibition opens by bringing visitors into the setting of the 1936 Games. Introductory panels illustrate the components of the Nazi police state during 1933-36 (the "Fuhrer," Nazi Party rallies, repression of dissent, concentration camps) and document a culture of state-sponsored racism and virulent antisemitism.

The exhibition then addresses how the Nazi takeover of all aspects of German life even extended to athletes and sporting organizations excluding all but those who "fit" the Nazi racial ideology.

For information on admission information and hours of operation call the Hall of Champions at 619-234-2544.

Return to Frontpage