The 1936 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XI Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event that was held in 1936 in Berlin, Germany.
Berlin won the bid to host the Games over Barcelona, Spain, on 26 April 1931, at the 29th IOC Session in Barcelona (two years before the NSDAP came to power).
It marked the second and final time that the International Olympic Committee would gather to vote in a city which was bidding to host those Games.
The only other time this occurred was at the inaugural IOC Session in Paris, France, on 24 April 1894. Then, Athens and Paris were chosen to host the 1896 and 1900 Games, respectively.
Her film, titled Olympia, pioneered many of the techniques now common in the filming of sports.
The bidding for these Olympic Games was the first to be contested by IOC members casting their votes for their favorite host city.
The other cities competing to hold the games were: Alexandria, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Cologne, Dublin, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Lausanne, Nuremberg, Rio de Janeiro, and Rome.
Ironically in 1938 the Japanese rejected hosting the games because they saw the Olympics and its pacifist values as ‘an effete form of European culture’.
The Olympic village was located at Estal in Wustermark, (at 52°32′10.78″N 13°0′33.20″E), on the western edge of Berlin.
The site, which was 30 kilometres (19 mi) from the center of the city, consisted of one to two floor dormitories, dining areas, a swimming pool, and training facilities.
During the Second World War, it was used as a hospital for injured Wehrmacht soldiers. In 1945 it was taken over by the Soviet Union and became a torture and interrogation center for SMERSH.
Recent efforts have been made to restore parts of the former village, but to no avail.
Hans von Tschammer und Osten, as Reichssportführer, i.e. head of the Deutscher Reichsbund für Leibesübungen (DRL), the Reich Sports Office, played a major role in the structure and organization of the Olympics.
Hans von Tschammer und Osten (25 October 1887 in Dresden, Kingdom of Saxony – 25 March 1943) was a German sport official, SA leader and a member of the Reichstag. He was married to Sophie Margarethe von Carlowitz.
The Summer Olympics in Berlin were held during von Tschammer’s tenure as Reichssportführer. He played a major role in the structure and organization of the Olympic Games together with Carl Diem, who was the former secretary of the Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen (DRA). Von Tschammer trusted the organization of the Fourth Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Karl Ritter von Halt, whom he named President of the Committee for the organization of the games.
He promoted the idea that the use of sports would harden the German spirit and instill unity among German youth. At the same time he also believed that sports was a ‘way to weed out the weak.’
Von Tschammer trusted the details of the organisation of the games to Theodor Lewald and Carl Diem, the former president and secretary of the Deutscher Reichsausschuss für Leibesübungen, the forerunner of the Reich Sports Office.
Carl Diem (1882-1962) — a highly respected sports official before, during, and after the Nazi Government — “he was an avid athlete as a young man. Denigrating the value of his country’s powerful but archaic Turner Sport Movement, an institution entrenched in the Fatherland for over a century, Diem became a dedicated enthusiast and advocator of a German sporting movement parallel to those developing rapidly in fin du siecle Anglo-Saxon nations. Diem followed a career path in teaching and sport administration, rising rapidly to head what became known as the German National Sports University, founded in Berlin in 1920.”
He had a long association with Germany’s Olympic movement. He was the 30-year-old captain of the German team at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, and, like Theodor Lewald, appointed to the 1916 organizing committee. Diem, “though generally staying in the background, did more than anyone else in the Reich during the first half of the twentieth century to advance German sports and German Olympic ambitions.”
In 1936, he became the General-Secretary of the Berlin Organisationskomittee. His “inspired contributions” to the Berlin Games included the Iron Bell with the words, ‘Ich rufe die Jugend der Welt‘ (I call on the youth of the world); Olympische Jugend (Olympic Youth), a five-act pageant of dances at the opening ceremonies; and, the torch lighting in Olympia and relay to Berlin. Diem described the Berlin Games as an event for Germany to lead “a victory charge for a better Europe.”
The games were the first to have live television coverage.
The German Post Office, using equipment from Telefunken, broadcast over 70 hours of coverage to special viewing rooms throughout Berlin and Potsdam and a few private TV sets, transmitting from the Paul Nipkow TV Station.
The Olympic Flame was used for the third time at these games, but this marked the first time it was brought to the Olympic Village by a torch relay, with the starting point in Olympia, Greece (see above)
In the cycling match sprint finals, the German Toni Merkens fouled Arie van Vliet of the Netherlands. Instead of being disqualified, he was fined 100 marks and kept his gold. German gymnasts Konrad Frey and Alfred Schwarzmann both won three gold medals.
His German competitor Luz Long offered Owens advice after he almost failed to qualify in the long jump and was posthumously awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanship. Mack Robinson, brother to Jackie Robinson won the 200 meter sprint silver medal behind Owens by .04 seconds.
Although he did not medal, future American war hero Louis Zamperini, lagging behind in the 5,000 meter final, made up ground by clocking a 56-second final lap.
This effort caught the attention of Adolf Hitler who personally commended Zamperini on his speed. In one of the most dramatic 800 meter races in history, American John Woodruff won gold after slowing to jogging speed in the middle of the final in order to free himself from being boxed in.
Glenn Edgar Morris, a farm boy from Colorado, won Gold in the Decathlon. Rower Jack Beresford won his fifth Olympic medal in the sport, and his third gold medal.
The U.S. eight-man rowing team from the University of Washington won the gold medal, coming from behind to defeat the Germans and Italians with Adolf Hitler in attendance.
Estonia’s Kristjan Palusalu won two gold medals in Men’s Wrestling, marking the last time Estonia competed as an independent nation in the Olympics until 1992.
The 20-year-old El Touni lifted a total of 387.5 kg crushing two German world champions, El Touni broke the then Olympic and world records, while the German lifted 352.5 kg.
Furthermore, El Touni had lifted 15 kg more than the heavyweight gold medalist, a feat only El Touni has accomplished.
El Touni’s new world records stood for 13 years.
Fascinated by El Touni’s performance, Adolf Hitler rushed down to greet this human miracle. Prior to the competition, Hitler was said to have been sure that Rudolf Ismayr and Adolf Wagner would embarrass all other opponents.
Hitler was so impressed by El Touni’s domination in the middleweight class that he ordered a street named after him in Berlin olympic village.
Much like the successes of German athletes, this triumph was claimed by supporters of Benito Mussolini’s regime as a vindication of the superiority of the fascist system.
Austria won the silver; a controversial win after Hitler called for a rematch of the quarterfinals match to discount Peru’s 4–2 win over Austria.
The Peruvian national Olympic team refused to play the match again and withdrew from the games. In the quarter-finals of the football tournament, Peru beat Austria 4–2 in extra-time. Peru rallied from a two-goal deficit in the final 15 minutes of normal time.
During extra-time, Peruvian fans allegedly ran onto the field and attacked an Austrian player. In the chaos, Peru scored twice and won, 4–2.
However, Austria protested and the International Olympic Committee ordered a replay without any spectators.
The Peruvian government refused and their entire Olympic squad left in protest as did Colombia.
In 1936, Hitler invited Riefenstahl to film the Olympic Games in Berlin, a film which Riefenstahl claimed had been commissioned by the International Olympic Committee.
She also went to Greece to take footage of the games’ original site at Olympia, where she was aided by Greek photographer Nelly, along with route of the inaugural torch relay.
This material became Olympia, a successful film which has since been widely noted for its technical and aesthetic achievements.
She was one of the first filmmakers to use tracking shots in a documentary, placing a camera on rails to follow the athletes’ movement, and she is noted for the slow motion shots included in the film.
Riefenstahl’s work on Olympia has been cited as a major influence in modern sports photography.
Riefenstahl filmed competitors of all races, including African-American Jesse Owens in what would later become famous footage.
The film was released in two parts: ‘Olympia 1. Teil — Fest der Völker’ (Festival of Nations) and ‘Olympia 2. Teil — Fest der Schönheit’ (Festival of Beauty).
In 1937, Riefenstahl told a reporter for the Detroit News:
“To me, Hitler is the greatest man who ever lived. He truly is without fault, so simple and at the same time possessed of masculine strength“.
She arrived in New York City in November 1938, five days before Kristallnacht, or ‘night of broken glass’; when news of the event reached America, Riefenstahl maintained that Hitler was innocent.
On 18 November, she was received by Henry Ford in Detroit and Olympia was shown at “The Chicago Engineers Club” two days later.
Avery Brundage stated that it was “The greatest Olympic film ever made” and Riefenstahl left for Hollywood, where she was received by the German Consul Georg Gyssling, on 24 November. She negotiated with Louis B. Mayer and on 8 December, Walt Disney brought her on a three-hour tour showing her the on-going production of Fantasia.
By later accounts, Goebbels thought highly of Riefenstahl’s filmmaking but was angered with what he saw as her overspending on the Nazi-provided filmmaking budgets.
LENI RIEFENSTAHL was born in Berlin in 1902.
She studied painting and started her artistic career as a dancer.
She became already so famous after her first dance hat Max Reinhardt engaged her for the ‘Deutsches Theater’.
An injury of the knee put an end to her sensational career.
After that, she became famous as an actress, a film director, a film producer and a film reporter.
She also became world-renowned as an actress in the films ‘Der heilige Berg’ (The Holy Mountain) (1926), ‘Der große Sprung’ (The Great Leap) (1927), ‘Die weiße Hölle vom Piz Palü’ (The White Hell of Piz Palü) (1929), ‘Stürme über dem Mont Blanc’ (Storms Over Mont Blanc) (1930), ‘Der weiße Rausch’ (The White Noise) (1931), ‘Das Blaue Licht’ (The Blue Light) (1932) and ‘SOS Eisberg’ (1933).
Her greatest success she made with the documentary film ‘Triumph des Willens’ (The Triumph of the Will) named after the Reich Party Congress 1934 in Nuremberg which got the highest awards: The gold medal in Venice in 1935 and the gold medal at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937, however, at the end of the war this film destroyed Leni Riefenstahl’s career, for now it had no longer been recognized as a piece of art but been condemned as a National Socialist propaganda film.
Her world-famous film about the Olympic games was equally well received.
That film included two parts, part I ‘Fest der Völker’ (Festival of the Nations) and part 2 ‘Fest der Schönheit’ , (Festival of Beauty) and did also get the highest awards: the gold medal in Paris in 1937, the first price in Venice as the world’s best film in 1938, the Olympic Award by the IOC in 1939, and in 1956 it had been classified as one of the world’s best ten films.
(The Olympic Bell)