While the 32nd Olympic games are ongoing in Tokyo, you may be interested in knowing that other than the spirit of international collaboration, Olympic games have also borne witness to wars and conflicts that have set the direction of history. One such point in history was on this day 76 years ago, when the 11th Olympics games in Berlin began on August 1, 1936.
1936 in Germany was the Nazi era. The newly built track and field stadium with a capacity of 1,00,000 audiences was fully packed. More than 5,000 athletes had come to participate from 50 countries, who were now marching into the stadium. German dictator, Adolf Hitler had come to begin the games. In his only public statement at the Berlin Olympics, Hitler said, “I proclaim the Games of Berlin, celebrating the eleventh Olympiad of the modern era, to be open.”
When Hitler entered the stadium, the German national anthem “Deutschland Uber Alles” and Nazi Anthem “Horst Wessel Lied” was played. When athletes from guest nations were marching, some of them including athletes from Austria and France chose to greet Hitler by Nazi Salute. However, athletes from other countries gave Olympic Salute, which was similar to the Nazi Salute, except the right arm is lifted higher than the Nazi Salute. Interestingly, India is also one of the countries that chose not to perform the Nazi Salute. The Indian team of the 1936 Olympics included famous hockey player Dhyan Chand.
The act of defiance is seen with historical importance because before the games, Hitler banned Jews from participating in the Olympics and saw the international tournament as an opportunity to spread his propaganda of racial supremacy. However, anti-Semitic signage was withdrawn from the games after many countries including the US, Britain, Sweden and Czechoslovakia threatened to withdraw, but eventually, they participated.
However, many countries were said to have avoided taking Jewish players to the Olympics because they did not want to offend the Nazi regime. The decision that Berlin would hold the summer Olympics in 1936 was made in 1931 when Berlin had won the bid for the Olympics. It was two years before Hitler’s party came into power.