Monday, 10 June 2024

5:00-6:40 pm Paris time

Zoom lecture


Berlin 1936:

Hitler’s Olympic Games

with Sylvie Koneski




The American sprinter Jesse Owens, winner of four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics of 1936
The American sprinter Jesse Owens, winner of four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics of 1936

When, in 1931, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1936 Olympic Games to Berlin, it was hoping to bring Germany back into the concert of nations 18 years after the end of WWI and did not, then, imagine Hitler coming to power.

 

On August 1, 1936. Adolf Hitler triumphantly declared open the 11th Olympic Games of the modern era. Prior to the Games, Joseph Goebbels organized a massive national and international propaganda campaign. Cinema was a major propaganda tool for the regime, and the Führer commissioned a long documentary film, a visual ode to the Olympics. He entrusted the task to Leni Riefenstahl who was close to the Nazi leadership.

 

Riefenstahl obtained immense resources, released by order of the Führer himself, assembled a team of three hundred people, and experimented with all kinds of shooting techniques, using the most modern technology of the time. The result is aesthetically striking. “Olympia” opened in Berlin on April 20, 1938, on Hitler's birthday.

 

The propaganda and impressive staging of the games made them an international success raising the prestige of the Nazi regime. Yet the world also remembers the Berlin Games as a failure in demonstrating Hitler’s prized belief in the superiority of the Aryan race. With his four gold medals the hero of the Games turned out to be an African American from Cleveland, Ohio, the great Jesse Owens.

 



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