No Olympic village without games of course ...
The 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin have a long history. In 1931 it became clear that Berlin could organize the Olympic Games in 1936. That would not be the first time; because Germany was also awarded the games in 1916. There was already a stadium (the Deutsche Stadion, designed by architect Otto March) built in the Grunewald district, but the First World War stopped normal life and therefore also the Olympic games. At the upcoming games in 1920 and then in 1924, Germany was excluded from participation. In 1928 in Amsterdam, German athletes participated again for the first time since 1912.
In the meantime, something political happened in Germany that would change world history. On July 31, 1932, one day after the opening of the games in Los Angeles, the NSDAP received more than a third of the votes in the Reichstag election. The succes of this party ultimately resulted in Adolf Hitler being appointed Reich Chancellor on January 30.
That in itself was worrying for those who were organizing the games in Germany. The NSDAP had previously been negative about the games. This was far too international and multicultural oriented to their liking. When they were a small splinter party, that criticism didn't matter, but now that they were the biggest party, the games could be at risk. Hitler was not enthusiastic in the beginning either. Yet, after many conversations with the new rulers, with Goebbels leading the way, it was recognized that the games were an excellent opportunity to show the Third Reich it's best side to the rest of the world, to get foreign currency and to give people a job during the construction of the stadium complex, village and other activities. Furthermore, it was of course an advantage that the games would motivate the Germans to stay fit and healthy; ideal if you also want fit soldiers.
It was planned to modernize the existing Deutsche Stadium and use it for the games. When Hitler visited the complex in October 1933, those plans were canceled. In his opinion, the stadium could not represent the New Germany. Instead, a large, modern, elegant and monumental stadium complex had to be built. Architect Werner March and his brother Walter were given this task. The family was therefore closely connected to the Olympic Games, because father Otto had designed the old stadium.
The construction of the 131-hectare Reichssportfeld soon began; in April 1934 the first spade went into the ground. The new stadium would accommodate 100,000 spectators. For comparison; the 'Kuip' stadium in Rotterdam was opened in 1937 and now has a capacity of 51,117, at the opening it was 65,000.
The summer games took place from August 1 to August 16, 1936. In total 49 countries participated, with a total of 3.961 athletes. That was a new record. However, it was close to become a fiasco. Then, and certainly now, the games were seen as an instrument of the National Socialists to put Germany in a positive light. That of course happens with every edition of the Olympic Games, even nowadays. But at the same time there was a lot going on in Hitler's Germany. Since he came to power three years earlier, there was more nationalism, less freedom, more dictatorship and especially persecution of dissenters, Gypsies and Jews. That was also noticed by the rest of the world, who looked with care and suspicion at what was happening in Germany. There was a lot of discussion and protest against the games. It was a close call or a number of countries, including the USA, would have boycotted the games.
Not only because of the discrimination that reared its head in Germany, but also because of the violation of the Locarno Treaty by Germany, a boycott was imminent. In this treaty, a result of the peace of Versailles after the First World War, new borders of several European countries were established. It also stated that the Rhineland, the industrial area adjacent to the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France, must be and remain demilitarized. This as a buffer against a possible attack from Germany towards France. From 1923 to 1930 it was also occupied by the Allies to enforce German reparations.
However, after the Allied forces left in 1930, Hitler decided that the area should belong to Germany once again. The Wehrmacht moved into the Rhineland. This happened on March 7, 1936, so only a few months before the Olympics. England and France did little about this. There was no military action, only protest letters were sent. History could have had a different course if it had. At the time, Germany was not economically and militarily strong enough to withstand any military action in the long term. At the same time there was the threatening civil war in Spain, so it was quite an flammable situation in the world. Perhaps that is also a reason that the games of 1936 could become a success. The world wanted to believe that people could live in peace with each other.
The Olympiastadion as it looked during my visit in 1999. A larger roof was installed during the 2004 renovation. A city keeps changing. I have to go back again! At this moment, Hertha BSC would like to exchange the Olympiastadion for a new, smaller stadium, which looks less 'empty' when it is not sold out. That would mean the stadium would be without a frequent user.
Opening of the XI Olympic Games. Chancellor Adolf Hitler with members of the national and international Olympic committee on the stairs of the stadium. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Entry ticket to the hockey match between India and United States. India won 7-0
Bötzow beer advertising material. The medal level could be kept up by turning the wheel inside. The nice thing is that someone did that too.
The beer brand existed from 1885 to 1949. Today, a small number of buildings of the brewery in Berlin have been preserved.