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The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936
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American Boycotters — Milton Green
Milton Green (left), captain of the Harvard University track team, took first place in the 110-meter high hurdles in regional pre-Olympic trials. His teammate, Norman Cahners, also Jewish, qualified for the final Olympics trials as well. Both chose to boycott the national Olympic trials.

Certificate awarded to Milton Green in pre-Olympic trials.
Certificate awarded to Milton Green in pre-Olympic trials.
—USHMM #14940/Courtesy of Milton Green
Milton Green (left), captain of the Harvard University track team.
Milton Green (left), captain of the Harvard University track team.
—Courtesy of Milton Green
 
Milton Green speaking about his experiences

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Transcript:

I was always interested in athletics, and I knew that I was a pretty good athlete. I was captain of all the track teams since I was in grammar school. I'd been always thinking and wanting to be in the Olympics. Of course that was my hope, to be in the Olympics. I had held the world's record in the high hurdles and also the Harvard-Yale record in the broad jump. And I was watching the performances all over the world; I knew that I'd qualify because I won the preliminary events.

There was some publicity in the Boston papers about my roommate and me, Norman Cahners. There was a picture of us winning six gold medals in the Harvard-Yale track meet. Rabbi Levy was the head of the Temple Israel in Boston, a Reform temple, and he was well respected all over the United States. And he had seen the publicity and knew that we were potential Olympic candidates, and said he'd like to talk to us. I was confirmed at Temple Israel and naturally when they asked us to come — asked me and Norman Cahners — we agreed to come.

I didn't know what they were going to talk about, except something about the Olympics. They told us about the terrible things that were going on in Germany and the Nazi regime. And it was a shock to me and Norman. They suggested that it might be a good idea for us not to go to the Olympics because of all these problems, and to sort of register our objections and sort of boycotting the Olympics. And we were quite taken aback about that thought. They tried to explain to us that we would never regret it if we did take that action to boycott the Olympics. And that meeting really turned us around, because we were horrified at the terrible things that were going on in Germany. Both Cahners and I decided that we would boycott the Olympics. We just felt it was the right thing to do.

I spoke to the track coach at Harvard. We told him about our intention. He tried to persuade us not to do it. He said he didn't think it would do much good, and we should try to go to the final tryouts and try to make the team. But we didn't want to do that.

After we boycotted the Olympics, no one came to speak to us or ask us if we'd make any statements about it. And I don't think anyone knew particularly that we did boycott it.

I think back on making that decision and whether I would have won [laughs] silver or gold or some sort of a medal, and every time I go to the Olympics — I've been to three of them — I particularly watch the high hurdles and the long jump, and I picture myself [laughs] as maybe having won a medal in it.

Transcript:

I was always interested in athletics, and I knew that I was a pretty good athlete. I was captain of all the track teams since I was in grammar school. I'd been always thinking and wanting to be in the Olympics. Of course that was my hope, to be in the Olympics. I had held the world's record in the high hurdles and also the Harvard-Yale record in the broad jump. And I was watching the performances all over the world; I knew that I'd qualify because I won the preliminary events.

There was some publicity in the Boston papers about my roommate and me, Norman Cahners. There was a picture of us winning six gold medals in the Harvard-Yale track meet. Rabbi Levy was the head of the Temple Israel in Boston, a Reform temple, and he was well respected all over the United States. And he had seen the publicity and knew that we were potential Olympic candidates, and said he'd like to talk to us. I was confirmed at Temple Israel and naturally when they asked us to come — asked me and Norman Cahners — we agreed to come.

I didn't know what they were going to talk about, except something about the Olympics. They told us about the terrible things that were going on in Germany and the Nazi regime. And it was a shock to me and Norman. They suggested that it might be a good idea for us not to go to the Olympics because of all these problems, and to sort of register our objections and sort of boycotting the Olympics. And we were quite taken aback about that thought. They tried to explain to us that we would never regret it if we did take that action to boycott the Olympics. And that meeting really turned us around, because we were horrified at the terrible things that were going on in Germany. Both Cahners and I decided that we would boycott the Olympics. We just felt it was the right thing to do.

I spoke to the track coach at Harvard. We told him about our intention. He tried to persuade us not to do it. He said he didn't think it would do much good, and we should try to go to the final tryouts and try to make the team. But we didn't want to do that.

After we boycotted the Olympics, no one came to speak to us or ask us if we'd make any statements about it. And I don't think anyone knew particularly that we did boycott it.

I think back on making that decision and whether I would have won [laughs] silver or gold or some sort of a medal, and every time I go to the Olympics — I've been to three of them — I particularly watch the high hurdles and the long jump, and I picture myself [laughs] as maybe having won a medal in it.

The Museum’s exhibitions are supported by the Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibitions Fund, established in 1990.

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