United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936
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Boycott
“...Sport is prostituted when sport loses its independent and democratic character and becomes a political institution...Nazi Germany is endeavoring to use the Eleventh Olympiad to serve the necessities and interests of the Nazi Regime rather than the Olympic ideals.” —Committee on Fair Play in Sports, New York, November 15, 1935

A passerby in New York City reads a notice announcing a public meeting to urge Americans to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
A passerby in New York City reads a notice announcing a public meeting to urge Americans to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
—USHMM #21780/National Archives and Records Administration
Soon after Hitler took power in 1933, observers in the United States and other western democracies questioned the morality of supporting Olympic Games hosted by the Nazi regime. Responding to reports of the persecution of Jewish athletes in 1933, Avery Brundage, president of the American Olympic Committee, stated: "The very foundation of the modern Olympic revival will be undermined if individual countries are allowed to restrict participation by reason of class, creed, or race." Brundage, like many others in the Olympics movement, initially considered moving the Games from Germany. After a brief and tightly managed inspection of German sports facilities in 1934, Brundage stated publicly that Jewish athletes were being treated fairly and that the Games should go on, as planned.

Many American newspaper editors and anti-Nazi groups, led by Jeremiah Mahoney, president of the Amateur Athletic Union, were unwilling to be duped by Nazi Germany's hollow pledges and lies regarding German Jewish athletes. But Avery Brundage maneuvered the Amateur Athletic Union to a close vote in favor of sending an American team to Berlin, and, in the end, Mahoney's boycott effort failed.

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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