Black History Month
1936 Gold Medalist John Woodruff Shares Impressions of Germany Close
In 1936, John Woodruff was one of 18 African Americans on the US Olympic team competing in Berlin. He won the gold medal for the men's 800 metres. In this excerpt, he discusses Germany's actions before and after his visit as well as the regime's efforts to downplay its antisemitic and racist policies during the Games.
Veteran John Holmes Recalls Meeting Newly Freed Prisoners Close
John Holmes served as a tank commander in Europe during World War II. He recalls his encounters with prisoners who had just been liberated from an unnamed camp in Germany.
The fate of black people from 1933 to 1945 in Nazi Germany and in German-occupied territories ranged from isolation to persecution, sterilization, medical experimentation, incarceration, brutality, and murder. The number of black people living in Nazi-occupied Europe was relatively small and there was no systematic program for their elimination.
The racist nature of the Nazi regime was disguised briefly during the Olympic Games in Berlin in August 1936, when 18 African American athletes competed for the US team. Military service also confronted black soldiers with the horrors of the Holocaust, both as prisoners of war and as liberators.
DID YOU KNOW...
- Movements to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games surfaced in the United States and other countries. Debate focused on the morality of supporting Olympic Games hosted by the racist and antisemitic Nazi regime.
- 18 African American athletes competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, winning 14 medals. The continuing social and economic discrimination black athletes faced after returning to the United States emphasized the irony of their victory in racist Germany.
- Some African Americans, caught in German-occupied Europe during World War II, became victims of the Nazi regime.
- The United States military was still segregated during World War II.