When the International Olympic Committee awarded the 1936 Summer and Winter Olympic Games to Germany in Spring 1931, it could scarcely have realized the political ramifications for the Olympic movement and its ideals of equality and international cooperation that would result from the rise of the Nazi regime in 1933. While the 1936 Games provided the Nazis a chance to boost the international standing of their “new” Reich, it also forced them, under international pressure, to temporarily downplay the various racial policies, repressive actions and anti-Jewish regulations they had enacted.
Hitler and Goebbels considered banning Jews of any nation from competing in the Games, but in the face of an American boycott movement the Nazi regime acquiesced and allowed Jewish athletes from outside Germany to participate, while creating behind-the-scenes obstacles to the participation of German Jewish athletes. At the Winter Olympics in the Bavarian resort town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Hitler reluctantly agreed to remove antisemitic signs under pressure from the president of the International Olympic Committee. In Berlin for the Summer Olympics, signs and other manifestations of antisemitism were hidden, but many observers noted the dominant presence of the German military in the organization and administration of the Games.
At the time, American Olympic officials considered the Berlin Olympiad to be “the greatest and most glorious athletic festival ever conducted,” but in retrospect the 1936 Olympics can only be seen as a temporary respite from the Nazi march towards war and the solution of the “Jewish question.”
The following bibliography was compiled to guide readers to selected materials on the 1936 Olympics that are in the Library’s collection. It is not meant to be exhaustive. Annotations are provided to help the user determine the item’s focus, and call numbers for the Museum’s Library are given in parentheses following each citation. Those unable to visit might be able to find these works in a nearby public library or acquire them through interlibrary loan. Follow the “Find in a library near you” link in each citation and enter your zip code at the Open WorldCat search screen. The results of that search indicate all libraries in your area that own that particular title. Talk to your local librarian for assistance.
Eisen, George. “The Voices of Sanity: American Diplomatic Reports from the 1936 Berlin Olympiad.” Journal of Sport History 11, no. 3 (1984): 56-78. (Subject Files) [Find in a library near you]
Reviews the confidential diplomatic reports from key American officials in Germany in the years leading up to the Games: the American ambassador, William E. Dodd; consul general, George S. Messersmith; and consul, Raymond H. Geist. Recounts their observations of rising antisemitism in Germany in the mid-1930s and their diplomatic proposals for how the U.S. should approach the Olympics and the boycott movement.
Kieran, John, and Arthur Daley. The Story of the Olympic Games: 776 B.C. to 1964. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1965. (GV 23 .K5 1965) [Find in a library near you]
Reviews the history of the Olympics from ancient Greece to the modern Olympic movement. Provides a chapter on each of the Summer Olympiads from 1896 to 1964, including Berlin in 1936.
Krüger, Arnd, and Murray, William, editors. The Nazi Olympics: Sport, Politics and Appeasement in the 1930s. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003. (GV 722 1936 .N389 2003) [Find in a library near you]
Collection of essays exploring how the Nazi Party used the 1936 Olympics as a stage for political maneuvering among the participating countries. Individual essays outline the ways political and military interests of the time affected the Games. Includes a bibliographic essay and index.
Krüger, Arnd. “‘Once the Olympics are through, we’ll beat up the Jew’: German Jewish Sport 1898-1938 and the Anti-Semitic Discourse.” Journal of Sport History 26, No. 2 (1999): 353-375. (Subject Files) [Find in a library near you]
Article outlining the development of Jewish participation in German athletic clubs in the early 20th century, and how these organizations were affected by the rise of the Nazi party in the 1930s.
Mandell, Richard D. The Nazi Olympics. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987. (GV 722 1936 M3 1987) [Find in a library near you]
Examines the historical framework of the 1936 Olympics within the context of German attitudes towards sport and individual competition. Summarizes the political atmosphere of Germany in 1936 and the jingoistic and propagandistic purposes to which the Games were put by the Nazi leadership.
Miller, Patrick B. “The Nazi Olympics, Berlin, 1936: Exhibition at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.” Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies 5 (1996): 127-139. (Subject Files) [Find in a library near you]
Review of the exhibit “The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936,” on display at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1996-1997. Comments on the prominent themes of the exhibit, such as the movement within the United States to boycott the Games and the impact of Nazism on Jewish athletes from around the world, as well as the continuing impact of these events on the relationship between politics and sport.
Murray, W.J. “France, Coubertin and the Nazi Olympics: The Response.” Olympika: The International Journal of Olympic Studies 1 (1992): 46-69. (Subject Files) [Find in a library near you]
Reconstructs the controversy surrounding a 1936 editorial in the French sports journal L’Auto which decried the Games as “défigurés” (“disfigured”) by Nazism, and the impassioned defense of the Games by the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin. Reviews the discussions in the French press of the role of nationalism and racism in the Games. Includes extensive endnotes.
The Boycott Movement
Committee on Fair Play in Sports. Preserve the Olympic Ideal: A Statement of the Case Against American Participation in the Olympic Games at Berlin. New York: The Committee, 1935. (GV 722 1936 C6 1935) [Find in a library near you]
A booklet written in response to the American Olympic Committee's defense of participation in the 1936 Olympics in face of the grass roots boycott movement. Outlines the discriminatory conditions faced by German Jewish athletes and provides examples of the outward manifestations of German anti-Semitism found in public signs.
Gray, Wendy. “Devotion to Whom?: German-American Loyalty on the Issue of Participation in the 1936 Olympic Games.” Journal of Sport History 17, no. 2 (1990): 214-231. (Subject Files) [Find in a library near you]
Examines the actions and possible motivations of various German-American organizations, including the Bund, who were particularly ardent in their support for American involvement in the 1936 Olympics in face of mounting criticism of the Nazi government and calls to boycott the Games. Includes an appendix listing the stated “Purpose and Aims” of the German American Bund.
Guttmann, Allen. “The 'Nazi Olympics' and the American Boycott Controversy.” In Sport and International Politics: The Impact of Fascism and Communism on Sport, edited by Pierre Arnaud and James Riordan, 47-62. New York: E & FN Spon, 1998. (GV 706.35 .S58 1998) [Find in a library near you]
Explores the political framework of the boycott movement in the United States in its attempts to sway Avery Brundage, the head of the American Olympic Committee, against American participation in the Berlin Games. Summarizes contemporary opinion in the American press concerning the Games.
Kass, D.A. “The Issue of Racism at the 1936 Olympics.” Journal of Sport History 3, no. 3 (1976): 223-235. (Subject Files) [Find in a library near you]
Describes the arguments for and against the possible U.S. boycott of the Games that were prompted by Germany’s racial doctrines and laws.
Lipstadt, Deborah E. “The Olympic Games: Germany Triumphant.” In Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust, 1933-1945, 63-85. New York: Free Press, 1986. (DS 135 .G33 L57 1986) [Find in a library near you]
Analyzes the American press reaction to the movement to boycott the Berlin Olympics that was active in the United States from 1933 to 1936. Reviews the diverse opinions in the press regarding the Nazi regime vis-à-vis the ideals of the Olympic movement. Also describes the media coverage of the propaganda spectacle of the 1936 Olympic ceremonies and events. Based on contemporary newspaper articles and the correspondence of officials from the American Olympic Committee and the State Department.
Swanson, Richard A. “‘Move the Olympics!’ ‘Germany Must Be Told!’: Charles Clayton Morrison and Liberal Protestant Christianity's Support of the 1936 Olympic Boycott Effort.” Olympika 12 (2003): 39-50. (Subject Files) [Find in a library near you]
Documents the efforts of Charles Clayton Morrison's journal The Christian Century to pressure the U.S. to either press for the Games to be moved from Nazi Germany or for the U.S. to boycott the 1936 Olympics entirely.
Wenn, Stephen R. “A Tale of Two Diplomats: George S. Messersmith and Charles H. Sherrill on Proposed American Participation in the Berlin Olympics.” Journal of Sport History 16, no. 1 (1989): 27-43. (Subject Files) [Find in a library near you]
Article detailing the roles played by two men--U.S. Consul General George S. Messersmith and the American representative to the International Olympic Committee, Charles H. Sherrill--in the process behind the decision by the United States to participate in the 1936 Games.
Explore our comprehensive entries on the events, people, and places of the Holocaust.
Bachrach, Susan D. The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936. Boston: Little, Brown, 2000. (GV 722 1936 B27 2000) [Find in a library near you]
Provides a comprehensive narrative of the 1936 Games with an emphasis on the international political reaction to the Nazi policies regarding Jewish athletes. Includes biographical sidebars on many participants, banned athletes, and boycotters. Based on the 1996 United States Holocaust Memorial Museum exhibition of the same name and intended for a juvenile audience.
Cohen, Stan. The Games of ’36: A Pictorial History of the 1936 Olympics in Germany. Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories Publishing, 1996. (GV 722 1936 C678 1996) [Find in a library near you]
Chronicles the Games in Berlin and Garmisch-Partenkirchen through reproductions of contemporary photographs, documents and newspaper stories. Provides capsule biographies of many of the noteworthy athletes and organizers of the Games.
Constable, George, et al. The XI, XII & XIII Olympiads: Berlin 1936, St. Moritz 1948. Los Angeles: World Sport Research & Publications, 1996. (Oversize GV 722 1936 C65 1996) [Find in a library near you]
Recounts the history of the Berlin Games through narrative, event schedules and event results. Also provides a narrative of the events surrounding the cancellation of the 1940 Olympics and the suspension of the Olympic Games through the rest of the war years.
Graham, Cooper C. Leni Riefenstahl and Olympia. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2001. (GV 722 1936 .G73 2001) [Find in a library near you]
Recounts the creation and subsequent history of Olympia, Leni Riefenstahl’s documentary about the Berlin Olympic Games. Examines the technical challenges involved in filming Olympic events and the controversy engendered by the filmmaker’s relationship with the Nazi regime. Provides English translations of a selection of documents concerning the history of the film, including the production contract between Riefenstahl and the Reich Ministry of Propaganda. Includes a bibliography, an index, and numerous photographs of Riefenstahl and her crew taken during the making of the film.
Guttmann, Allen, Heather Kestner, and George Eisen. “Jewish Athletes and the ‘Nazi Olympics.’” In The Olympics at the Millennium: Power, Politics, and the Games, edited by Kay Schaffer and Sidonie Smith, 51-62. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000. (GV 721.5 .O425 2000) [Find in a library near you]
Summarizes the treatment of Jewish athletes at the 1936 Games.
Hart-Davis, Duff. Hitler’s Games: The 1936 Olympics. New York: Harper & Row, 1986. (GV 722 1936 H37 1986) [Find in a library near you]
Examines the organization of the Berlin Games in terms of their display of a renewed German militarism and their propagandistic value for the Nazi regime. Includes a chart listing all the medal winners at the Summer Olympiad.
Hilton, Christopher. Hitler’s Olympics: The 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Stroud: Sutton, 2006. (GV 722 1936 .H55 2006) [Find in a library near you]
Considers events leading up the Games including the initial German bid to make Berlin the host city and the political atmosphere in Germany at the time. Recounts daily events during the Games, incorporating numerous personal accounts. Includes photographs, a bibliography, and statistics for all medal winners.
Holmes, Judith. Olympiad 1936: Blaze of Glory for Hitler’s Reich. New York: Ballantine, 1971. (GV 722 1936 H65 1971) [Find in a library near you]
Explores the history of the 1936 Games, highlighting the Nazi regime’s use of the events for propaganda purposes. Includes a historical and critical analysis of Olympia, Leni Riefenstahl’s film about the Games. Part of a series of illustrated histories of 20th century events.
Keys, Barbara J. “Between Nazism and Olympism: Berlin, 1936.” In Globalizing Sport: National Rivalry and International Community in the 1930s, 134-157. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006. (GV 706.34 .K48 2006) [Find in a library near you]
Analyzes Nazi efforts to use the Berlin Games as an international forum to demonstrate the efficiency and authority of the Third Reich. Provides an evaluation of the extent to which the 1936 Olympics were tainted by “Nazification.”
Lambert, Margaret Bergmann. By Leaps and Bounds. Washington, DC: U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2005. (DS 135 .G5 B46413 2005) [Find in a library near you]
Recounts the author’s experiences as a Jewish athlete banned from participating in the 1936 Olympics, her subsequent escape from Germany, and her eventual return trip to that country many years later. Includes photographs.
Large, David Clay. Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. (GV722 1936 .L37 2007) [Find in a library near you]
Comprehensive history of the 1936 Olympics that considers both the athletic competitions as well as the political climate under which the Games were held. Analyzes Nazi efforts to use the Games as a propaganda event as typified by Leni Riefenstahl’s film Olympia. Includes numerous photographs of the events and pageantry, extensive notes, and an epilogue evaluating the place of the Games in the overall history of Nazi Germany.
Rippon, Anton. Hitler’s Olympics: The Story of the 1936 Nazi Games. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword, 2006. (GV 722 1936 .R57 2006) [Find in a library near you]
Comprehensive, journalistic narrative of the planning and realization of the Summer and Winter Olympics, with particular emphasis on Nazi use of the Games as a propaganda tool. Heavily-illustrated with images from events and ceremonies. Includes a list of sources and an index.
Rubien, Frederick W., editor. Report of the American Olympic Committee: Games of the XIth Olympiad, Berlin, Germany, August 1-16, 1936: IVth Olympic Winter Games, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, February 6-16, 1936. New York: American Olympic Committee, 1936. (Rare GV 722 1936) [Find in a library near you]
Relates the official story of the United States’ participation in the 1936 Olympics. Includes statements by Avery Brundage, Frederick Rubien and other American Olympic officials that reflect their generally favorable impression of the Nazi regime and its organization of the Games. Features portraits of many Olympic team members and officials.
Rürup, Reinhard. 1936, die Olympischen Spiele und der Nationalsozialismus: eine Dokumentation = 1936, the Olympic Games and National Socialism: A Documentation. Berlin: Stiftung Topographie des Terrors veröffentlicht im Argon Verlag, 1996. (GV 722 1936 A14 1996) [Find in a library near you]
A bilingual exhibition catalogue that recounts the history of the Berlin Games using photographs and reproductions of contemporary documents. Includes a chapter on the “Nazification” of German sports organizations that began in 1933.
Sant, Christine Duerksen. “‘Genuine German Girls:’ The Nazi Portrayal of its Sportswomen of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.” M.A. Thesis. Wake Forest University, 2000. (GV 709.18 G3 S36 2000) [Find in a library near you]
A thesis that addresses the Nazi regime’s ambivalent attitude towards Germany’s female Olympians in the 1936 Games and recounts how the German media portrayed them to the public. Shows how the Third Reich’s aspirations to portray Germany’s athletic and racial superiority conflicted with its anti-feminist ideology that sought to limit women’s roles outside of the domestic setting.
Walters, Guy. Berlin Games: How the Nazis Stole the Olympic Dream. New York: William Morrow, 2006. (GV 722 1936 .W35 2006) [Find in a library near you]
Uses first-person accounts of athletes, politicians, and Olympic officials to provide an overview history of the events leading up to and during the 1936 Olympics. Reveals how the Nazis subverted Olympic ideals to project their own political and racial agenda on the Games. Includes numerous photographs, a bibliography, and an index.
Baker, William J. Jesse Owens: An American Life. New York: Free Press, 1988. (GV 697.09 .B35 1988) [Find in a library near you]
Profiles the life story of the most noted participant in the 1936 Olympics with an emphasis on Owens’ struggles against racial discrimination. Includes an examination of the myth surrounding Owens’ supposed snubbing by Adolf Hitler at the Berlin Games.
Glickman, Marty. The Fastest Kid on the Block: The Marty Glickman Story. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1996. (GV 1061.15 .G55 A3 1996) [Find in a library near you]
A memoir chronicling Glickman’s athletic and broadcasting careers while concentrating on his experiences as a member of the United States track and field team of 1936. Recounts the infamous scratching from the 400 meter relay team of Glickman and Sam Stoller, a fellow Jewish-American athlete, by American Olympic officials just prior to the event final.
Jacobson, Louis. “Herman Goldberg: Baseball Olympian and Jewish-American.” In Baseball History 3: An Annual of Original Baseball Research, edited by Peter Levine, 71-88. Westport, CT: Meckler, 1990. (GV 862.5 .B37 1990) [Find in a library near you]
Relates the life story of a catcher for the 1936 Olympic baseball team that, competing as a demonstration sport, played an exhibition in front of the largest crowd to see a baseball game up until that time. Provides the subject’s reminiscences of the atmosphere of Berlin and its Olympic Village in 1936.
Mogulof, Milly. Foiled: Hitler’s Jewish Olympian: The Helene Mayer Story. Oakland, CA: RDR Books, 2002. (GV 1144.2 .M39 M64 2002) [Find in a library near you]
Biography of Helene Mayer, winner of the gold medal in fencing at the 1928 Olympics, who was allowed to compete as the “token Jewish Olympian” on the German team after a boycott threat pressured the Nazi government to allow her to compete. Includes numerous photographs, a chronology of Mayer’s life, endnotes, and a bibliography.
Schaap, Jeremy. Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. (GV 697 .O9 S33 2007) [Find in a library near you]
Detailed biography of Jesse Owens that focuses on his experiences during the 1936 Games. Includes photographs, endnotes, and an index.
Presents archival film footage of the Games held by the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, including sporting events and newsreels of the opening ceremonies.
An online exhibition prepared by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum that tells the story of the Berlin Olympiad, concurrent events, and their political implications. Features numerous photographs, promotional posters and original documents.
Ask at the reference desk to see the following subject files for newspaper and periodical articles:
- “Jewish athletes”
- “Olympics 1936”
To search library catalogs or other electronic search tools for materials on the 1936 Olympics, use the following Library of Congress subject headings to retrieve the most relevant citations:
- Jewish athletes
- Jewish athletes–Germany
- Jewish athletes–United States–Biography
- National socialism and sports
- Olympic Games (11th : 1936 : Berlin, Germany)
- Sports and state–Germany
- Winter Olympic Games (4th : 1936 : Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany)