In April 1931, two years before the Nazi Party came to power, the International Olympic Committee selected Berlin to host its summer games. The 1936 Berlin Olympics, known in german as Olympische Sommerspiele 1936, was the first games to be televised and radio broadcasted to 41 countries around the world. But we are not here to talk about these videos or to talk about what Leni Riefenstahl made. We are here to see what an american family filmed on their vacation trip to Berlin.
This is an extraordinary movie that shows a german-american family on vacation in August 1936, visiting Berlin during the summer games of that year. Watching this movie is like a trip back in time that shows what a tourist might have seen back then.
First you see some shots of aboard a ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Something we don’t do any more. Flights are cheaper and faster nowadays. But the times were different. So different that you can see how Berlin was decorated with swastikas and all the Nazi symbols from that era. But you can also see the Olympic Torch and how beautiful Berlin Tempelhof looked like in its glory days.
1936 Berlin Olympics like never seen before
The 1936 Berlin Olympics were designed to show a new Germany and it was done to outdo the Los Angeles games of 1932. To accomplish that, Berlin got a new 100,000 seat track and field stadium that it’s still used today. It got six new gymnasiums and many other smaller arenas and sport buildings. In the video above, you can see the Olympic Stadium filled with banners from Nazi Germany and some of the athletes as well.
Of course Adolf Hitler decided to use the 1936 Berlin Olympics to show his ideals of racial supremacy and his government. His racial ideals were not ready to see Jesse Owens, an african american runner, win four gold medals and become the most successful athlete to compete in Berlin. Germany was the most successful country with 89 medals in total but Hitler’s ideals were shaken with Jesse Owens’s victories.
Everybody knows that, for two weeks in 1936, Adolf Hitler used the Olympic Games to promote his party and camouflage its racist and militaristic character. And this is even more clear to everybody that watches the video here. This was a Berlin that was about to disappear. A city that only exists in this short movie but that can be seen today on our screens.
Too bad those games didn’t last longer. Because, after the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Nazi Germany expanded its policies and the persecution of jewish people that culminated on the Holocaust and the Second World War. At least, this film made by a american family on vacation in Berlin can work as a time capsule of a time that is gone.