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The Beijing Olympics and the 1936 Berlin Olympics - Similarities and Differences (Part 1)

April 12, 2008 |   By He Yuancun

(Clearwisdom.net) The British newspaper Times and some U.S. Congressmen have equated the Beijing Olympics with the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Not surprisingly, the comparison triggered an immediate protest from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But what of the comparison? Let's go back and look at what occurred around the Berlin Olympics.

In May 1931, Berlin defeated Barcelona to win the right to hold the Eleventh Olympics. The Nazis were not yet in power and Germany was a democratic country. Germany had earlier won the right to hold the 1916 Olympic Games, but the first World War got in the way, and the Games were canceled. Giving Germany the right to hold the 1936 Olympic Games was seen as a kind of compensation. In 2001, the CCP won the right to hold the Beijing Olympics only after it had promised to improve human rights in China, as the international community debated China's failures in human rights, recalling the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, and among other things, the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong.

In 1933, the Nazis came into power. Hitler became the leader of Germany. Hitler quickly turned Germany from a democratic country into a totalitarian state. The police arrested numerous dissidents and sent them to concentration camps without trial. In the meantime, Hitler carried out a racial cleansing, proclaiming Aryan superiority, and started a systematic plot to wipe out the Jewish race. Gypsies and homosexuals were also rooted out, and also sent to the notorious death camps.

Hitler himself was not very interested in sports. In the meantime, he was afraid that the international attention from the Olympic Games would expose the Nazi's racial discrimination policy. So Hitler still held a grudge toward the former government of Germany for applying to hold the Olympic Games. However, Paul Goebbels, his infamous Minister of Propaganda, convinced Hitler to use the Olympic Games as a propaganda tool.

Hitler then became enthusiastic about the Olympics. His government invested 20 millions Marks (a huge sum) to aid the Berlin Olympic Games. He ordered a stadium built in Berlin that would hold one hundred thousand people. He wanted the Berlin Olympics to be a political extravaganza and exceed all previous Olympic Games in scale. Goebbels said, "The sole task of German sports is to strengthen the German people's character." What he referred here was, of course, the pure German race. In the Nazis' sports posters, the artists were asked to show the masculinity and heroic strengths of the Aryan race.

The Nazis enthusiasm in promoting the Olympics even brought a technological breakthrough in broadcasting. The Nazis broadcast the Olympic Games live (television had just appeared in Germany), so the Olympic Games became a political stage for Hitler and the Nazis to promote their political agenda. Their motto was, "Publicity helps us seize power, publicity helps us consolidate power, and publicity will help us get the whole world." The Nazis and the CCP are much the same in this regard, both consummate masters of the evil art of deception through propaganda.

The Nazis anti-Jewish movement began to catch the attention of the world's people. After Hitler came to power in 1933, people started to discuss whether the Olympics should be held elsewhere, and calls to boycott the Berlin Games became increasingly louder. Many Jewish organizations held demonstrations. In 1935, Avery Brundage, Chairman of U.S. International Olympic Committee, personally went to Berlin, and made a short visit under the Nazis close watch. The Nazis had repetitively told him that the Olympic Games were purely a sports event and would not be used to promote its political views. Brundage went so far as even to believe that what he had seen was the real Germany, and had thus changed his original thought of boycotting the Olympic Games.

However, in the U.S., there was still quite a huge disagreement. Jeremiah Mahoney, President of the Amateur Athletics Union of the United States, insisted that Nazi racial discrimination violated the Olympic spirit. Brundage believed that "Politics must not be brought into sports." This echos the current cries from Beijing party mandarins, almost word for word, who to the outside world, accuse protesters of making the games political. Inside China, however, the CCP has made the Olympic Games its "political task number one."

Mahoney didn't want U.S. athletes to get involved in "the argument between Jews and Nazis." Ernest Lee Jahncke, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member from the U.S., was fired from the IOC for his objections to the Berlin Olympic Games. He thus became the only IOC member who was ever fired in the history of over one hundred years. The vacancy he created was filled by Brundage. In the end, the U.S. participated in the Berlin Olympic Games and President Roosevelt attended the ceremonies. The U.S.'s attitude about the Berlin Olympics had a great influence on other countries. Following U.S. announcements that they would participate, other countries also participated in the games. There were a total of forty nine countries that had participated in this Olympic Games. Its scale had exceeded those of all previous ones; it was unprecedented.

On August 1, Hitler hosted the opening ceremonies. The Berlin Olympic Games began the tradition of the Olympic Torch Relay (before then, the Olympic flame was taken to the site of the games from Greece, but there was no relay). Over three thousand people relayed the torch for twenty-one days. On the day of the ceremony, when the torch was taken to Hitler, it was as if the world had forgotten the ethnic cleansing that continued, even under their noses. Nazi propaganda had promoted the torch relay crazily. Hitler's official propaganda filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl produced the full length documentary film Olympia, bringing further unearned prestige to Hitler and his Games. Hitler's deceptive propaganda was very successful. Germany went on to win the most gold medals. Hitler and the Nazis had stolen the limelight.

In August 1936, Berlin was decorated festively and there were Olympic banners and Nazi symbols everywhere. What most tourists did not know was that the anti-Jewish slogans had just been taken down, and would soon go back up after the games. The tourists could not know that Gypsies had been driven out of the downtown area during a city "cleaning" movement organized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. They were detained in a temporary concentration camp in the suburbs. The tourists could also not know that Geobbels' Ministry of Propaganda had issued a large number of orders to strictly evaluate the media that would report the games, so as to not let the world's people see any signs about the Nazis crimes against humanity.

(To be continued)