Showing posts with label Olympiastadion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Olympiastadion. Show all posts

Reichssportfeld

Olympic Stadium

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Left: Rare colour footage of the Games of 1936
Right: In this video introduction to the Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936, American Jewish athlete Marty Glickman, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield, exhibition curator Susan Bachrach, and German Jewish athlete Gretel Bergmann reflect and remember the 1936 Olympic Games as more than history.
 The regime made the most concerted effort to shield visitors from vulgar expressions of anti-Semitism during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The display cases erected at bus stops and newsstands for the rabidly racist tabloid, Der Stürmer, were dismantled; banners advising that Jews were not welcome were removed from city entrances. However, while these measures acted as an elaborate smokescreen for the Nazis’ true ethnic hatreds, the Olympics themselves were otherwise about putting Nazi Germany on display for the world to see. The touristic event of the Third Reich was also a Nazi event, one that celebrated Nazism even as it camouflaged its most sinister side. The promotional material about the Games that was sent abroad was certainly never free of swastikas. In foreign advertisements, Hitler himself appeared alongside the Olympic bell, both of them summoning ‘the youth of the world’ to Berlin. 
The 1936 Games represented a triumph of National Socialist propaganda. They created an extremely favourable impression of the new Germany for most foreign visitors and thereby blinded the majority to the regime’s real ambitions. ‘Almost no one escaped the impression that the new Germans were working hard, were playing hard, were at peace, and would stay that way,’ one historian rightly concludes. Even some Jewish Germans were misled. ‘For me,’ reminisced historian Peter Gay, ‘the most formidable adventure of the year, breathlessly anticipated and just as breathlessly enjoyed, were the Olympic Games. The atmosphere was electric and contagious. ... It took me some years to recognize the political side of this bracing event. The Olympic Games had been staged by the regime with an eye to world opinion.’ In turn, the overwhelmingly positive impressions gained by foreigners also had an effect on non-Jewish Germans. The unabashed foreign enthusiasm of the Olympics and Germany as whole became a further endorsement of ‘their’ system of government. 
The Olympiastadion was one of the few buildings that survived not just in a recognizable form, but almost untouched after the Second World War. It only suffered the impact of machine gun shots. The most significant battle around the Olympiastadion was in April 1945 when the Soviet army fought to capture it. This was during the great final battle of the Second World War in Europe, with the total invasion of Berlin as the Allies' target.
Werner and Walter March's 1936 plan
The illustration on the right by Georg Fritz is from the book Strassen und Bauten Adolf Hitlers published by the German Labour Front in 1939

 Standing in front of the stadium. The clock on the left tower remains, but the sun-style swastika has been removed.
My students on our 2013 Berlin trip
As a growing China increasingly becomes emboldened in its attack on basic human rights, its architecture reflects ideas from another totalitarian regime as shown here on Chunxiu Road in Peking where this building with its twin columns and circular building was directly inspired by the Berlin stadium. In fact, the Chinese specifically chose Albert Speer Jr. to design the plan for access to the Olympics complex, focusing on the construction of an imposing avenue, which connects the Forbidden City and the National Stadium, aka Bird’s Nest.
“His Beijing axis is reawakening old memories,” declared Die Welt. “Wasn’t there a legendary... north-south axis, planned by the elder Speer for Hitler’s new Berlin? Is his son to copy him or rather outdo him?”“I think it is fascinating that the son of a Nazi is rebuilding Beijing. Chinese people probably don’t know it, but Hitler was actually a great artist and his architectural vision for Berlin immense,” said Mi You, a 24-year-old architecture student.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article2241705.ece
Nazi-era statues, such as Karl Albiker's discus thrower and relay racer, are among the disputed works that are still permitted to surround the stadium. The Olympiastadion was designated to play the final match of the 2006 FIFA World Cup which had been exactly 70 years after the 1936 Summer Olympics. Peter Steinhorst, chief technician on the project, said to the BBC: "Whenever you enter, you will still know this was the site of the 1936 Games. You will pass all the old Nazi sculptures." "The history is there, the totality of the buildings is there. The whole Nazi landscape has not disappeared", added the sports sociologist Günther Gebauer. "There are towers like in a fortress, and people who come will always ask where the Führer sat." Germany's Interior Minister Otto Schily, who attended the opening party, concluded: "The stadium recalls the dark elements present in its creation."
Thorak's Faustkämpfer (Boxer), modelled on Max Schmeling.
Once [Hitler] stayed up until 3:15 A.M. to hear the result of the boxing match in the U.S.A. between Max Schmeling and the Negro Joe Louis; but his champion was defeated, and for days afterward his adjutants grinned as they handed him the dutifully translated telegrams sent by U.S. citizens to the Führer. ‘Herr Adolph Hitler, Berlin, Germany,’ cabled one correspondent from Colorado. ‘How do you feel after tonight’s defeat of Nazi number one pugilist, defeated by Afro-American?’ And another, ‘Our sympathies on the disgraceful showing Herr Max made tonight. Just about as long as you would last if we tied in to Germany.’
Irving (95) Hitler's War
On either side of this entrance are Josef Wackerle's Rosseführer. In his „Deutsche Plastik der Zeit", art historian Kurt Lothar Tank wrote that Wackerle's "men leading horses of the Reich Sport Field a work of art, which in its closed, powerful form ranks them among the very best works in the monumental sculpture up to now".

Looking out towards the clock tower which once contained the Olympic bell
 The site during Mussolini's 1937 visit
Underneath it is the Langemarck Hall where plaques commemorating the Eleventh Olympic Games in Berlin, its committee heads, and medal winners are presented. 
 In the Langemarckhalle
 During the Games and the same spot today



In the Bell tower at the western end of the Reichs Sportfield planted amid the tiers of the Maifeld stands, was the Olympic bell. From its peak could be observed the whole city of Berlin. During the games, it was used as observation post by administrators and police officials, doctors and the media.was the Olympic Bell. On its surface were the Olympic Rings with an eagle, the year 1936, the Brandenburg Gate, the date 1.-16. August and a motto between two swastikas: I call the youth of the world and 11. Olympic Games Berlin - although the games was 10th (Summer) Olympics, but the Games of the XI Olympiad.The Bell Tower was the only part of the Reichssportfeld that was destroyed in the war. The Third Reich used the tower's structure to store archives (such as films). The Soviet troops accidentally set its contents on fire, turning the tower into a makeshift chimney. The structure emerged from the fire severely damaged and weakened.In 1947 British engineers demolished the tower, however reconstructed it faithfully in 1962. The Olympic Bell (which had survived the fire and remained in its place in the tower) fell 77 metres and cracked and has been unable to sound since then. In 1956 the bell was rescued, only in order to be used as a practice target for shooting with anti-tank ammunition. The old bell survives to this day and serves now as a memorial, featuring an half-heartedly de-nazified swastika still...

 Hitler on the Führerbalkon at the 1936 Opening of the Games, and today

The opening ceremony with the Canadian team on the right giving an hearty Hitler salute.
 


Adolf Hitler at May Day celebrations in Olympic stadium at 1939

Hitler's personal standard
Entrance building of the Olympia-Stadion (Olympic stadium) subway station, built for the 1936 Summer Olympics.
 The station then and now
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Left: Opening Ceremonies
Right: The prologue to the film Olympia, the 1938 film by Leni Riefenstahl documenting the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin she briefly appears here, uncredited, as the nude dancer). The movie was produced in two parts: Olympia 1. Teil — Fest der Völker (Festival of the People) and Olympia 2. Teil — Fest der Schönheit (Festival of Beauty). It was the first documentary film on the Olympic Games ever made. Many advanced motion picture techniques, which later became industry standards but which were groundbreaking at the time, were employed, including unusual camera angles, smash cuts, extreme close-ups, setting the railway tracks on the stadium to shoot the crowd and the like. The techniques employed are almost universally admired, but the film is controversial due to its political content. Nevertheless, the film appears on many lists of the greatest films of all-time, including Time magazine's "All-Time 100 Movies." Of course there has considerable argument as to whether this film should be considered Nazi propaganda like her earlier Triumph of the Will. Whilst the entire 1936 Olympics has been derided as the "Hitler Olympics" and was unquestionably designed primarily to showcase the accomplishments of the Third Reich, and to this extent any film accurately documenting the proceedings would come off as something of a propaganda film, Riefenstahl's defenders have pointed to her close-up shot of the expression on Hitler's face when Jesse Owens, an African-American, won a gold medal, as showing a tacit dissent from Nazi racial supremacy doctrines. Other non-Aryan winners are featured as well. Noted American film critic Richard Corliss observed in Time that
The matter of Riefenstahl 'the Nazi director' is worth raising so it can be dismissed. [I]n the hallucinatory documentary Triumph of the Will... [she] painted Adolf Hitler as a Wagnerian deity... But that was in 1934–35. In [Olympia] Riefenstahl gave the same heroic treatment to Jesse Owens...
Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne
The Waldbühne (Forest Stage) is an amphitheatre that was designed by German architect Werner March in emulation of a Greek theatre and built between 1934 and 1936 as the Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne, a Nazi Thingplatz, and opened in association with the 1936 Summer Olympics. The theatre was built as part of the Olympic complex on the request of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. March made use of a natural ravine and modelled the theatre on ancient Greek amphitheatres. 
The complex on July 9, 1941
With the intent of showing the kinship between ancient Greek and Germanic culture, the entrance is flanked by two pairs of reliefs by Adolf Wamper: on the left, representing the "Fatherland", two male nudes, one with a sword, the other with a spear, a pairing that was to be used more famously by Arno Breker; and on the right, representing artistic celebration, two female nudes, one with a laurel wreath, the other with a lyre. The arena, the Maifeld field, and the Olympic stadium itself were designed to be used together for large events, and March also provided an indoor arena in the nearby Haus des deutschen Sports that has been regarded as a smaller equivalent of the Dietrich Eckart theatre.  The theatre opened on 2 August 1936, the day after the opening of the games, with the première of Eberhard Wolfgang Möller's Frankenburger Würfelspiel. 20,000 people were in attendance, and the Reich Labour Service supplied 1,200 extras. It was also used for some events of the games, in particular boxing matches. During the Olympics and later, dance and choral movement productions took place there, in addition to operas: during the Olympics and again in 1937 for the celebration of the 700th anniversary of the founding of Berlin, Handel's Hercules; also in 1937, Gluck's Orfeo; and in 1939, a production of Wagner's Rienzi paid for and co-designed by Hitler in association with Benno von Arent.
About a year later Hitler turned to the stage  designer Benno von Arent, known for his sets for opera and operettas,  and had him design new uniforms for diplomats. He was pleased by the  frock coats laden with gold braid. But wits remarked: "They look like  a scene from Die Fledermaus." Arent also designed medals for Hitler;  those too would have looked great on the stage. Thereafter I used to call Arent: "Tinsmith of the Third Reich."
  Vaterländische Feier and Künstlerische Feier in 1935
From a 1942 postcard and today

Haus des Deutschen Sports
The Haus des Deutschen Sports (House of German sports), part of the larger Deutsches Sportforum, is a sporting venue constructed for the 1936 Summer Olympics northeast of the Olympic Stadium when it hosted the fencing events.
The House of German Sports has been built on the Reichssportfeld. It provides accommodation for the executive and its administrative organs. It is surrounded by buildings and grounds where the sporting and athletic life of Berlin manifests itself. Everyone whose duty it is to act in an organising and administrative capacity can watch the games from his office window. He can no longer shut himself off from these realities, but is bound to identify himself with them. Such intimate contact is of very considerable value, and I expect that highly beneficial results will follow from it. The "organising official" must see all that is going on in the sports grounds, but must himself be seen as little as possible. 
Hans von Tschammer und Osten, Reich Sports Leader from Germany Speaks (1938)


The Haus des Deutschen Sports was taken over by British Forces in 1945 and kept as a sports and leisure complex for service personnel until their departure from Berlin in the 1990s. The photo on the right shows it today

 
Situated on a stone pillar near the Haus des Deutschen Sports at the Olympiastadion Complex.


 
Arno Breker's Zehnkämpfer (Decathlete), and Siegerin (Victor).
Georg Kolbe's Ruhende Athlet (Resting Athlete) 

History repeating itself
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The "Olympic Torch Run", now revered as a seemingly-ancient tradition, was devised by Riefenstahl for these games and this film in conjunction with the German sports official Dr. Carl Diem.
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Blue-kitted Chinese thugs shoving British police aside in London in order to force the torch through.

Fittingly, the Chinese were actually selling Nazi flags during the Games! I myself Kept the Tibetan flag hidden away in a corner of my classroom in Peking at the same time.
The shameful awarding of the Games to another totalitarian regime that shows outright contempt for the concept of human rights led me to leave Peking during the Games and spent a week outside the Chinese embassy in London (up to Hebden Bridge) doing what none can do anywhere in China- freely demonstrate and express one's view- which so many fought and died to ensure others could.

Berlin 1939-1945 Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery
The next stop after Olympiastadium at Pichelsberg, takes one to one of two Commonwealth cemeteries in Berlin, the other being the World War I Berlin South-Western Cemetery in Stahnsdorf, Brandenburg. This CWGC was established in 1945 as a central burial ground for aircrew and prisoners of war who were interred in the Berlin area and in East Germany. 
There are also 260 burials from the post-war British Occupation Authorities staff, including my Great-Grandfather to whom I paid my respects before going on to the Olympiastadion.
  •  Dated Malta 1914, he's the tall one in the back with the ciggie in his mouth
    This time in 2013 my students accompanied me
    Of the wartime burials, about 80% are aircrew, killed in action over Germany whilst the remainder are prisoners of war. I have another site dedicated to the CWGCs of Ypres and the Somme at Echoes of War.