Holocaust Museum Exhibit on Berlin Olympics Comes to UT Austin

Holocaust Museum Exhibit on Berlin Olympics Comes to UT Austin

AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin has partnered with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to host the traveling exhibit “The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936” July 6, 2015 through January 29, 2016 at the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports at D.K.R. Texas Memorial Stadium. It is free and open to the public.

The Stark Center and the Texas Program in Sport and Media have partnered to bring the exhibit to Austin to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Berlin Olympics. 

“As we enter the 2016 Olympic year, we wanted to remind the public of what can happen when sport is subverted for political reasons and why race and religion should never be a reason to exclude someone from sport,” said Stark Center Director Jan Todd. 

Berlin won the 1936 Olympic Games prior to Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. Hitler originally eschewed the idea of hosting the games but soon realized the competition could be exploited for propaganda purposes, as the exhibit recounts.

“Nazi Germany wanted to show the world that it was ready to rejoin the community of nations after its defeat in World War I,” said exhibition curator Susan Bachrach. “Hosting the Olympics presented the Nazi leadership with an extraordinary opportunity to project the illusion of a peaceful, tolerant Germany under the guise of the Games’ spirit of international cooperation.”

As the world watched Nazi Germany’s re-militarization, extreme nationalism, rampant racism and persecutions, many expressed doubts about the appropriateness of holding the games in Berlin. A widespread and passionate debate arose, especially in the United States, about boycotting the games. Ultimately, 49 teams from around the world competed.

“The 1936 Olympics was an event that became an international crucible, crystalizing many of the political and intercultural dynamics that continue to resonate across society today,” said Mike Cramer, executive director of the Texas Program in Sports and Media. “At the very least, those games illustrate the power of sport to be a platform for cultural discourse and a proving ground for the expression of human strength and will.”

“Although it first appeared that the Nazi plan to hide the horror of their loathsome beliefs behind the enforced order of the games themselves had been successful,” Stark Center director and sport historian Terry Todd suggests, “the remarkable performances of the African American athletes and the Jewish athletes who represented various countries in Berlin gave the lie to Hitler’s strident claims of Aryan supremacy.  Their performances—as well as the growing clarity about the way in which Jews and other non-Aryans were being treated within Germany and the countries overrun by it—made it clear to any fair-minded person that the Nazis should never have been allowed to serve as the games’ host.”

Over the course of the exhibit, organizers will schedule scholarly lectures, presentations and discussions on issues related to the intersections of sport, culture and politics. For updates and additional information about the exhibition go to: www.naziolympics.org.

“The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936” has been made possible by individual donations from several UT alumni, including Kenneth Goldberg of Dallas and Sandy Gottesman and Kirk Rudy of Austin. Media sponsors for the exhibit include The Austin American-Statesman, KVUE and KUT 90.5.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum exhibitions program is supported in part by the Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibition Fund established in 1990. The traveling exhibitions are also supported by Dr. and Mrs. Sol Center.

Contacts: Christopher Hart, (512) 471-2431; Lauren Phillips, 512-471-2182.

Marc Speir
Senior Content Producer