The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936 by Susan D. Bachrach

The Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936 by Susan D. Bachrach

Susan D. Bachrach. The Nazi Olympics: Berlin, 1936. Rebound by Sagebrush, 2002. ISBN 978-0613263504 pp. $


The most striking feature about The Nazi Olympics is the layout. Photos from the Library of Congress, National Holocaust museum, and a variety of personal and corporate collections are nicely arranged. The illustrations emphasize that Nazi propaganda convinced participating countries that the 1936 Olympic Games were going to adhere to the Olympic code and be inclusive of all peoples and faiths.

Magazine covers, newspaper headlines, political cartoons, and pictures of segregated Nazi and Jewish sports clubs reinforce the point that Nazi ideology was (and still is) directly opposite the Olympic code, in spite of Hitler’s assurances to the contrary.
Occasionally, the graphics take over and result in a two page spread of captioned photos that detract from the text but in most cases, the captions are brief or enclosed in a separate boxed section of information. The writing is clear, but the subject matter is recommended for grades 6 and up.

Rachbach places the Olympics in perspective of the political upheaval and the Nazi dictatorship that ensued, rather than relating just a history of the Olympics, or a rundown on record breakers and medallists (these details are included, but always admirably within the historical context).

Rachbach not only focuses on the prejudice in Germany; she also informs the reader of the racism against African-Americans and anti-Semitism on the homefront. The coverage of boycotts (both potential and realized) of athletes and countries is excellent. The author notes the positives that came out of the Olympic games, such as the new record set by Jesse Owens, and the quality of the athletic facilities in Berlin.

Two appendices include a list of locations of the summer games from 1896-1936, and a list of participating countries in the 1936 Berlin games. The chronology, index, and suggestions for further reading were excellent. Although published to capture the audience of the 2000 Games, the 1936 Games are an interesting topic and will be a good resource for students studying the Holocaust who want to go beyond concentration camps and battles, or a tool for teaching about anti-Semitism and other prejudices.

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