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You know who else liked Winter Olympics?
February 12, 2014 11:22 PM   Subscribe

This amazing set of photographs reminds us that months before the famous 1936 summer Olympics, the Winter Olympics took place in Garmish-Partenkirchen in Bavaria. Today the ski resort is trying to just forget it ever happened, so please do not mention it.
posted by LarryC (46 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Today the ski resort is trying to just forget it ever happened, so please do not mention it.

I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it alright.
posted by The Tensor at 11:58 PM on February 12 [15 favorites]


It's not surprising they're trying to forget about this - there's no Nazis like snow Nazis. Like, no Nazis I know.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 12:00 AM on February 13 [44 favorites]


...and across the valley from the ski stadium, tucked among the foothills is the war memorial. I think (I hope) that the Garmisch-Partenkircheners have learned their lesson.

FWIW, Richard Strauss, one of GAP's most celebrated citizens today, had a rather antagonistic (if fraught) relationship with the Third Reich.
posted by cosmologinaut at 12:30 AM on February 13


This thread came pre-Godwinned I see.
And pre-Pythonned.

But I did not expect the Snow Nazis (which is stupid - I've seen Dead Sno).
posted by Mezentian at 12:42 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


If anyone would like to see a film that covers the issue of (older) Germans' desire to bury the past, Das Schreckliche Mädchen (The Nasty Girl) by Michael Verhoeven (No relation to Paul Verhoeven of Robocop, Showgirls, Total Recall, et. al. fame) is quite good and available on Netflix streaming in the U.S..

With regard to the actual article in question, it's a little unfair to hold middle-aged and young Germans responsible for their country's prior actions, and them shining a light on this isn't going to do them any favors with getting the bid. And unfortunately Garmisch-Partenkirchen is home to the biggest mountains in Germany and the only ones suitable for holding a Winter Olympics without crossing the border into Austria or Switzerland, so they can't just pick another spot.

Although the Summer Olympics are an option for Germany, Berlin and Munich have already hosted them with Nazism ascendant and boycotts in the former and a horrible terrorist attack during the second, so if we want to look back at controversy-free Olympics in Germany unfortunately there's nowhere to look. But the general spirit of the games has always been more about looking forward. We had the games in Athens just 10 years ago and look at what's been going on there now. Times change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
posted by JauntyFedora at 12:49 AM on February 13 [6 favorites]


From the JTA's archive:

June 13 1939
The International Olympic Committee, meeting in London, has accepted Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s personal invitation to hold the 1940 Winter Olympic Games in Germisch-Partenkirchen, scene of the games in 1936, when a bitter world-wide controversy was stirred over holding of the international sports events in the Reich. [...]

The I.O.C. also awarded a special diploma to Leni Riefenstahl, intimate of Hitler, who produced the film of the Berlin Olympics, which was termed “an outstanding sport film.”
July 31 1947
U.S. Army troops were called in to quell an anti-Semitic disturbance which broke out in a movie in Garmish-Partenkirchen, south of here in the Bavarian Alps, the German press reports today.

The demonstration occurred during a newsreel scene showing the recent dedication of a new synagogue in Munich. When the newsreel commentator stated that 6,000,000 Jews had been murdered by the Nazis, an unidentified member of the audience shouted: “That was far too little, there are still too many Jews.”
Lots more here.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:56 AM on February 13


JauntyFedora, there's no actual need to hold the winter Olympics in Germany at all. It's not punishment; just a recognition that the symbolism is all wrong.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:01 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


The weather was unseasonably warm shortly before the opening ceremony, but then temperatures dropped just in time for the games. When Hitler arrived on a special government train at the Kainzenbad station, directly at the ski stadium, at 10:55 a.m. on Feb. 6, 1936, there were 20 centimeters (8 inches) of snow on the ground. According to the official Olympic report that was later released, Hitler was greeted with "a hurricane of jubilant voices shouting: Heil!"

Temperatures in Sochi warm enough to be Summer Olympics.

Obviously Putin does not have control over the weather as Hitler did so I don't see why anyone would draw parallels between the two.
posted by three blind mice at 1:16 AM on February 13


Interesting, I was hiking around Garmisch last summer, and we parked our camper van in the parking lot of the ski stadium.

I thought it was a little odd - the architecture is definitely NS style, but I could not find any mention or plates as to when it was built.
posted by ts;dr at 1:21 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I really hope they get the games simply because I'd live to see how modern Germany expresses it's 20th century history in dance form at the opening ceremony.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 1:56 AM on February 13 [14 favorites]


The I.O.C. also awarded a special diploma to Leni Riefenstahl, intimate of Hitler, who produced the film of the Berlin Olympics, which was termed “an outstanding sport film.”

That might be because it is an outstanding sport film.
It was the first documentary feature film of 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, placing tracking shot rails within the bleachers, and the like. The techniques employed almost universally admired, but the film is controversial due to its political context. Nevertheless, the film appears on many lists of the greatest films of all-time, including Time magazine's "All-Time 100 Movies."
Negatively fetishizing everything that happened in Germany during the Nazi reign is lazy and unhelpful.

Joe in Australia - there's no actual need to hold the winter Olympics
That's all that needs to be said. However if we accept that the Winter Olympics is going to be held somewhere I don't think that Germany should be passed over for consideration if they have a venue that is suitable. It might symbolise the fact that German does not equal Nazi, and hasn't been close to doing so for over 60 years.

How did they cope with that in Munich, Pre-Taped Call In Show? Things were more immediate then.
posted by asok at 2:15 AM on February 13 [7 favorites]


there's no Nazis like snow Nazis. Like, no Nazis I know.

Wasn't that from Adolf Get Your Gun?
posted by pracowity at 2:35 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Munich opening ceremonies via this blog, with a summary of the ceremony. In short, they had a short program of music and folk dance, rather than an interpretation of the country's history.
posted by frimble at 2:40 AM on February 13




Well, it's an interesting idea that civic pride can repress, supress - or for that matter overwhelm the memory of the nationalism concurrent with the olympics - especially where the host country is regarded as the definition of evil. I supose there will be those who do and those who don't. The 1936 Olympics were 78 years ago.

The 1940 Olympics were held in Tokyo - not exactly a bastion of human rights at that point. In 1980 the summer Olympics were held in Moscow - some of us remember the Cold War. The 1984 winter Olympics were in Sarajevo - which has the misfortune of being at the cusp and quickly thereafter turned into a horror. The 2008 summer games were held in China which isn't exactly known for celebrating dissidents.

NBC has held the olympics in the US many times too.


An aside; I just want to see more "on your mark, get set, go" sports and curling and less of these damned "capades".
posted by vapidave at 5:24 AM on February 13


You aren't into the Ice Follies/Holiday on Ice stuff? I'm still waiting to see if they revive their old Ewoks number.
posted by pracowity at 5:30 AM on February 13


An aside; I just want to see more "on your mark, get set, go" sports and curling and less less of these damned "capades".

Events that are determined by judging are always questionable to me. Figure skating is pretty much the poster child for this, though most of the snowboarding events that rely on judging tricks is quickly replacing it in my mind.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:18 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


But I did not expect the Snow Nazis (which is stupid - I've seen Dead Sno).

You know nothing, John Snow.
posted by scalefree at 6:27 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


The 1940 Olympics were held in Tokyo - not exactly a bastion of human rights at that point.

No they weren't. The 1940 and 1944 games were cancelled due to the war.
posted by briank at 6:38 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Most of modern Germany has made a serious effort to understand and process the Nazi past, so this sort of pretending it didn't happen is unusual. Good on Der Spiegel for calling it out. My German friends laughingly call Bavaria the Alabama of Germany. I've only been to Munich which felt pretty reasonable to me, but I think rural Bavaria has a reputation for being socially backward.
posted by Nelson at 6:55 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


JauntyFedora, there's no actual need to hold the winter Olympics in Germany at all. It's not punishment; just a recognition that the symbolism is all wrong.

Which is a perfectly valid view, although at some point within the next couple of decades it will look less like avoiding uncomfortable symbolism and more like punishment.

An alternative view is that there is a positive symbolism in modern Germany - a country that has been far better than many of its neighbours and facing and renouncing its past - reclaiming the Olympics back from the Nazis.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:52 AM on February 13


Considering that the primary association in a lot of minds for both "1936 Olympics" and "1972 Olympics" is dead Jews, perhaps handing the Olympic Torch to Germany again needs to be contingent on not hosting it in a place full of legacy infrastructure from the Nazi games.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 7:55 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


The I.O.C. also awarded a special diploma to Leni Riefenstahl, intimate of Hitler, who produced the film of the Berlin Olympics, which was termed “an outstanding sport film.”

I opened it up on YT and randomly clicked onto about 40:00-43:00 which happened to feature Jesse Owens totally kicking ass in the 100 m. The judges invalidated his first world record win on some technicality about there being a "following wind" and when they re-ran it he still won. Very satisfying to watch.

It's actually fascinating to watch; a lot of the close-up unstaged candid shots of athletes between events give you an immediate sense of them as young people.
posted by aught at 8:05 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


I can see an argument for moving forward. I think a good pre-condition is that every building that was built under the Nazis either be torn down or converted to a monument to those who suffered under Nazism — no-one should profit from them.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:06 AM on February 13


All this talk about German guilt misses the point. We really should blame King Gustavus of Sweden for the sack of Magdeburg during the Thirty Years War. To this day German children are told that Gustavus will come for them if they're naughty. Not to mention Napoleon and many other nations who took advantage of the gentle, civilized, and politically weak German lands for centuries. It led Germans to feel like they were always threatened by their neighbours. Maybe that's why Hitler's paranoia resonated with the people.

Interesting BBC podcast on the topic.
posted by Zpt2718 at 8:07 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Note that both in the poster, and picture of Canadian athletes entering the stadium, they are displaying the Olympic Salute. It's commonly mistaken for the Nazi salute, but precedes it, just as the Swastika was subverted from a common symbol in many cultures to its abhorrent association with Nazism.
posted by blob at 8:25 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


An aside; I just want to see more "on your mark, get set, go" sports and curling and less less of these damned "capades".

I know your pain. I grew up watching the Toronto Maple Leafs.
posted by srboisvert at 8:33 AM on February 13


The judges invalidated his first world record win on some technicality about there being a "following wind" and when they re-ran it he still won. Very satisfying to watch.

American Experience: Jesse Owens is quite good. The whole stadium was actually chanting "Ovens Ovens" for his last events. After a drawn out battle, the German long jumper Luz Long and Owens walked arm-in-arm around the entire stadium. Hitler would not shake his hand of course. It's so hard to comprehend. Over the next ten years six million people sent to concentration camps and murdered. 90% of the Jewish population of Germany and Poland killed! Owens went on to live in poverty even though he was packing stadiums during tours of Europe (and not getting paid).
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:34 AM on February 13 [3 favorites]


The judges invalidated his first world record win on some technicality about there being a "following wind" and when they re-ran it he still won.

That's not quite right. The win stood, but the time wasn't officially entered as a world record because of the following wind. That's not some abstruse "technicality"--that is a standard part of all track and field events where wind is a factor (long jump, sprints etc.) down to the present day.

There's an awful lot of silly retroactive mythologizing about Jesse Owens at the Olympics. Owens was a big star in Germany and was, by his own account, generally treated far better there than he was back home in the US. The famous "Hitler refused to shake Owens hand" thing is a long-debunked myth. By contrast, FDR--worried about Southern votes with an upcoming election--did fail to send Owens a congratulatory telegram or to host him at the White House.
posted by yoink at 8:40 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


Goodness that "Ovens" thing gave me a double-take, but presumably it was an enthusiastic German pronunciation of "Owens" and not a reference to future murders of people in concentration camps. (Bonus video link of Owens running in Berlin 1936 with a German announcer.)
posted by Nelson at 8:42 AM on February 13


"The 1940 Olympics were held in Tokyo - not exactly a bastion of human rights at that point.

No they weren't. The 1940 and 1944 games were cancelled due to the war.
posted by briank at 8:38 AM on February 13 [2 favorites +] [!] "

Thanks. I was sloppy there. My point is that the Japanese invaded Manchuria nearly a decade before and, whatever the decision timeline might be, the IOC agreed to have the 1940 Olympics in Tokyo.
posted by vapidave at 8:49 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]


My favourite example of German humour is a joke attributed to Willy Brandt. "Ah, the Bavarians. Half-way between humans and Austrians."

I really hope they get the games simply because I'd live to see how modern Germany expresses it's 20th century history in dance form at the opening ceremony.

Paging Mr Brooks. Mel Brooks to the olive courtesy field phone, please.
posted by Devonian at 8:49 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]


I'd like to see how modern Germany expresses it's 20th century history in dance form at the opening ceremony.

Watching Russia do it this time around was also pretty interesting.
posted by jessamyn at 8:53 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Mezentian: "This thread came pre-Godwinned I see."

Just for pedantic officiousness' sake: it is not normally possible* to Godwin a thread about Nazis.

Godwin's law applies especially to inappropriate, inordinate, or hyperbolic comparisons of other situations (or one's opponent) with Nazis – often referred to as "playing the Hitler card". The law and its corollaries would not apply to discussions covering known mainstays of Nazi Germany such as genocide, eugenics, or racial superiority...

* Not intended as a dare.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:14 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


JauntyFedora: "With regard to the actual article in question, it's a little unfair to hold middle-aged and young Germans responsible for their country's prior actions"

Perhaps more to the point: Should they mention it in their PR material & adverts? It would morally require a certain "asterisk" treatment, at the very least. So, I really don't think avoiding a mention of it on their webpage necessarily constitutes any sort of "cover-up" intent.

Put another way: Should Oxford University of Miami, Ohio, mention the following in their campus recruitment brochures?
"From surrounding lands, including our campus, the Miami Native Americans were forcefully marched and relocated to the malarial swamps of southern Florida in the 1800s. Even today, our campus has many walkways!
posted by IAmBroom at 9:21 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]


IAmBroom: "Just for pedantic officiousness' sake: it is not normally possible* to Godwin a thread about Nazis.
...
* Not intended as a dare.
"

three blind mice: "Obviously Putin does not have control over the weather as Hitler did so I don't see why anyone would draw parallels between the two."

Oh, goddammit; I was too late.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:31 AM on February 13


Maybe the Olympics might work at Garmish-Partenkirchen if they stopped trying to bury the history and instead shone a big, bright light on it; they could make the whole thing into a big Fuck You to Hitler and Naziism, a sort of symbol of how the human race has triumphed and flourished in its diversity since then, in spite of racism. Or some of it has.
posted by chococat at 10:05 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Did those guys ever take off the leather trenchcoats?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:51 AM on February 13


chococat: Maybe the Olympics might work at Garmish-Partenkirchen if they stopped trying to bury the history and instead shone a big, bright light on it; they could make the whole thing into a big Fuck You to Hitler and Naziism, a sort of symbol of how the human race has triumphed and flourished in its diversity since then, in spite of racism. Or some of it has.

First off, I think it may be a little naive to think that this strategy will go over well both with the IOC as a marketing strategy and internally within Germany as something to commit to. That is to say, at what point will modern-day Germans stop being held responsible for what the Nazis did? In some Germans' eyes, they've done nearly 80 years of apologizing and they weren't even alive when it went down, just for the aftereffects and the Cold War.

I'm not saying that they're right or wrong for thinking that, but that there's a fine line to be walked that's somewhere between "Hey tear down the remaining old Nazi-era buildings that happen to not be suitable for modern Olympics anyways, and maybe throw in some uplifting shit in the ceremonies" and "Hey guys since you used to be racist you can't have the Winter Olympics till everyone has forgotten how terrible your parents/grandparents were, unless you'd like to apologize some more."
posted by JauntyFedora at 12:01 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


  I just want to see more "on your mark, get set, go" sports

They should just rename the Winter Olympics “The Festival of Wheeee!”. It (even sonascope's beloved curling) is merely a grand gala celebrating the remarkably low µ of water in its solid phase. I'd be much more okay with it if they were honest about it, rather than making it some huge socio-political event. 'Cos, I mean — who doesn't love Wheeee!?
posted by scruss at 12:40 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


damn right scruss. plus I am all about sled racing in all its various formats. MOAR SLED RACES PLZ
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:45 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I think it may be a little naive to think that this strategy will go over well both with the IOC as a marketing strategy and internally within Germany as something to commit to

Oh yeah, it would never, ever happen. Just saying it would be one way to rationalize it being there again instead of just shhh nobody mention that stuff anymore.
posted by chococat at 12:53 PM on February 13


For those who missed it, the "forget it ever happened" link is an article from June 2010; the 2018 Winter Olympics have since been awarded to South Korea. Germany considered, but ultimately decided against bidding on the 2022 Winter Olympics.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:47 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


The Nazis hosting aside, it seems excessive for both summer and winter Olympics to be held in the same country so soon after one another.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:48 PM on February 13


Apocryphon: The Nazis hosting aside, it seems excessive for both summer and winter Olympics to be held in the same country so soon after one another.

True. Looking at the list of host countries up to that point, it may have been a combination of "Who hasn't gotten to hold the Olympics yet?" and Germany being willing to put up a lot of money to gain international prestige in the post-WWI era.
posted by JauntyFedora at 3:52 PM on February 13


cosmologinaut: Wow, that memorial is appalling. “[Built] in memory of the heroic sons of our homeland”? Most WWII war memorials in Germany at least try to be neutral, even if they don’t cast a wider net and include non-Germans or any nod to the wider context and causes of the war.

I suppose it fits the time (built in 1952) when forgetting the past and being passive-agressively indignant was all the rage. In some parts of conservative German society that is still a prevalent way of thinking, but I’m pretty sure that such a hilariously wrongheaded memorial wouldn’t be built today. Calling German soldiers who fought in WWII heroes and portraying them as victims is definitely not ok. At best those soldiers were forced into something they didn’t want to do, most were probably efficient cogs in the machine who didn’t question much and at worst those soldiers were fanatical Nazis who committed many crimes against humanity. No heroes there.

The inscription above the heroes line is also quite funny: Apparently the memorial was vandalised in 2006 and it’s just words, words, words of the club who built the memorial being all indignant about it. Apparently the memorial is a warning, not a glorification of war. Easy enough to say when you portray yourself as heroic victims of war without putting everything into a wider context. I don’t think they quite understand that. More than fifty years after this abomination was built.

Germany’s culture of forgetting is still going strong and a veritable opponent of the (much more recent) culture of remembrance.
posted by michael.ka at 6:56 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


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