Sunday, September 30, 2007

Nazi Games

Well there's nothing more fun to discuss on a pleasant summer-like autumn Sunday than National Socialism right? I'm being sarcastic of course but I just finished reading this book so since its fresh in my noggin its going to be the subject of my post.
I read this book because my suburb's library never has any of the new releases I actually want to check out. So seemingly every time I end up strolling despondently through "New Non-Fiction" and pick something up. I'm not sure why this caught my eye, I think because I took a lot of German History courses in college (they were always scheduled for the afternoon).
But anyway it certainly is an interesting historical footnote that Adolf Hitler hosted the 1936 Summer Olympics and this book tells the story of how exactly that came to be. Berlin was chosen to be host during the Wiemar Republic before the rise of National Socialism, but despite the complaints of many people with foresight in this country and elsewhere the Games went off in Hitler' s Germany without nary a boycott or protest by any of the nations invited.
Besides the obvious political story of the event and its use as a propaganda tool by the Nazis the book uses primary sources to re-examine the accuracy of many oft-told fables surrounding this event. Most notably, Hitler's reaction to Jesse Owens and other black Americans dominating track and field events literally under his nose...which was of course a visible and undeniable rebuke to the concept of Aryan supremacy.
But most importantly this book addresses the fact that the world allowed the Olympics to be held in a nation that had already, through measures such as the Nuremberg Laws, made it patently clear their ideology regarding a minority of their population. And I think it was the Olympic movement's reaction to the protests of Jews across the world that gives an insight to the seed of National Socialism and in fact the Holocaust itself. Basically, the protests against a Hitler-led Games were denounced as Jewish "agitation" and efforts to politicize a peaceful non-political sporting event. Hindsight is of course, 20/20, but a lesson from this story is that many leaders of the world were not very concerned about Hitler's treatment of the Jews until it was much too late.
That all said, this was not a quick or easy read and in fact I think Oak Lawn has a 70 cent late fee coming their way. See you next time.

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