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1936 Olympics - Hitler was only part of the story

The photos used in this post are all from vintage trading cards. Many are available for sale at On Her Mark.

1936 was the infamous Olympics held in Berlin, Germany where Adolf Hitler officially opened the games. This was the largest Olympics hosted to date, based on attendance and overall viewership. These games were the first to be broadcast by television. In Berlin, 25 viewing rooms were assembled so the public could watch free of charge. Record crowds came to these games with over four million tickets sold. Additionally, the German Olympic Committee commissioned Leni Riefenstahl to create a film documentary about the Olympics. It’s titled “Olympia” and she set the standard for sports film documentaries. Sadly, due the war, the Olympic flame did not light again for another 12 years (1948).

Women’s participating in 1936 dropped to under nine percent of all Olympians ( down from the 1932 Olympics).

Track and Field – The US won the 100m dash and the 4 x 100m relay, both with Helen Stephens (pictured below with Jesse Owens). It is reported that Hitler invited Stephens to his resort and even patted her on the behind…of which she was having non of because she was lesbian.

Helen Stephens sits with Jesse Owens; considered the two fastest people on earth.

Check out her spikes! Tracks were cinder ash back then. German trading card, 1936

Gisela Mauermayer, German trading card, 1936

The world record was set in discus by Germany’s Gisela Mauermayer (pictured above throwing shot) at 158' 5 and 3/4". This was the sixth and last time she would set the world record.

Betty Robinson, Gota trading card, Sweden, 1932

Betty Robinson was also on the 4 x 100 relay team. She was the first women’s gold medalist in the 100m in 1928. She endured a tragic plane crash that left her in a comma for seven months and severely injured for another six months which is why she missed the 1932 games.

Diving – The American women continued their dominance in the two events, winning five of the six medals. Dorothy Poynton (pictured) repeated gold in the 10m platform.

Swimming – The 4x100 freestyle relay was won by a Dutch team. One of their members, Willie den Ouden (pictured) went on to hold the world record in the 100m freestyle for nearly 23 years. A swimmer's biggest challenge was that goggles weren’t used until the 1960’s so the swimmers could only practice for as long at their eyes could withstand the chlorine or salt water.

Dorothy Poynton (USA) , German trading card 1936

Willie den Ouden, German trading card 1932

Fencing – Ilona Elek (Hungary) won in fencing and Helen Mayer won Silver. Helen's participation was controversial because, even though she was German, her family left Germany because her father was Jewish. Mayer won gold in the 1928 Olympics and in interviews afterward the '36 Games, she said she went to the 1936 games because she wanted to fence, not to make a political statement. All three medalists are pictured.

Ilona Elek-Schacherer, German card, 1936 Elek, Preis, Mayer, German card, 1936

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