June 9th, 2024 Summer Games (#62)
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Although the Nazis turned what should have been a celebration of international sports into a display of political and military power, the 1936 Olympics are historic for many reasons. The 1936 Olympics were held right before the start of World War II in Berlin, Germany and they were the last Olympics until 1948. Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party had taken over the previous government and formed a totalitarian dictatorship. In an attempt to showcase the strength of the German Reich and to beat the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, Hitler constructed a 325 acre sporting complex including a 100,000 seat track and field complex and many smaller arenas and buildings. The International Olympic Committee had awarded the hosting rights to Germany two years before the sudden takeover in government and their refusal to change the location of the Olympics nearly led to a mass boycott of the games. The Nazis had begun to push racist, anti-semitic, and eugenic policies while also barring Jewish athletes from participating, creating a tense environment for visiting athletes and countries. The International Olympic Committee promised there would be no promotion of these Nazi policies, which was far from the truth as the stadiums were filled with Nazi banners and symbols and many countries put their Jewish athletes on the sidelines in an attempt to not cause disruption with the Nazi regime. For the first time, the games were televised and broadcasted live to select German theaters specially prepared with closed-circuit technology, telex communications were used to send results, newsreels were sent quickly to other European countries via zeppelin, and the tradition of the torch carrying of the Olympic flame was created. African-American runner, Jesse Owens, who is considered one of the greatest track and field athletes of all time made his first and only Olympic appearance winning 4 gold medals and disproving Hitler’s propaganda of Aryan supremacy. The Americans didn’t perform as well as the Germans bringing in only 57 medals compared to Germany’s 101, but many achievements were made. At the rowing events, Germany dominated and took the gold medal in nearly every race except the final Men’s eight race. The Men’s eight race consisted of 16 boats from 16 countries with the United States team being made up of students from the University of Washington who had qualified by winning the 1936 Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta. The American team made up of Herbert Morris, Charles Day, Gordon Adam, John White, James McMillin, George Hunt, Joe Rantz, Donald Hume, & Robert Moch won the race by starting slow and sprinting to the finish beating the Italian and German teams by only a second. The story of the 1936 Olympic rowing team is told in the book The Boys In The Boat which was turned into a film in 2023 directed by George Clooney. The gold medal featured here in this lot was presented to John White. The detail on the medal is excellent with minimal wear. Stamped on the edge of the medal is “B.H. Mayer PFORZHEIM”. The original presentational box is included with the Nazi Olympic logo stamped onto the outside. The medal has stayed within John White’s family since 1936 and is accompanied by a family letter of provenance.
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