News / Europe

Hitler’s Olympic Village Faces Conservation Battle

Henry Ridgwell
BERLIN — As attention turns to the legacy of the London Games, there is one surviving Olympic site that forms a remarkable canvas of 20th Century history. Adolf Hitler attempted to turn the 1936 Berlin Games into a piece of Nazi propaganda. Seventy-six years after athletes first set foot on its soil, the Olympic Village still survives.

The 1936 Berlin Olympics gave Adolf Hitler an ideal showcase for Nazi propaganda.

Director Leni Riefenstahl’s famous film of the Games, Olympia, immortalized the sporting prowess and political context of the tournament. 76 years later conservationists are attempting to restore a remarkable physical remnant of the Games.

On the outskirts of Berlin the Village where 3,878 athletes lived and trained still survives, but only just. Jens Becker is from the Deutsche Kredit Bank Foundation which is funding much of the work. He took VOA on a behind-the-scenes tour, including the swimming pool, where the external renovations alone cost $2.7 million.

“I think the Village is not very well-known in Germany," said Becker. "We’re quite secret. This is a nice situation because when the people get in here, they are sometimes very surprised about all the things which are here standing over 75 years now.”

One building has been fully restored: the accommodation block that was home to American sprinter Jesse Owens. Displays tell how the man from Alabama won four gold medals, destroying Adolf Hitler’s hopes that the Games would become a showcase for the supposed superiority of the Aryan race.

A letter from a fan urges Owens to refuse to accept a medal from ‘bloodstained hands’. He never saw it; it was intercepted by the Gestapo, the German secret police.

In the gymnasium stands a pommel horse used by the athletes.

A few dozen German tourists join the guided tours each day. Local school groups are taken here to learn their nation’s history.

“We always try to put the subject inside these exhibitions because this was called the village of peace but indeed Nazi propaganda didn’t stop at the doors of the village," said Becker.

There were early signs of militarism. A carved mural in the on-site theater shows marching German soldiers.

“It was the first time that they really said we’ll have an Olympic village, later on it will be used as a garrison. But indeed when the athletes arrived they had the best facilities they’d ever had in any Olympic village before," explained Becker.

Days after the athletes left, hundreds of soldiers moved in.  The former ‘Dining Hall of the Nations’ served as a hospital for wounded German troops during World War II.

After 1945 the Soviet army moved in - painting communist propaganda on the walls including a mural showing Soviet troops planting the hammer and sickle flag on the German parliament.

With the fall of communism the former village was abandoned in 1992 and neglected for over a decade.

Slowly life is returning to the village. Workers have nurtured a lush athletics field in the center. Next month a tournament will be held here featuring German Olympians who have just returned from London; part of a determined effort to preserve this living museum of 20th century history.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Robert from: Wales
August 24, 2012 6:37 AM
The village is a building it might have been built by Hitler's Government, so were a lot of other buildings around the country, do you knock all of them down. This village should be brought back into use, why waste good quality buildings. I believe in perhaps using them for sport or using them for housing, use them for something

In Response

by: Peter from: DC
August 27, 2012 10:59 PM
I totally agree with Robert.
I went to Berlin this summer and visited the 1936 Olympic Stadium, but I did not go to the Olympic Village next to the Stadium due to the tight time. The Stadium looks beautiful and has been in use. The Olympic Village should be preserved perfectly as a legacy of the 1936 Berlin games. It is an integral part of the 1936 Olympics.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid