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

    Mother of IS Supporter Says Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.