The Beijing Olympics and the 1936 Berlin Olympics - Similarities and Differences

British newspaper The Times and some U.S. Congressmen have equated the Beijing Olympics with the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Not surprisingly, the comparison triggered an immediate protest from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But what of the comparison? Let's go back and look at what occurred around the Berlin Olympics.

In May 1931, Berlin defeated Barcelona to win the right to hold the Eleventh Olympics. The Nazis were not yet in power and Germany was a democratic country. Germany had earlier won the right to hold the 1916 Olympic Games, but the first World War got in the way, and the Games were cancelled. Giving Germany the right to hold the 1936 Olympic Games was seen as a kind of compensation. In 2001, the CCP won the right to hold the Beijing Olympics only after it had promised to improve human rights in China, as the international community debated China's failures in human rights, recalling the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, and among other things, the ongoing persecution of Falun Gong.

In 1933, the Nazis came into power. Hitler became the leader of Germany. Hitler quickly turned Germany from a democratic country into a totalitarian state. The police arrested numerous dissidents and sent them to concentration camps without trial. In the meantime, Hitler carried out a racial cleansing, proclaiming Aryan superiority, and started a systematic plot to wipe out the Jewish race. Gypsies and homosexuals were also rooted out, and sent to the notorious death camps.

Hitler himself was not very interested in sports. In the meantime, he was afraid that the international attention from the Olympic Games would expose the Nazi's racial discrimination policy. So Hitler still held a grudge toward the former government of Germany for applying to hold the Olympic Games. However, Paul Goebbels, his infamous Minister of Propaganda, convinced Hitler to use the Olympic Games as a propaganda tool.

Hitler then became enthusiastic about the Olympics. His government invested 20 millions Marks (a huge sum) to aid the Berlin Olympic Games. He ordered a stadium built in Berlin that would hold one hundred thousand people. He wanted the Berlin Olympics to be a political extravaganza and exceed all previous Olympic Games in scale. Goebbels said, "The sole task of German sports is to strengthen the German people's character." What he referred here was, of course, the pure German race. In the Nazis' sports posters, the artists were asked to show the masculinity and heroic strengths of the Aryan race.

The Nazis enthusiasm in promoting the Olympics even brought a technological breakthrough in broadcasting. The Nazis broadcast the Olympic Games live (television had just appeared in Germany), so the Olympic Games became a political stage for Hitler and the Nazis to promote their political agenda. Their motto was, "Publicity helps us seize power, publicity helps us consolidate power, and publicity will help us get the whole world." The Nazis and the CCP are much the same in this regard, both consummate masters of the evil art of deception through propaganda.

The Nazis anti-Jewish movement began to catch the attention of the world's people. After Hitler came to power in 1933, people started to discuss whether the Olympics should be held elsewhere, and calls to boycott the Berlin Games became increasingly louder. Many Jewish organizations held demonstrations. In 1935, Avery Brundage, Chairman of U.S. International Olympic Committee, personally went to Berlin, and made a short visit under the Nazis close watch. The Nazis had repetitively told him that the Olympic Games were purely a sports event and would not be used to promote its political views. Brundage went so far as even to believe that what he had seen was the real Germany, and had thus changed his original thought of boycotting the Olympic Games.

However, in the U.S., there was still quite a huge disagreement. Jeremiah Mahoney, President of the Amateur Athletics Union of the United States, insisted that Nazi racial discrimination violated the Olympic spirit. Brundage believed that "Politics must not be brought into sports." This echos the current cries from Beijing party mandarins, almost word for word, who to the outside world, accuse protesters of making the games political. Inside China, however, the CCP has made the Olympic Games its "political task number one".

Mahoney didn't want U.S. athletes to get involved in "the argument between Jews and Nazis." Ernest Lee Jahncke, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member from the U.S., was fired from the IOC for his objections to the Berlin Olympic Games. He thus became the only IOC member who was ever fired in the history of over one hundred years. The vacancy he created was filled by Brundage. In the end, the U.S. participated in the Berlin Olympic Games and President Roosevelt attended the ceremonies. The U.S.'s attitude about the Berlin Olympics had a great influence on other countries. Following U.S. announcements that they would participate, other countries also participated in the games. There were a total of forty nine countries that had participated in this Olympic Games. Its scale had exceeded those of all previous ones; it was unprecedented.

On August 1, Hitler hosted the opening ceremonies. The Berlin Olympic Games began the tradition of the Olympic Torch Relay (before then, the Olympic flame was taken to the site of the games from Greece, but there was no relay). Over three thousand people relayed the torch for twenty-one days. On the day of the ceremony, when the torch was taken to Hitler, it was as if the world had forgotten the ethnic cleansing that continued, even under their noses. Nazi propaganda had promoted the torch relay crazily. Hitler's official propaganda filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl produced the full length documentary film Olympia, bringing further unearned prestige to Hitler and his Games. Hitler's deceptive propaganda was very successful. Germany went on to win the most gold medals. Hitler and the Nazis had stolen the limelight.

In August 1936, Berlin was decorated festively and there were Olympic banners and Nazi symbols everywhere. What most tourists did not know was that the anti-Jewish slogans had just been taken down, and would soon go back up after the games. The tourists could not know that Gypsies had been driven out of the downtown area during a city "cleaning" movement organized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. They were detained in a temporary concentration camp in the suburbs. The tourists could also not know that Geobbels' Ministry of Propaganda had issued a large number of orders to strictly evaluate the media that would report the games, so as to not let the world's people see any signs about the Nazis crimes against humanity.

Hitler created an "economic miracle" in Germany, much as the CCP has created what appears to be an "economic miracle" in China.

From 1929 to 1933, the world grappled with the Great Depression, and Germany was no exception. After Hitler came to power, however, Nazi economic policy resulted in a decline in unemployment from thirty percent to almost zero. Germany greatly reduced its reliance on the world economy, and wages and prices became stable. The well-known Volkswagen automobile was developed for the working classes at Hitler's request. Despite of all this, Hitler's racist policies eventually ruined Germany.

Hitler wanted to rule the world. He wanted Berlin to stage the Olympics. With Nazi Germany's tremendous economic strength and Hitler's unprecedented propaganda campaign, the 1936 Berlin Olympics were seen as a success at the time. U.S. correspondent Shirer wrote in his Berlin Diary, "First, the Nazis have run the Games on a lavish scale never before experienced, and this has appealed to the athletes. Second, the Nazis have put up a very good front for the general visitors, especially the big businessmen." (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/olympics.html) Indeed, the whole world had become numb, and the Holocaust was allowed to play out. By the time Hitler had spread the fires of war all over Europe, the genocide was well underway.

The political motives that underlie the CCP's desire to host the Olympics, the brutal repression of certain classes of people in the name of "preparing" for the Olympics, and the CCP's relentless propaganda surrounding the Games, are indeed very similar to what happened in Nazi Germany.

Using Olympic Games to promote ones' own country is, in itself, very reasonable. The problem lies in the underlying political motives. Nazi and CCP political motives are completely unrelated to sports and the true "Olympic Spirit". The CCP wants people both inside and outside China to believe that CCP rule is good for China and its people; that China wouldn't be in the forefront without the CCP. The CCP wants to use the Olympics to eulogize itself and legitimize its rule.

Like Hitler, the CCP wants to make the Beijing Olympics the biggest ever, and is willing to achieve this at any cost. It wants world government leaders to come and cheer for the Olympics.

The CCP says that the Chinese people need to "take the Olympics as a political task that is above all." This despite the many difficulties Chinese people face with housing, getting medical treatment, schooling their children and many other problems; despite the social crises hidden everywhere; despite the fact that the CCP persecutes people from all walks of society, including religious believers, human rights lawyers, Falun Gong practitioners, Tibetans, farmers whose lands have been taken away, homeowners whose houses have been torn down.

The regime has issued orders listing eleven categories and forty-three types of people forbidden from attending Olympics-related activities. They enacted laws and policies requiring millions of peasant workers who came to Beijing to help build Olympic facilities to be "persuaded to return home," that beggars are to be "helped" (arrested and relocated), that waste-collection stations and low-tier businesses are to be driven out of Beijing, that those who need to travel to Beijing show approval letters from their counties or higher governments, and so on. The Beijing Olympics are not the people's Olympics; they are the Communist Party's Olympics, just like the Berlin Olympics were the Nazi's Olympics.

The Nazis had to scale down their evildoings during the Olympics. However, the CCP continues its crimes even when it is under the limelight. The CCP uses "the Olympics" as an excuse to relentlessly arrest and sentence human right activists and Falun Gong practitioners.

Many Western countries cannot stand up strong because of their economic interests. China is just like a cow. The CCP lets all the Western countries go to China to milk the cow as much as they can. Knowing full well the thinking of the Western countries, the CCP can continue to persecute the Chinese people behind closed doors. This is the big difference between the "Beijing Olympics" and the "Berlin Olympics," despite the many similarities between the two.

Yet there are increasing calls for justice; increasing calls for the CCP to clean up its act, and this is encouraging.

But the CCP does not have the capability to do good. It has spared no energy in persecuting the Chinese people. As cheers arise from the Olympic stadium, prisoners of conscience will still groan painfully. If the Games are a great success, they will be used to "justify" the CCP's continued despotic rule, and make it even harder to stop its relentless persecution of the very people it claims to rule.

The mistakes the world's people made in condoning the Berlin Olympics of 1936 taught the world a valuable lesson. The similarities to the situation today in China are alarming. How can the human rights atrocities that occur in China today be celebrated as part of the "Olympic Spirit?"


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