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After 1936: Olympic athletes in the resistance

The purpose of the Olympic Games is to unite nations in fair sports competitions. In 1936, the Winter Olympics took place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. With the aid of the Nazi propaganda machine, Germany strove to present itself there as a liberal-minded nation, in which context the Winter Games served as a dress rehearsal for the Summer Olympics in Berlin. Efforts to boycott the event were in vain. The Nazi regime refrained from carrying out anti-Jewish operations during the two weeks of the Games.

Athletes who had participated in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Games later resisted the Nazis – with dire consequences. One of them was the Norwegian ski jumper and gold medalist Birger Ruud. After Germany occupied Norway, he was expected to place his popularity at the service of National Socialist propaganda. A sympathizer with the resistance, he refused. In 1943 the Nazis deported him to the Grini concentration camp near Oslo. He survived.

Not so the Polish skier Bronisław Czech. After occupying Poland, the Germans offered him employment as a coach. Yet Czech was also an opponent to the regime. He helped the Polish Home Army as a courier. In 1941 the Nazis committed him to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was one of the first inmates – number 349. He died there three years later.

The ITS archives hold documents containing information about the two sportsmen’s persecution.