Biography • Jesse Owens was born in Alabama in 1913 and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. • He first gained national attention while in high school when he competed at the 1933 National High School Championship in Chicago. • There he tied the world record of 9.4 seconds in the 100-yard dash and long-jumped 24 feet 9 ½ inches. • He then went on to become a track star at Ohio State University.
1936 Berlin Summer Olympics – Atmosphere • In 1936 the Summer Olympics was held in Berlin, Germany. • It was a perfect time for Hitler to show off a resurgent Nazi Germany to the eyes of the world. • Hitler had high hopes that his German athletes would win many medals and prove his idea that Germans were racially superior to other countries. • Nazi propagandapromoted “Aryan racial superiority” and depicted African Americans as inferior.
Discuss with a classmate how the above poster for Germany’s 1936 Berlin Olympics is meant to depict German racial superiority.
1936 Berlin Summer Olympics – Jesse Owens’ Performance • Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics: • The 100m sprint • The long jump • The 200m sprint • The 4x100m relay
1936 Berlin Summer Olympics – Hitler’s Reaction and the Media • Certainly, Hitler would not have been pleased that Owens took home four gold medals. • A rumor circulated by the media that Hitler snubbed Owens by refusing to shake his hand at the awards ceremony. • Well, this is partly true, since Hitler didn’t shake any athlete’s hand that day, because he was warned by the Olympic committee not to show any favoritism.
1936 Berlin Summer Olympics – Praise and Disapproval • In private, though, Hitler detested the fact that Owens made off with four gold medals: • He considered African American people “primitive,” which coincided with his belief in German racial superiority. • Owens, though, was enthusiastically embraced by the 110,000 people at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium and many sought his autograph. • Although Owens’ victory irked Hitler, the German athletes pleased the fuehrer by taking home more medals than all other countries combined.
Journal Reflection • In The Book Thief, Rudy is obsessed with Jesse Owens, and at one point, paints himself black and races around a track to imitate Owens. • Now that you know a little bit about the 1936 Berlin Olympics, write a brief response in your notebook that discusses what Rudy’s enthusiasm for Owens says about Rudy’s character and what he believes in. How does Rudy’s attitude coincide with or go against the prevailing attitudes of Germans during this time towards people of other races?