Where Denazification and Democratization Intersect: The State Department and Foreign Office's Role in the Re-Formation of the German Olympic Committee

By Dichter, Heather L. | Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research, October 2006 | Go to article overview

Where Denazification and Democratization Intersect: The State Department and Foreign Office's Role in the Re-Formation of the German Olympic Committee


Dichter, Heather L., Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research


Beginning in 1945, the occupying powers wanted to reconstruct German society by removing the authoritarianism and militarism that were so firmly entrenched in German life--and sport. (1) Officials attempted to rebuild Germany's economy, politics, and society through the four Ds: democratization, demilitarization, denazification, and decartelization. In addition to assisting with the three punitive aspects, sport provided a wide-reaching venue through which the Allies could implement the one positive attribute (democratization) within Germany, and for youth in particular. Britain, France, and the United States paid careful attention to the re-formation of athletic clubs in occupied Germany, believing sport, as it was a wide-reaching activity for youth and adults, could assist with democratization if led properly.

Rather than welcoming Germany back into the world of international sport immediately, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) did not reaccept Germany until May 1951. (2) The Allies pushed for international acceptance of Germany, but the Nazi pasts of many German sport leaders created problems for both the western powers and the IOC. The two-year delay in formal recognition came as a result of the intimate involvement by the American and British High Commissioners regarding the composition of the German Olympic Committee. The French, while present at tripartite meetings and expressing their opinions in the matter of German Olympic participation, did not work as strenuously behind the scenes because two of their members were fairly compromised from their own actions during the war. (3) Nonetheless, American and British dissatisfaction with the German sport leaders' Nazi pasts and the German struggle to gain IOC recognition demonstrate the problems the Allies faced in implementing denazification, as well as the shift in priorities with a changing international situation.

To understand the objections raised by the American and British governments (and some IOC members), it is first necessary to introduce the two German members of the International Olympic Committee. Duke Adolf Friedrich von Mecklenburg and Karl Ritter von Halt had been IOC members since 1926 and 1929 respectively. (4) Von Halt, who was from Bavaria, assisted with the 1936 Berlin Olympic bid and became President of the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Winter Games. Von Halt rose rapidly in the 1930s to higher positions in both international sport as well as in the SA (Sturmabteilung). As the director of the Deutsche Bank, he provided funds to Himmler and was part of his inner circle. For the last year of the Third Reich, von Halt was also the final Reichssportfuhrer, resulting in his imprisonment in Buchenwald by the Soviets, who released him only in February 1950 in order to join the IOC themselves. (5) Mecklenburg's actions are not as well-documented, at least during the Third Reich. He was the Governor of the Togo Colony from 1912-14 and was highly involved in German sport during the Weimar Republic. As the brother-in-law to the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina, his connections to exiled European royalty led to his dismissal from any posts under the Nazis. (6)

The occupation governments had understood the importance to Germany of its acceptance back into the world of international sport even before the founding of the Federal Republic and the new National Olympic Committee. J.G. Dixon, the Physical Education Officer in the British Zone, wrote in 1948 that recognition by the IOC and the other international sport federations "would in fact involve a recognition that Germany had taken her place again amongst the commity [sic] of nations, and there is no doubt that Germans themselves would attach considerable political significance to it." (7) Even at the beginning of 1949, as plans to form a federal government were underway, the British Educational Advisor, Robert Birley, sent out a staff memo in which he stated, "Present policy excludes Germany from participation in International Championships and this policy was endorsed by the International Olympic Committee.

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