Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Exhibit Explores How Jewish, Black Athletes Challenged Hitler

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Exhibit Explores How Jewish, Black Athletes Challenged Hitler

Article excerpt

Turn the clock back to 1936: Adolf Hitler has seized the opportunity of the Berlin Summer Olympics to propagate his belief in Aryan supremacy and his hatred of Jews and African-Americans. He even tried to have Jewish and black athletes banned from the games.

For many Americans, it was the first time they had seen politics cross into the international athletic competition. Now it is the subject of "Nazi Olympics: Berlin 1936," an exhibit that continues through Feb. 28 at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Downtown.

The exhibit, created in collaboration with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh, explores the ways in which black and Jewish athletes challenged Hitler's racist theories. It also explores the question of whether a boycott of the Olympic Games would have been an effective way to oppose Nazi tyranny.

"One of the things the exhibit touches on is the question regarding if it would have been hypocritical to have boycotted the games at the time, given what was going on in the United States [after] slavery. What Hitler was trying to implement in Germany didn't look that different from what was going on in the American South," said Joy Braunstein, Holocaust Center director.

Although there was talk of boycotting the games that year, most African-American athletes were opposed to the idea. They thought winning would be the most effective way to prove Hitler's Aryan supremacy claim false.

Pictures and newspaper clippings within the exhibit focus on the success of various African-American and Jewish athletes during the games. Despite their medals, many athletes returned to an America still marred by ethnic and racial tensions.

One example was University of Pittsburgh student John Woodruff, who won a gold medal in the 800 meters but faced further discrimination after he came home. …

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