2008 Olympics v 1936 Games

Earlier today I posted about the uneasy feeling I got watching the Beijing opening ceremonies last night and got a “thumbs up” comment from my friend Tom.

That prompted me to do a bit of plunking around. The U.S. Holocaust Museum is hosting a special exhibit, highlighting the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

In August 1936, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship scored a huge propaganda success as host of the Summer Olympics in Berlin. The Games were a brief, two-week interlude in Germany’s escalating campaign against its Jewish population and the country’s march toward war.

The exhibit says Germany underplayed its agenda of hate, instead highlighting for journalists and visiting dignitaries, “an image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany.”

Seventy plus years later, the world has one reaction to such propaganda. “Uh, yeah.”

Here’s the line from the online exhibit that most frightens me:

After the Olympics, Germany’s expansionism and the persecution of Jews and other “enemies of the state” accelerated, culminating in World War II and the Holocaust.

U.S. Holocoust Museum Berlin Olympics Exhibit

Journalist William Shirer was among the few on hand who saw through the Nazi charade.

“I’m afraid the Nazis have succeeded with their propaganda. 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.” —Foreign correspondent William Shirer in his diary, Berlin, August 16, 1936
After the games

At least in 1936 we had Jesse Owens. I wonder, who will be the American journalist — or athlete — who helps us see China as a global threat? My guess is the journalist won’t come from mainstream media. He or she will most likely be a blogger. I pray that we pay attention.

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