Berlin 36: In Which Nazis Screw Up Spectacularly

Illustration for article titled Berlin 36: In Which Nazis Screw Up Spectacularly

When it was revealed that high-jumper Gretel Bergmann was Jewish, Germany threw her off the 1936 Olympic team...and replaced her with a man in drag:

Berlin 36, a new German film tells the bizarre, sad story (also recounted in the HBO film Hitler's Pawn.) This was no case of disputed sex: no, Hermann Ratjen was a man, who at the government's behest strapped up his genitals and shaved his legs so as to give Germany back the advantage they'd lost when they disqualified their star jumper on grounds of Judaism. (Although when you look at pictures, it seems like people must have, at least, suspected.) In fact, the Olympic Committee had insisted all participants admit Jews - a so-called "Olympic Truce" - but Germany complied in name only, disqualifying Jewish athletes from competition on a number of pretexts. Bergmann, therefore, made the team - but it was generally understood that she couldn't be allowed to compete in front of Hitler. However, victory being crucial, it was thought that the only athlete capable of matching her prowess was a male one. Despite this, Ratjen came in fourth: beaten by a Hungarian Jew.

Gretel Bergmann emigrated to America, where she married a German Jewish sprinter. Under the anglicized Margaret Lambert, she continued to compete as a high-jumper. In 1999, her hometown named the athletic center after her - the same stadium that, in the 30s, boasted the sign "No Dogs or Jews." Bergmann initially didn't want to return to Germany, "but when I was told that they were naming the facilities for me so that when young people ask, 'Who was Gretel Bergmann?' they will be told my story, and the story of those times. I felt it was important to remember, and so I agreed to return to the place I swore I'd never go again."

Berlin 36 Tells How Nazis Replaced Jewish Woman Athlete For Man In Drag [Telegraph]
Gretel Bergmann [Jews in Sports]

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Yeah, because THAT makes sense. Logic fail.

I thought the Nazi's were aganist men in drag as well.