The slightly more bizarre Olympics.

Now that the 2020 Olympics are well on their way, it is perhaps a good time to look back at some of the more bizarre Olympic events.

Art competitions were held as part of the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. Medals were awarded in five categories (architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture), for works inspired by sport-related themes.

The Irish artist Jack Butler Yeats(brother of W.B Yeats) won the silver medal for his painting the “Liffey swim”, as seen above. The gold medal was awarded to Luxembourg artist Jean Jacoby for his painting “”Corner”, “Départ”, and “Rugby”.In fact he also won the Gold medal in 1928, making him the only artist who won 2 medals at the Olympic games.

During the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games Zambia became the first country ever to change its name and flag between the opening and closing ceremonies of an Olympic Games. The country entered the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics as Northern Rhodesia, and left in the closing ceremony as Zambia on 24 October, the day independence was formally declared.

Thankfully, this bloody sport only appeared in the Olympics once, at the 1900 Olympic games in Paris. The competition consisted of shooting as many pigeons as possible in the allocated time. The winner killed 21 birds that day, with an estimated total of 300 fowl killed in the entire competition.

Tug of war was contested as a team event in the Summer Olympics at every Olympiad from 1900 to 1920. Originally the competition was entered by groups called clubs. A country could enter more than one club in the competition, making it possible for one country to earn multiple medals. This happened in 1904, when the United States won all three medals, and in 1908 when the podium was occupied by three British teams. Sweden was also among the top countries with two medals, one as a member of the mixed team.

Either the Olympic committee ran out of ideas, or desperately wanted to relive their glory days of screaming obscenities at kids in gym class. Either way, it was included from 1896 to 1932.

The 1900 Paris Olympics were probably the weirdest. At the 1900 Paris Games, the horse long jump featured as an event.

Even though the winning leap from Belgium’s Constant van Langendonck who was riding the Extra Dry was an impressive 6.10 meters, it didn’t have a patch on the humans taking the same leap of faith. It failed to impress and was axed from the events list afterwards.

In 1900, the Paris Olympics also included a swimming obstacle race. Just like a normal swimming race, except this one had three obstacles including pole climbing and boats to climb onto and swim under.

The event was held in the river Seine, so it was basically in seine(pardon the pun)

Some two dozen countries, mostly from Africa, boycotted the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal after the IOC refused to ban New Zealand from the Games. New Zealand’s national rugby team had toured South Africa, a country that had been banned from the Olympics since 1964 because of its apartheid policies. While the boycott did not succeed in banning New Zealand from the Games, it did have a significant financial and athletic effect on the Games. Most importantly, it brought worldwide attention to apartheid policies in South Africa. In fact, when the South African Springboks took their rugby tour in New Zealand in 1981, they were met with antiapartheid protests.

In 1908, the competition made its official debut in the London Olympics and it was also the last time it took place. The boats had to complete a 40-mile course around Southampton Water but it was a real challenge as the weather was bad and six out of the nine scheduled races were cancelled. The high winds made it difficult for the spectators to even see the action taking place.

sources

1964 – Last Day of Northern Rhodesia

https://www.thecoolist.com/strange-olympics-sports/

https://www.britannica.com/list/7-significant-political-events-at-the-olympic-games

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The Billy Joel connections

Today is Billy Joel’s birthday and I was going to do a blog on his musical history, going back to the times when he joined a band called “Echoes”, aged 16, to the times when he joined the bands “the Hassles” and “Atilla”. But that I came across a story which connects Billy Joel with WWII , the Holocaust and a large German retail and travel company, and indirectly to 4 Olympic games and I thought that would make a much more interesting story.

Billy Joel was born William Martin Joel on may 9,1949 in the Bronx, New York, and grew up in Long Island. Billy’s father, Howard (born Helmut) Joel , a classical pianist and businessman, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, to a Jewish family, the son of merchant and manufacturer Karl Amson Joel.

Karl Amson Joel, started a business in household linens in 1927. The business was so profitable that he, his wife and their young son, Helmut, were able to move into an affluent area of Nuremberg. As Karl Joel’s business rose in prominence and the Nazis rose in power, the Nazis put their sights on eliminating the Joel’s and all other Jewish businesses.

After the rise to power of Nazism in 1933, Karl Amson Joel was increasingly discriminated against by the regional Nazi Party leaders, especially Julius Streicher, the founder and publisher of the virulently antisemitic newspaper Der Stürmer.

In May 1933, Der Stürmer ran a front-page article calling Karl a “Yid” and accusing him of underpaying and sexually harassing his workers. Billy Joel’s dad Helmut aka Howard was one of four Jews in his Nuremberg classroom; they were directed to sit apart from their classmates.

Karl Amson Joel moved his company to Berlin in 1934, where he rented a factory site in Wedding and installed new packing machines. The stitching department, however, had to remain in Nuremberg. As persecution increased (e.g. deliveries had to be marked with a “J” for Jude, or Jew), and Jewish firms became Aryanized (the forced expulsion of Jews from business life in Nazi Germany, Axis-aligned states, and their occupied territories. It entailed the transfer of Jewish property into “Aryan”hands), Joel was forced to sell his company in 1938 to Josef Neckermann.

For fear of further persecutions Karl Amson Joel moved to Switzerland in July 1938 and later to the USA, via Cuba.

Neckermann made his fortune as the owner of one of Europe’s largest department stores. His business made him director of a very successful mail-order company under the slogan Neckermann macht’s möglich (Neckermann makes it possible) and also a travel company.

Shortly after World War II, Neckermann was sentenced to one year in a military prison.

In 1949, Karl Amson Joel successfully sued Neckermann for compensation in a Nuremberg court. After eight years, the parties settled and the files were closed.

In 1957,Karl Amson Joel got a compensation of 2 million West German marks for his former company from Neckermann who at that time ran the most successful German mail order selling company.

As I said earlier on in this blog there is also a connection to 4 Olympic games, albeit indirect . Josef Neckermann was also a German equestrian and Olympic champion . He was one of the richest private citizens to have ever competed at the Olympic Games, and he did quite well, winning six medals in the dressage. Neckermann’s Olympics medals were as follows: 1960 – individual bronze, 1964 – team gold (both for the mixed German team), 1968 – team gold and individual silver, 1972 – team silver and individual bronze, all for West Germany.

Other members of Billy Joel’s family were killed during the Holocaust.

I could not finish this blog without at least including one of his many songs. This is my favourite Billy Joel song.

sources

https://www.sarahlawrence.edu/magazine/then-now/campus/outback.html

https://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/stranger-no-more/

https://www.olympedia.org/athletes/12487

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The other side of WWII

World War 2 wasn’t only death and destruction, there were a few occasions where there was some reprieve. Sports remained very important during the war , to keep up the morale . The above picture is of Private Leonardo Rodriguez of Cartaro, Arizona, roping a calf during the American Red Cross rodeo and “Wild West” show staged in Foggia Stadium in Southern Italy, July 4, 5 and 6, 1944. The steers were furnished by Italian veterans of the last war. All participants in the events were soldiers of the Allied Fifth Army in Italy or Allied flyers based in Italy.

Some Canadian soldiers checking out their ice skates.

Dutch KNIL(Royal Dutch Indies Army) playing volleyball in Australia on a military base.

Until September 1944 most sports were still allowed in the Netherlands by the occupying Nazis.

A race between two 8s rowing teams on the river Amstel in Amsterdam, the race was held in May 1941.

Fanny Blankers-Koen was a Dutch track and field athlete, best known for winning four gold medals at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London. She competed there as a 30-year-old mother of two, earning her the nickname “the flying housewife”, and was the most successful athlete at the event.

During the war, domestic competition in sports continued in German-occupied Holland, and Blankers-Koen set six new world records between 1942 and 1944. Here pictured in 1943 surrounded by admirers.

Allowing sports to continue was also a tool of propaganda of course.

source

https://beeldbankwo2.nl/nl/

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The Olympic games how they were meant to be.

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After the uncertainty of not knowing if the postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics would go ahead in 2021, we finally got the news that they would be going ahead but without spectators. Covid 19 didn’t only cause havoc in normal life it disrupted some of the biggest sporting events also.

The ancient Olympic games did start off as  a religious festival and a good excuse for Greeks from all over the Mediterranean basin to gather for a riotous barbeque. On the middle day of the festival a vast number of cows were slaughtered in honour of Zeus, King of the Greek Gods – once he had been given a small taste, the rest was for the people.

Aristotle reckoned the date of the first Olympics to be 776 BC, a date largely accepted by most, though not all, subsequent ancient historians.It is still the traditionally given date and archaeological finds confirm, approximately, the Olympics starting at or soon after this time.

For the first 250-plus years all the action took place in the sanctuary of Olympia, situated in the north-western Peloponnese. Pock-marked by olive trees, from which the victory wreaths were cut, and featuring an altar to Zeus, it was a hugely scared spot.

The Ancient Olympic Games would last a full five days by the fifth century BC and saw jumping, running and throwing events. Additionally there were boxing, wrestling, pankration and chariot racing. At least 40,000 spectators would have filled ked the stadium each day at the height of the Games’ popularity, in the second century AD, with many more setting up stalls selling their wares outside.

If the modern games would have followed the same rules as the ancient games, it would have been a completely different event, I would dare to argue, perhaps an even more entertaining event.

  • All athletes competed naked
  • Wrestlers and pankration (a sort of mixed martial art which combined boxing and wrestling) competitors fought covered in oil
  • Corporal punishment awaited those guilty of a false start on the track
  • There were only two rules in the pankration – no biting and no gouging
  • Boxers were urged to avoid attacking the on-display male genitals
  • There were no points, no time limits and no weight classifications in the boxing
  • Athletes in the combat sports had to indicate their surrender by raising their index fingers – at times they died before they could do this
  • Boxers who could not be separated could opt for klimax, a system whereby one fighter was granted a free hit and then vice-versa – a toss of a coin decided who went first

For most of its history, Olympic events were performed in the nude. Greek Historian Pausanias says that the first naked runner was Orsippus, winner of the stadion race in 720 BC, who simply lost his garment on purpose because running without it was easier.

There are no records of women competitors during the ancient games. Ig there were they probably would have looked something like these athletes.

I am looking forward to the 2020/2021 Tokyo Games and I hope they will be a great success, because despite all the recent scandals it remains a feat of human achievment

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Source

https://www.olympic.org/ancient-olympic-games

The weird case of Violette Morris

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Of all stories relating to spies and collaborators during WWII this most be one of the most intriguing ones.

When I first read about Violette Morris and saw the date she died,26 April 1944, I assumed she was killed for being a member of the French resistance. Why I thought that I don’t know.

Born in France on 18 April 1893. She was a French athlete who won two gold and one silver medals at the Women’s World Games in 1922 and the Women’s Olympiad in 1924.

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She excelled in those sports that require strength and power such as shot put and javelin.However those weren’t the only sports she was involved in.

She partook in football,water polo ,road bicycle racing, motorcycle racing, airplane racing, horseback riding, tennis, archery, diving, swimming,weightlifting, and Greco-Roman wrestling,boxing and car racing.

She loved car racing so much that she had her breasts removed to fit better in the car.

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She married Cyprien Edouard Joseph Gouraud on 22 August 1914 in Paris. They divorced in May 1923. She had served in World War I as a military nurse during the Battle of the Somme and a courier during the Battle of Verdun.

Although she had been married, she was attracted to women.

Her motto was “Anything A Man Can Do, Violette Can Do, Too”

Her lifestyle was of no shame to her. She lived as a man and made no secret of the fact that her lovers were women. This was considered really scandalous behaviour in 1920’s France.

In 1928, she was refused license renewal by the Fédération française sportive féminine and as a result was not allowed to compete in the 1928 Olympic Games.

Despite her being openly gay she had a big fan in Adolf Hitler. This one of the anomalies in the Nazi policies,according to the Nazi doctrine women could not be gay.

In 1935 she was approached an recruited by by the Sicherheitsdienst. On the personal behest she was invited to attend the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

1936

She provided the Nazi regime in Germany  with partial plans of the Maginot Line, detailed plans of strategic points within the city of Paris, and schematics of the French army’s main tank, the Somua S35. Her information was vital to the German invasion of Paris in 1940.

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After the Nazi invasion, Morris remained close to the Germans and started working for the French Gestapo, the Carlingue. She had the nickname, ‘The Hyena of the Gestapo,’ because apparently she got a lot of sadistic pleasure by torturing people and extracting information.

On 26 April 1944, when she went for a  drive in her Citroën Traction Avant car with two friends and their two children for a spin on a country road.

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Her engine sputtered and the car came to a halt. Earlier tha day, the engine had been tampered with by  the French Resistance Maquis Surcouf group. Members of the group  then emerged from a hiding spot and opened fired on the car. Although Morris was the target, all five people in the car were killed. Morris’ body, riddled with bullets.

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The Nazi flame that still burns

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It is safe to say that the Olympic Games is the biggest sporting event.Every 4 years the event attracts the attentions of hundreds of millions sports enthusiasts and also people who have very little interest in sports. for aside from the sports it is also entertainment and especially the opening ceremony.

But above the sports and entertainment the Olympic games have always been political and the perfect tool for mass propaganda.

flame

What many people don’t realize is that one of the highlights of the opening ceremony of the Olympic games, the lighting of the flame after the torch relay was first introduced by the Nazi regime, to the modern Olympic games.

The 1936 Olympic summer Games were the first to use the torch run. Each of  the 3,422 torch bearers ran one kilometer  along the route of the torch relay from the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece, to Berlin.The route passed through the capitals of each of the countries visited.

The idea of the torch relay was a brainwave of Carl Diem,a German sports administrator.

Adolf Hitler thought the connection with the ancient Games was the perfect way to show his belief that ancient Greece was an Aryan forerunner of the modern German Reich. He quoted:

“The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn’t separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That’s why the Olympic Flame should never die.”

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The relay started on the 20th of  July 1936 in Olympia and ended on August 1 1936 in Berlin at the start of the 1936 Olympic Summer Games.

These games were going to be the template for all future games.

flame 2

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The 1940 Summer Olympic games, the games that never happened! Or did they?

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I have mentioned this before in other blogs that the IOC(International Olympic Committee) has very little to do with sports but more with politics.

But I have to admit they made the right decision on the 1940 Summer Olympics, although they didn’t really have much choice in the matter.

The 1940 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XII Olympiad, were originally scheduled to be held from September 21 to October 6, 1940, in Tokyo, Japan. They were rescheduled for Helsinki, Finland.

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In 1936, Tokyo was chosen in a surprise move, making it the first non-Western city to win an Olympic bid.

Japan pulled out of hosting the Games in July 1938. The IOC then awarded the Games to Helsinki, Finland, the city that had been the runner-up in the original bidding process. When the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out on July 7, 1937, Japan decided a year after the outbreak after the war to focus more on military matters then sporting events, therefore it withdrew from hosting the Games of the XII Olympiad.Second Sino-Japanese War

The IOC then awarded the Games to Helsinki, Finland, the city that had been the runner-up in the original bidding process. To be held from July 20 to August 4, 1940, The Games were then canceled altogether after the breakout of WWII in 1939.

The 1944 Olympics which had been awarded to London was also cancelled, it wasn’t until 1948 before the Olympic games resumed. London who lost out in 1944 got to host the games in 1948.

However. while the official Olympic Games were canceled, a different kind of Olympics was held in 1940. Prisoners of war in a camp in Langwasser, Germany, held their own DIY Olympic Games in August 1940. The event was called the International Prisoner-of-War Olympic Games. The Olympic flag and banners for Belgium, France, Great Britain, Norway, Poland and the Netherlands were drawn on a prisoner’s shirt using crayons. The 1980 movie Olimpiada ’40 ​recounts this story.

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Although the International Prisoner-of-War Olympic Games of 1940 were kept in complete secrecy, in 1944 in another POW camp,Woldenberg another International Prisoner-of-War Olympic Games was held under the name of the Woldenberg Olympics.

The guards of Woldenberg allowed the ’44 event to proceed with the provision that no fencing, archery, javelin, or pole-vaulting competitions took place.

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Roughly 369 of the 7000 prisoners participated. Most of the men competed in multiple contests, which ranged from handball and basketball to chess. Boxing was included—but owing to the fragile state of prisoners, broken bones resulted in a premature end to the combat.

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Crazy Irish Priest

Cornelius-Neil-Horan

Unfortunately there is no other way to describe Father Neil Horan(not the One Direction dude) then crazy. On several occasions he disrupted major events and costing one athlete a GOLD medal.

On 20 July 2003, Horan ran across the track at the Formula One British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit, wearing a kilt and waving a religious banner, which stated “Read the Bible. The Bible is always right”.

His protest took place on the 200 mph (320 km/h) Hangar Straight. Several drivers chose to swerve to avoid him and the safety car had to be deployed to protect him and the competitors. Horan was tackled by track marshal Stephen Green, who removed him from the track before he was arrested.He was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, aggravated trespass and sentenced to two months imprisonment.

grand prix

At the 5 June 2004 Epsom Derby, Horan was spotted by police and shoved to the ground moments before they believed he was about to run in front of the horses. He was later released without charges, although police did circulate information about Horan to other sporting events.

In spite of the fact that security for the 2004 Athens Olympics was tight due to fears of a terrorist attack, on 29 August Horan (who had flown to Athens earlier that day) was able to run onto the course of the men’s marathon event near the 35 km mark, carrying a placard.

Horan pushed Brazilian Vanderlei de Lima, who was leading the race, into the crowds alongside the course.After a few seconds Horan was hauled off the shaken runner by Greek spectator Polyvios Kossivas. Kossivas subdued Horan and helped de Lima up and back to the lane.

Horan was promptly arrested by Greek police (who were later criticized for not giving runners adequate protection). Following the encounter with Horan, De Lima suffered from leg cramps and muscle pain, although he continued running and completed the race. He lost 20 seconds from his 48-second lead and finished third, after being passed by Italian Stefano Baldini and American Mebrahtom Keflezighi at the 38 km mark.

de-lima

Horan ruined years of preparation and hard training by de Lima in a few seconds

The head of the Brazilian Track Federation launched an appeal based on the controversy surrounding Horan’s interference in the marathon. The federation asked that de Lima also be awarded a gold medal, citing precedents set in past Olympic matches where extenuating circumstances have led to more than one winner in certain sports. This request was denied. Horan was given a 12 months’ suspended sentence by a Greek court and fined €3,000. Although he could have been sentenced to up to five years’ imprisonment, the judge gave him a suspended sentence due to his mental state.

During the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, Horan was arrested by German police before he could stage a planned protest. He had written to German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and The Kingdom newspaper in County Kerry, Ireland, informing them that he planned to dance a peace jig outside the stadium in Berlin before the World Cup final. He told The Kingdom he would carry posters declaring “Adolf Hitler was a good leader who was following the word of Christ”, give the Hitler salute and light a candle for Hitler at the Gestapo headquarters.He spent two months in custody awaiting trial but was released on 15 September 2006 when the judge discharged the case.

On 20 January 2005, Kevin McDonald, the Archbishop of Southwark (South London), defrocked Horan. Horan later made the following statement to the press: “I completely reject this decision. I appeal to the much higher court of heaven and the court of Jesus Christ … I now cannot preach, I cannot give out communion – I am little more than a pagan.”

On 13 April 2007, Horan was served with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) banning him from entering, on the day of the race, any of the London boroughs that the course of the London Marathon passed through.

Horan auditioned for Series 3 of Britain’s Got Talent in 2009 (airing 16 May) performing an Irish jig in traditional costume. The judges put Horan through to the next round. It was revealed he was let through because the producers “did not know” who he was.[10] The makers of the show, TalkbackThames and Syco, defended showing Horan’s audition on the show.[1] Horan then appeared on The Ray D’Arcy Show on Today FM and revealed that he did not get through to the next stage.

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With all the mayhem he caused you’d suspect he would be locked up in a mental institution, but no he still roams free.

 

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The Winter Olympics that never happened.

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Since the 2018 Winter Olympics is only a few weeks away, it is a good time to look back at the Winter Olympic games that never happened.

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Sapporo was selected to be the host of the sixth edition of the Winter Olympics, scheduled February 3–12, 1940, but Japan gave the Games back to the IOC in July 1938, after the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937. Sapporo subsequently hosted the 1972 Winter Olympics.

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The IOC then decided to give the Winter Olympics to St Moritz, Switzerland, which had hosted it in 1928. However, due to controversies between the Swiss organizing team and the IOC, the Games were withdrawn again.

In the spring of 1939, the IOC gave the 1940 Winter Olympics, now scheduled for February 2–11, to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where the previous 1936 Games had been held. Three months later, Germany invaded Poland, on September 1, to ignite World War II and the Winter Games were cancelled in November. Likewise, the 1944 Games, awarded in 1939 to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, were cancelled in 1941.

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Wiping out a sporting legacy.

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Although I could not be considered to be an athlete,by any stretch of the imagination, I do enjoy walking and going for swims. Ever since I was a kid I was always very interested in the Olympic games. My home nation ,the Netherlands always tends to do well and it does give a sense of pride of this sporting legacy.

Although the Nazi regime actively encouraged sports, in fact Hitler saw all athletes as potential prime soldiers.

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Well only ‘arian’ athletes , any others like Jewish or Sinti athletes were not worthy to even eat the same food as his dog Blondi.

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Regardless how successful these athletes had been in the past there was no place for them in Germany history, their legacy had to be wiped out.

Gustav Felix Flatow & Alfred Flatow 

These 2 cousins both won gold medals in the 1896 Athens olympics.

Gymnast Gustav Flatow won two gold medals in 1896 at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens—in Team Horizontal Bar and Team Parallel Bars.

Gustav Flatow was 1 of 10 German athletes who competed in the Athens Olympics.

Gustav fled to Holland at the beginning of World War II but was caught and interned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. He died there just months before the end of World War II ,aged 70.

Alfred Flatow won three gold medals in Athens, Greece, at the first modern Olympiad in 1896. He also won a silver medal.In 1903, he assisted the founding of the Judische Turnerschaft, the historic and pioneering Jewish sports organization in Europe. He was prominently active in German gymnastics until expelled by the Nazis in 1936. Alfred Flatow died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1942, aged 73.

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In 1997 Berlin honoured Alfred and Gustav Flatow by renaming the Reichssportfeldstraße (a lane) near the Olympic Stadium to Flatowallee (Flatow-avenue). There is also the Flatow-Sporthalle (sports hall) at Berlin-Kreuzbergwith a commemorative plaque for both. The Deutsche Post issued a set of four stamps to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympic games. One of this stamps shows the Flatows.

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Lilli Henoch

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Lilli Henoch (October 26, 1899 – September 1942) set World records in the Discus, Shot Put, and 4 X 100 Relay events.

She set her first World record in the Discus on October 1, 1922, in Berlin, with a toss of 24.90 meters. Less than a year later, on July 8, 1923, in Berlin, she bettered the mark with a distance of 26.62 meters.

On August 16, 1925, in Leipzig, Henoch set the World Shot Put Record with a toss of 11.57 meters.

One year later, she ran the first leg on the four-some (Henoch-Poting-Voss- Kohler) that set a new World 4 X 100- Meter Relay record—50.4 seconds—at the German tournaments in Köln (Cologne).

Between 1922 and 1926, Henoch won 10 German national championships in Shot Put, 1922 and 1925; Discus, 1923 and 1924; Long Jump, 1924; and 4 X 100-Meter Relay, 1924 to 1926.

The German government deported Henoch and her mother on September 5, 1942. They were shot and buried in a mass grave in the woods surrounding Riga, Latvia.

Werner Seelenbinder

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Seelenbinder was born in Stettin, Pomerania, and became a wrestler after training as a joiner. He had connections with the young people’s workers’ movement from an early age. Seelenbinder won the light heavyweight class of Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1925 Workers’ Olympiad in Frankfurt. In 1928 and 1929 he won the Spartakiad in Moscow; over 200 German sportsmen were banned from the contest, but Seelenbinder, with his interest in Marxism, took part.His first trip to Moscow had already persuaded him to become a member of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). In 1933 he refused to give the Nazi salute when receiving his medal at the German Wrestling Championship,and was punished with a sixteen-month ban on training and sports events.

German workers’ sports clubs were soon banned by the Nazi party; at this point the KPD approached Seelenbinder, asking him to join one of the legal sports clubs, to train to get as much sporting success as possible, so he would be able to carry messages across Germany and into other countries. As one of the country’s top sportsmen he had more freedom of movement and could travel abroad. As well as preparing for the Olympics, Seelenbinder joined the Uhrig Group, an underground resistance group named after Robert Uhrig, who organized it.

As a committed communist Seelenbinder was appalled by the 1936 Olympic Games that were to be held in Nazi Germany.

Berlin, Eröffnung der XI. Olympischen Spiele

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He had originally planned to boycott it, but friends persuaded him to compete anyway, win, and defy the Nazis by not giving the required Nazi salute, but to use a vulgar gesture instead. This plan was foiled when he lost the first match. He eventually came in fourth in the event.

The Nazis had only allowed Seelenbinder to take part in the Olympics because they thought he would secure them a medal: otherwise, they did not trust him in the slightest. Seelenbinder’s illegal activities as a courier and his participation in the Uhrig Group had caught their attention: he was arrested, along with 65 other members of the group, on 4 February 1942 and after being tortured for eight days, and enduring nine camps and prisons for two and half years, he was sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof, he was executed for treason on 24 October 1944 at Brandenburg-Görden Prison – he was beheaded with an axe. The imprisonment left him weighing a mere 60 kilograms (132 pounds), from his previous weight of 90 kilos (198 pounds).

In his farewell letter, he wrote to his father:

The time has now come for me to say goodbye. In the time of my imprisonment I must have gone through every type of torture a man can possibly endure. Ill health and physical and mental agony, I have been spared nothing. I would have liked to have experienced the delights and comforts of life, which I now appreciate twice as much, with you all, with my friends and fellow sportsmen, after the war. The times I had with you were great, and I lived on them during my incarceration, and wished back that wonderful time. Sadly fate has now decided differently, after a long time of suffering. But I know that I have found a place in all your hearts and in the hearts of many sports followers, a place where I will always hold my ground. This knowledge makes me proud and strong and will not let me be weak in my last moments.

 

Johann Wilhelm Trollmann

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Born 27 December  1907 near Hanover, Trollmann’s official German name was Johann but his family and friends knew him as Rukeli, derived from the word for tree in the Romany language. He started training at the tender age of eight and was soon competing with the Heros Hanover boxing club.

On 9 June 1933, Rukeli boxed against Adolf Witt for the German light-heavyweight title, which had been vacated by the Jewish holder Erich Seelig who had fled Germany in fear of his life. Rukeli was on course to win when the Nazi chairman of the boxing authority intervened, ordering the judges to call a ‘no decision’ and not award the title. This decision caused such an uproar among the audience that Rukeli had to be hastily crowned champion after all, but only a few days later he was stripped of the title again by the German boxing authorities because of ‘bad boxing’.

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A new fight was scheduled for 21 July, and Rukeli was ordered to fight in the ‘German style’ and ‘not to dance like a Gypsy’. He knew he was meant to lose this fight because he was a Sinto. Rukeli entered the ring with his face and body powdered white with flour and his hair dyed blonde: a caricature of an Aryan and a courageous act of protest against his discrimination. He just stood still and took the blows of his opponent Gustav Eder until he was knocked out in the fifth round.

This marked the end of his boxing career. He struggled to fend for himself, was sent to Hannover-Ahlen labour camp twice and went into hiding for a time to avoid further persecution. In 1938, in order to avoid deportation to a concentration camp, he agreed to be sterilised under the ‘diagnosis’ of ‘congenital feeble-mindedness’. He divorced his non-Sinti wife in order to protect her and his little daughter Rita. Following the outbreak of war in 1939, he was drafted into the German army.

In 1942, he was dishonourably discharged from the Wehrmacht for racial reasons, along with all Sinti and Roma, and soon after arrested by the Gestapo, severely tortured and transported to Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg. The camp commandant recognised him as the former boxing star and ordered him to train the camp’s SS men at night following his punishing 12-hour work shifts. Because of his deteriorating health, fellow prisoners managed to get him transferred to Wittenberge, one of Neuengamme’s satellite camps. But here, too, he was recognised as the former boxer, and was made to fight fellow prisoners for ‘entertainment’. One of his opponents was Emil Cornelius, a feared kapo. Trollmann won against him, but in a brutal act of revenge Cornelius beat him to death with a shovel in March 1944.

Otto Herschmann

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Dr. Herschmann is one of only three athletes to have won Olympic medals in different sports. He won a silver medal swimming the 100-Meter Freestyle in 1896 at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens and a bronze medal in Team Sabre (fencing) at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.

Coincidentally, Herschmann also served as president of the Austrian Olympic Committee during the 1912 Games, and as such was the only president of a National Olympic Committee to win an Olympic medal while in office.

Dr. Herschmann was arrested in Vienna by the Nazis and deported on January 14th, 1942 to the Sobibor concentration camp. He died there later that year.