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an exhibition to discover

november 9th 2011 - April 29th 2012

Totalitarian regimes not only harnessed schools, the army and leisure activities to fashion the new male body, and fire his spirit: they also used physical education and sport as a means to better the race and prepare for war – hence the regimes’ marked interest in swimming and athletics, which flexed the muscles and sculpted the body; in rugby and boxing, which strengthened the character; in high-speed sports like motor racing and aviation, which encouraged a taste for danger. Hence also their suspicion of football: a spectator sport which benefitted its professional players, and could send crowds into an uncontrollable frenzy.

The control and purging of the sports clubs and federations, the sporting indoctrination of the masses and the international celebration of the national champions and teams: these were the fundamental principles of sporting politics under the fascist and Nazi regimes, as well as their Vichyist and Francoist imitators, not to mention the USSR. Never in the history of the 20th century had the sporting body been subjected to such state control.

In keeping with its mission, the Shoah Memorial had no choice but to seize upon this aspect of our societies’ history – one that has been the subject of numerous academic studies in recent decades. The exhibition, website and catalogue of “European Sport under Nazism, from the Olympic of Berlin to the London Olympics (1936-1948)” give an account of these realities, with a view to scientific rigor and reaching a wide audience.
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