the tragic decade 

of european sport

Beginning with the Berlin Olympic Games of 1936 and the failed international campaigns to boycott them, the history of this tragic decade brings together international sporting relations, the European workers’ sporting movement, and policies of sporting exclusion in the 1930s.

It also covers the attempt by the Axis countries to construct a “New Sporting Europe” – which resulted in a desire to destroy the Jewish sporting movement, and the deportation of numerous athletes whose careers were at their peak (e.g. Alfred Nakache, Alex Ehrlich).

The Nazi scourge was no less brutal toward Jewish sportsmen than it was to the Jewish communities established across Europe. Sport had, until then, been a force for emancipation. Now, it became an instrument of torture and repression in the concentration camps, extermination camps and ghettos.

The decade’s final years, concluded by the London Games, were characterised by a will to retrieve the Olympic spirit. The return of deported athletes, “purges” in the sporting world, a new generation of athletes taking over from those who competed in 1936 and 1948, and the revival of the Maccabiah Games were the key signs that a new era was beginning.

The 1948 London Olympics strike a particular chord, since London will once again be the Olympic host city in summer 2012.
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