Library Finds Olympic Rarity in Special Collection

Souvenir From 1936 Games Recalls Historic Achievement of Jesse Owens, Others

Aug. 21, 2008

McDermott Library has discovered a prize just in time for the Summer Olympics: a rare souvenir booklet from the 1936 Games that recognizes the achievements of the legendary U.S. sprinter Jesse Owens and other gold medalists.

Germany produced the special promotional booklet to showcase the Berlin Olympics venues. The inscriptions in a special two-page section reproduce the signatures of the Games’ gold medalists, including Owens.

U.S. track star Jesse Owens starts the 200-meter race.

Olympic book cover
The souvenir booklet had been in the library’s Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl Lighter-Than-Air Collection.

The copy of the pre-war rarity turned up in McDermott Library’s Special Collections Department.

“While rearranging one of our safes, I came across the Berlin Olympics book in the Charles E. Rosendahl Collection,” said Paul Oelkrug, the library’s coordinator for special collections. “This is what makes my job so interesting; you never know what you may find in these collections.”

The heavily politicized 1936 Games were famous partly because of Owens. The U.S. track and field star won four gold medals in front of Adolph Hitler, who had expected the event to be an Aryan showcase.

The souvenir booklet had been in the library’s Vice Admiral Charles E. Rosendahl Lighter-Than-Air Collection.

Rosendahl had headed the U.S. Navy’s Airship program. In the late 1920s, he began a series of visits to Germany to observe airship technology and innovations. He was on the Graf Zeppelin’s first Atlantic crossing (from Friedrichshafen to Lakehurst, N.J.) in 1928 and an around-the-world flight in 1929. From Aug. 20 to Sept. 20, 1936, Rosendahl flew on a multistop Hindenburg voyage – from Lakehurst to Frankfurt, Germany, to Rio de Janeiro, to Frankfurt again and then back to Lakehurst.

So it is no wonder that the Germans presented him with the souvenir booklet.

The souvenir booklet’s inscriptions connect to more Olympics legends than Owens:

  • Rie Mastenbroek, a 17-year-old Dutch swimmer, who won three gold medals and just missed a fourth one. She had been a swimming prodigy at age 11.

  • “K.C. Son” (Sohn Kee-chung), a marathon champion from Korea who was forced to compete for Japan, which had annexed Korea in 1910. The Japanese version of Sohn’s name, “Son Kitei,” was used on official records. When a Korean newspaper reported “Korean victory in Berlin” and obscured the Japanese flag emblem on Sohn’s uniform in a photograph, Japanese authorities arrested its staff and shut it down for nine months. In 1988 he carried the Olympic torch into the stadium to open the Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea.

  • Helen Stephens, 18, a U.S. double gold medal sprinter, who was the target of German newspaper question about her gender. Her 100-meter rival was Poland’s Stella Walsh, a world record holder whose real name was Stanislawa Walasiewicz. She had come to America at age 2 but was unable to attain America citizenship. Walsh, likewise, was accused by German journalists of being a man. German doctors examined Stephens at the Olympics and pronounced her to be a woman. In 1980, Walsh was killed by a stray bullet in a Cleveland shopping center. The autopsy showed Walsh had both male and female chromosomes – a condition known as mosaicism.

  • Gold medalists were also given an oak sapling from Hitler. Harold Whitlock, 50-kilometer walk champ, had his oak planted at his old school in north London where it was nicknamed the “Hitler Oak.” For 70 years it stood until last year when the 50-foot landmark was chopped down. It had developed a fungal disease and was deemed a danger to students. His son, Ross, said his home had a few saplings growing from acorns that fell from the Olympic tree. He suggested giving one to the school to be called “Son of Hitler Oak.”

  • Ondina Valla who was the first Italian woman to win Olympic gold (80-meter hurdles), and Ilona Elek-Schacherer (foil) was the first Hungarian woman to win Olympic gold.

  • U.S. decathlon champion Glenn Morris, who went on to make the motion pictures Tarzan’s Revenge and Hold That Co-ed in 1938. Tarzan’s Revenge also featured Eleanor Holm, a 100-meter Olympic backstroke swimmer in 1932 who was kicked off the U.S. team in Berlin for continual drinking and carousing.

  • Discus champion Gisela Mauermayer was considered Germany’s ideal model of Aryan womanhood and beauty. She was expected to win gold in Berlin, and she did. She later became a professor of sport in a Munich college but later lost her job because of her Nazi ties.

  • Khadr Sayed El-Touni of Egypt has been considered one of history’s greatest weightlifters, ranked at the top of the list until 1996. Hitler was so impressed by his domination in the middleweight class that he ordered a street named after him in Berlin. He also has had streets named after him in Alexandria and Nasr City, Egypt. His hometown of Helwan went one better by naming a plaza after him. In 1956 he was electrocuted while making home repairs.

  • Jewish athletes who won gold in Berlin included Robert Fein of Austria; and Karoly Karpati, Ilona Elek-Schacherer and Ibolya Csak, all of Hungary.

Media Contacts: Tom Koch, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4951, tkoch@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Olympic emblem

“We fought for the gold medal”

The above words, translated from the German, introduce two pages of replica signatures by Olympians who competed in the 1936 Berlin Games. (Click for an enlarged view of the pages.)

Olympic autographs, page 1
Olympic autographs, page 2

 

Medalist Signatures
(Key: WR-World Record; OR-Olympic Record)

First Page  
   
Helen Stephens, USA 100m, 400m relay
Margie Gestring, USA 3-meter springboard
Harold Whitlock,
Great Britain
50K walk (OR)
Rie Mastenbroek, Holland 100m freestyle (OR),
400m freestyle (OR),
400m freestyle relay (OR)
Hideko Maehata, Japan 200m breaststroke (OR)
Tilly Fleischer, Germany javelin (OR)
Gisela Mauermayer,
Germany
discus (OR)
Trudi Meyer, Germany Women’s Team gymnastics
Kathe Sohnemann Women’s Team gymnastics
Anita Barwrith Women’s Team gymnastics
Friedl Iby Women’s Team gymnastics
Erna Burger Women’s Team gymnastics
Julie Schmitt Women’s Team gymnastics
Ondina Valla Italy 80m track
Ilona Elek-Schacherer, Hungary fencing, foil
Ibolya Csak, Hungary high jump

 

Second Page  
   
Jesse Owens, USA 100m, 200m (OR), broad jump (OR), 400m relay (WR)
Glenn Morris, USA Decathlon (WR)
Cornelius Johnson, USA high jump (OR)
John Woodruff, USA 800m
Jack Medica 400-meter freestyle (OR)
Ken Carpenter, USA discus (OR)
Frank Lewis, USA Freestyle wrestling, welterweight
Naoto Tajima, Japan triple jump (WR)
Karl Hein, Germany hammer (OR)
Gerhard Stock, Germany javelin
K.C. Son (Sohn Kee-chung), Japan (Korea) marathon (OR)
Ferenc Csik, Hungary 100m freetstyle
Marton Lorincz, Hungary Greco-Roman wrestling, bantamweight
Odon Zombori, Hungary Freestyle wrestling, bantamweight
Karolyi Karpati, Hungary Freestyle wrestling, lightweight
Alois Hudec,
Czechoslovakia
Gymnastics, Rings
Georges Miez, Switzerland Gymnastics, Floor Exercise
Heinz Pollay, Germany Equestrian, Grand Prix Dressage, Team Dressage
Hermann Von Oppeln-Bronikowski Equestrian, Team Dressage
Robert Fein, Austria weightlifting, lightweight (tie)
Anwar Mesbah, Egypt weightlifting, lightweight (tie)
Khadr Sayed El-Touni,
Egypt
weightlifting, middleweight
Josef Manger weightlifting, heavyweight

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