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.
|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.
“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.)
(Key: WR-World Record; OR-Olympic Record)
|Helen Stephens, USA||100m, 400m relay|
|Margie Gestring, USA||3-meter springboard|
|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)|
|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|
|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|
|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,
|Josef Manger||weightlifting, heavyweight|