Germany recognises Jewish athlete's 1936 record

25th November 2009, Comments 0 comments

Bergmann fled to Britain when Hitler came to power and became national high jump champion in 1934.

Berlin -- A 95-year-old former athlete banned by the Nazis from representing Germany in the 1936 Olympics because she was Jewish has had her high jump record recognised by the German athletics federation.

"We know that it can't compensate. But it is an act of justice and a symbolic gesture of respect for Gretel Bergmann," the DLV federation said in a statement on Monday.

Bergmann fled to Britain when Hitler came to power and became national high jump champion in 1934.

Concerned that the United States might boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympics, which Hitler hoped would prove to the world the superiority of the Aryan race, the Nazis pressured Bergmann to return and compete for Germany.

She returned and duly broke the German high-jump record in the run-up to the 1936 Games.

But when the Nazis were sure the ship bearing the US athletes had already left dock, Bergmann was dropped from the team and her record was not recognised.

"I would have won gold, nothing else," she told Spiegel magazine recently. "I wanted to show to the Germans and to the world that Jews were not these terrible people, not fat, ugly and disgusting as we were portrayed."

She emigrated to the United States in 1937 with the equivalent of four dollars in her pocket, where she continued to compete and where she married Bruno Lambert, who is 99 today, becoming Margaret Bergmann-Lambert.

The two "Master Race" athletes in the 1936 German team, Elfriede Kaun and Dora Ratjen, came third and fourth respectively in the high jump, and Ratjen turned out to be a man.

Gold was won by a Hungarian athlete, Ibolya Csak.

"A Jew," Bergmann pointed out.

AFP/Expatica

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