Hitler’s Great Public-Relations Victory at the 1936 Olympics

March 2 2018

At this year’s Winter Olympics, much was made of the participation of North Korea, which took the opportunity to score propaganda points. In Berlin, 1936 (recently published in English translation), the historian Oliver Hilmes tells the story of an attempt by another totalitarian regime to use the Olympics to show its best face to the world. Liam Hoare writes in his review:

The Summer Olympics of 1936, [held in Berlin], were a moral disaster and thus a political and diplomatic smash for the Nazi regime. Jesse Owens’s achievements notwithstanding, Germany ranked first in the medals table, far ahead of the United States, reinforcing the myth of German or Aryan racial superiority. For the city of Berlin, the increase in visitors made the games highly profitable. More importantly, “Hitler and his regime were able to present themselves as peace-loving, reliable members of the family of nations,” Hilmes writes, giving many the impression that “Hitler can be trusted to keep his promises.” . . .

In competition, spectators witnessed fencer Helene Mayer, who had left the Third Reich for California in the fall of 1934 due to her status as a “half-Jew,” win silver for Germany. The Nazis allowed her to compete under their flag as a sop to the international community and those who had tried to organize a boycott of the games. Outside the stadium, for the duration of the Olympics, the Nazis suspended the publication of the anti-Semitic rag Der Stürmer and took down the issues that were usually displayed prominently in public spaces.

So successful was their propaganda—and the willingness of the International Olympic Committee to look the other way—that at the same time as the games were taking place, the regime was brazenly constructing a concentration camp, Sachsenhausen, barely 22 miles north of Berlin. The city’s gypsy population, meanwhile, had been removed and deported to a single encampment on Berlin’s eastern outskirts.

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More about: 1936 Olympics, History & Ideas, Nazi Germany, North Korea, olympics, Sports

 

Syria’s Downing of a Russian Plane Put Israel in the Crosshairs

Sept. 21 2018

On Monday, Israeli jets fired missiles at an Iranian munitions storehouse in the northwestern Syrian city of Latakia. Shortly thereafter, Syrian personnel shot down a Russian surveillance plane with surface-to-air missiles, in what seems to be a botched and highly incompetent response to the Israeli attack. Moscow first responded by blaming Jerusalem for the incident, but President Putin then offered more conciliatory statements. Yesterday, Russian diplomats again stated that Israel was at fault. Yoav Limor comments:

What was unusual [about the Israeli] strike was the location: Latakia [is] close to Russian forces, in an area where the IDF hasn’t been active for some time. The strike itself was routine; the IDF notified the Russian military about it in advance, the missiles were fired remotely, the Israeli F-16s returned to base unharmed, and as usual, Syrian antiaircraft missiles were fired indiscriminately in every direction, long after the strike itself was over. . . .

Theoretically, this is a matter between Russia and Syria. Russia supplied Syria with the SA-5 [missile] batteries that wound up shooting down its plane, and now it must demand explanations from Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. That won’t happen; Russia was quick to blame Israel for knocking over the first domino, and as usual, sent conflicting messages that make it hard to parse its future strategy. . . .

From now on, Russia will [almost certainly] demand a higher level of coordination with Israel and limits on the areas in which Israel can attack, and possibly a commitment to refrain from certain actions. Syria, Iran, and Hizballah will try to drag Russia into “handling” Israel and keeping it from continuing to carry out strikes in the region. Israel . . . will blame Iran, Hizballah, and Syria for the incident, and say they are responsible for the mess.

But Israel needs to take rapid action to minimize damage. It is in Israel’s strategic interest to keep up its offensive actions to the north, mainly in Syria. If that action is curtailed, Israel’s national security will be compromised. . . . No one in Israel, and certainly not in the IDF or the Israel Air Force, wants Russia—which until now hasn’t cared much about Israel’s actions—to turn hostile, and Israel needs to do everything to prevent that from happening. Even if that means limiting its actions for the time being. . . . Still, make no mistake: Russia is angry and has to explain its actions to its people. Israel will need to walk a thin line between protecting its own security interests and avoiding a very unwanted clash with Russia.

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More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war