The American Jewish Athletes Excluded from the German Olympics in 1936

November 21, 2023 | Jeffrey Gurock
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At the 1936 Munich Olympics, held in Nazi Germany, American coaches at the last minute instructed two Jewish runners—Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller—to sit out a relay race, and to let two of their teammates run instead. Jesse Owens, one of the substitutes, was the only player to object. While the track coach Dean Cromwell insisted that this was a merely tactical move, Jeffrey Gurock has found evidence that it was motivated either by anti-Semitism or by a desire not to offend Hitler. He writes:

In the days and weeks that followed [the Olympics], Glickman felt even more alone as almost no one came to his side. Cromwell unabashedly defended his decision. . . . Most disconcerting was the approach of some major Jewish newspapers, which stopped very short of seeing the ouster as an act of anti-Semitism. Rather they praised the boys for not dwelling on discrimination as the root cause of their exclusion and advised them to move on with their careers.

Within this atmosphere, wherever he turned, the most Glickman would say about why he was out of the race was “politics.” Then, and for decades thereafter, Glickman would use vague terms publicly to depict what had transpired during those days in Berlin that turned ugly. When queried, Glickman kept to himself his own certain belief that anti-Semitism . . . was the reason he was not permitted to run and triumph.

Dean Cromwell slept very well as he crossed the Atlantic, satisfied with his actions and feelings about what he might have called the “Jewish question.” He gave voice to his prejudicial views two months after the Olympics in a speech in Los Angeles to 3,000 cheering followers of the [pro-Nazi] German American Alliance: “If you read any of the reports of the unpleasantness in Germany or of the reception of the American Olympic team, don’t believe them. The reports were written by boys of the wrong nationality.”

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