(JNi.media) From July 27 to August 5, the 14th European Maccabi Games will take place in Berlin. It’s Europe’s biggest Jewish sports event, and it will take place in Germany—for the first time in its history. As the event’s website puts it, “Jewish athletes were excluded from the Olympic Games in 1936,” but, this summer, “thousands will send a message for tolerance and openness and against anti-Semitism and racism.”
Actually, Jews were not officially excluded in 1936, although it was no fun being a Jew in Berlin back then, or being a Jewish athlete. Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler saw the Games as an opportunity to promote his idea of racial supremacy, and the official Nazi paper, the Völkischer Beobachter, wrote that Jews should not be allowed to participate, but when the games were threatened with a boycott by some nations, Hitler acquiesced and allowed every ethnic group to participate.
He regretted it when African American athlete Jesse Owens set the world record in the long jump with a leap of 26 ft 8 in. His record stood for 25 years, far outlasting the Third Reich. Hitler left the stadium in a huff.
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told RBB radio: “This is the stadium where the Olympic games were exploited by Hitler. To hold on that spot a Jewish sporting event like the Maccabi Games, that is an important and nice message.”
“More than 2,000 Jewish sportswomen and sportsmen from more than 36 countries will compete against each other in 19 disciplines in Berlin’s Olympic Park,” declares the games’ website.
No place like Berlin for discipline…
President of Maccabi Germany Alon Meyer told AP the decision to host the Jewish Games in Berlin, although difficult, is a “signal of reconciliation” 70 years after the end of World War II.
“There were a lot of people who said that they would never in their lives step again on German soil and we have to respect that,” Meyer told foreign reporters on Monday.
However, he noted, “we are a new generation … and the question of guilt is long resolved.”
There you go.
The 13th European Maccabi Games were held in 2011 in Vienna, Austria, and it was the largest gathering of Jews in that city since the Holocaust.
We have to stop meeting like this…
Daniel Collins, head of the UK delegation to the Games, told The Guardian: “I doubt any games anywhere will be as emotionally charged as this one; thousands of Jewish people parading in the Olympic stadium, which houses such meaning, not only to the world’s Jewish community, but to the world’s sporting community.”