Decades of propaganda, public ignorance, apathy and a nonsensical education system has created an image of world history, that bears little resemblance to reality.

One example of such distortion, and one which still exists after seventy-eight years, is woven around the 1936 Olympic Games, which were, as some of you may know, held in Berlin.

This truly international event, the first incidentally, to be broadcast ‘worldwide,’ is often quoted in the mainstream, in the context of it being the Olympics at which the American Jesse Owens, ‘Humiliated Adolf Hitler, the whole of Nazi Germany and totally destroyed the myth of Aryan superiority.’

But was that what really happened?

Jesse Owens, was undoubtably a fine athlete, but was also a citizen of a country whose own levels of racism would have embarrassed any resident of Germany at that time.

Owens, who was a likeable and humble ex-cotton picker, would without a doubt, have found the contrast between the two countries remarkable.

In Hitler’s Germany, Jesse Owens could share a bus or tram ride with anybody.

He would have been treated equally in all respects under German law, inasmuch as he could sit in a cinema next to white people, use the same public toilets, dine in the same restaurants, and stay in a hotel of his choice without any visible discrimination being shown towards him.

The reality was there was much that he could do in Hitler’s Germany that was forbidden to him back home in the United States.

In the United States during the 1930’s, black athletes were required to eat separately from their white team-mates.

If they were allowed to share the same hotel at all, which was highly unlikely, there would be a strictly enforced rule that they only used the tradesmen’s back entrance.

There were no black players on any American major league baseball team nor were there any black swimmers.

And this was in the relatively enlightened north.

In the southern states there was no possibility of a black athlete being allowed to participate in any sport, unless they competed with others of the same colour.

For Jesse Owens, the short time he spent in Hitler’s Germany must have been have been a real eye-opener for him.

It was there that he received the kind of welcome, and probably for the first time, that would have been unthinkable in his own country – it is said that the German people idolised him.

When he arrived at the stadium where he was competing, the mere appearance of Jesse Owens below the stands would cause sections of the crowd to chant his name.

Most mornings at the Olympic village, he was woken up by crowds of fans and amateur photographers, who had gathered outside his bedroom window for a glimpse of him before one of his many media appearances in Berlin.

“Jesse Owens was cheered as loudly as any Aryan.” – Saturday Evening Post. November 7th 1936.

Another of the associated tales that has been written into history, and duly perpetuated by the media, is that at the 1936 Games, Adolf Hitler publicly snubbed Jesse Owens by refusing to shake his hand.

In reality, Adolf Hitler on the first day of the Competition, did indeed shake the hands of several successful competitors from Germany and Finland.

However, later that evening, Hitler received a message from Count Baillet-Latour, President of the International Olympic Committee, in which it was respectfully pointed out to the German Leader that as he was merely a guest of honour at the Games, he should congratulate all – or none of the athletes in public.

Hitler, as was the case with every other national leaders before and since, chose the latter as being the most sensible course of action.

With 156 gold medals being awarded at various locations and times that would overlap each other, it was just not physically possible to personally congratulate every winner.

So although Jesse Owens was not personally congratulated by the Fuhrer, which tallies with the historical account, neither were any of the other successful competitors – be they German, white or otherwise, at the personal request of the President of the I.O.C.

What should be added, as it is rarely included whenever this story is narrated, is that Jesse Owens’ own President Roosevelt, also failed to honour this great athlete and did in fact refuse to meet him, despite there being no restrictions imposed upon him.

Jesse Owens himself said: 

“When I passed the German Chancellor he got up, waved his hand at me, and I waved back at him. I think the writers showed bad taste in criticising the man of the hour in Germany.”

Even following the Olympics, when Owens and his coach, Larry Snyder arrived in London, they complained bitterly that they were treated like, and felt like ‘trained seals’.

During their time there, they were also subjected to a barrage of ‘fraudulent publicity offers’, so many in fact, they refused to attend any further engagements.

Even when he arrived back home to the United States, Jesse Owens was treated like a freak and became a figure of curiosity that can only be compared to a performing animal.

“Before curious crowds he raced horses (and won). He ran against cars, trucks, dogs, and baseball players with a head start.”

His homeland was a country where black people had to use separate public toilets and public transport; went to all-black schools, and couldn’t mix with white people in restaurants, cinemas, hotels, or sporting events.

His was a 1930’s America that had seen 26 lynchings in one year – all of whom were black men.

Men like Rubin Stacey, who was lynched the previous year in Ft Lauderdale, Florida.

This man’s terrible crime was ‘scaring a white woman in her home by attempting to knock on her door.’

Being out of work and hungry, he was simply trying to get something to eat.


Hitler’s Germany and the German people must have seemed very welcoming by comparison to Jesse Owens.

Hitler’s Germany won a total of 101 medals, 41 of which were gold and 223 points at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Their only serious opposition was the team from the United States, which although three times larger in population to select their athletes from, amassed 40% fewer medals and points.

25 gold medals in all – 4 of which were won by Jesse Owens – and just 132 points.

Hitler’s Germany, with a population of some 80 million, won more gold medals than the United States, Great Britain, India, Canada, Argentina, France, and Norway.

A combined population of 1,160 millions, which was around 14 times larger than Germany’s.

A German humiliation?

Not judging by the official results.