Nazi Games spotlighted at Langley museum

With the Winter Olympics just around the corner, Langley Centennial Museum launched two new exhibits last week, one about the 1936 Berlin Olympics and the other about the Holocaust.

The exhibits have travelled from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and will be at the museum in Fort Langley until March 16, announced curator Kobi Christian.

Boycotting Games

The 1936 Olympics were held in Nazi Germany and situated at a critical juncture between Adolf Hitler’s election as chancellor and the outbreak of the Second World War, Christian said.

The world faced a decision about whether to participate in these controversial Games. Canadian athletes, particularly young Jewish athletes, were caught in a dilemma. Should they follow their dreams to the world’s greatest athletic competition or should they boycott the 1936 Olympics?

“These exhibit sheds some light on some of their stories, and puts the 1936 Olympics into context,” Christian said.

The larger of the two exhibits, More Than Just Games: Canada and the 1936 Olympics brings together photos, documents, film clips, and memoirs to tell the little-known story of the Canadian boycott debate and Canada’s participation in the 1936 Games.

It deals with themes of racism and moral decision-making with an emphasis on the experiences of individual Canadian and German-Jewish athletes who made difficult decisions about participation.

Christian said the exhibit also shines a spotlight on the untold story of Matthew Halton, a respected Canadian journalist who wrote critically about the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1936, and includes some rare footage of the Canadian Men’s basketball team, of Berlin during the Games, and of Canadian athletes aboard a ship on their way to Berlin.

Politics and sports

Meanwhile, Framing Bodies: Sport and Spectacle in Nazi Germany explores the relationship between sport, politics, and propaganda at the Games.

The regime’s physical ideals were projected onto the world stage during the XI Olympiad, and the exhibit looks at how bodies that were considered “Aryan” were portrayed, and how the Nazis viewed and regulated those who were excluded from the ideal.

It also looks at how propaganda, rituals, and films were used to express the connection between the Olympics and their notion of a “master race,” the curator explained.

“Although it is not a subject we’ve featured here before, it’s something that a lot of people have an interest in, and exhibiting here makes shows like these accessible to Langley residents,” she noted.

Admission to the exhibits is free.

The museum is also holding a symposium on the Holocaust in Langley on Thursday, March 6, featuring a Holocaust survivor.

For more information or for tickets, call 604-532-3536.

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