‘More Than Just Games’
As the world’s eyes turn to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the Langley Centennial Museum is looking back to a unique time in Olympic history.
The museum is currently hosting two exhibits: More Than Just Games: Canada and the 1936 Olympics and Framing Bodies: Sport and Spectacle in Nazi Germany.
Then on March 6, a symposium on the Holocaust will be held in Langley in partnership with the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre that will feature a Holocaust survivor and historian.
The two museum exhibits, which feature many panels and large pictures, look at the protest surrounding the Berlin games, the Jewish athletes that had to choose whether to participate or not, and the Nazi regime’s practices and policies being put in the world’s spotlight.
It is a story that is just as shocking and thought-provoking today as it was then, said museum curator Kobi Christian. Since opening, the exhibits are garnering a lot of interest, she said.
“So many people know the ‘big story’ of the Holocaust,” Christian said, “But by breaking it down and looking at it again through the stories of some of the Jewish athletes, you are appalled by the sheer injustice and horror all over again. It is a significant reminder that really hits home.”
One story that has touched Christian and other visitors to the exhibit is the story of German Sinti boxer Johann Trollman. Trollman was stripped of the 1933 German light-heavyweight title, which he had fairly won, so he thumbed his nose at Nazi officials by arriving at the next match with his skin whitened with flour and his hair dyed blonde.
In 1939, Trollman was drafted into the German army, injured in 1941 on the Eastern front. After returning to Germany he was arrested, despite his service to his country.
He was interned in a concentration camp where he was made to work and fight until a guard killed him with a shovel in 1943. He was 36. In 2003, the German Boxing Federation officially recognized him as the winner of the 1933 championship.
The exhibits have travelled from the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and will be at the museum in Fort Langley until March 16. Admission is free.
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. Most media in Canada reported only positive things about the Nazis and their efforts with the Olympics.
The exhibit includes some rare footage of the Canadian men’s basketball team, in Berlin during the Games, and of Canadian athletes aboard a ship on their way to Berlin.
In the exhibit is an excerpt from a letter from then Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, who spoke positively of Hitler.. It’s also a reminder that both Canada and the U.S. turned away boats full of Jewish people, sending them back to their death, said Christian.
“Before the Games, the “no Jews allowed” signs were taken down in Germany,” said Christian. This break in such public anti-Semitism was called the “Olympic Pause.”
One Jewish athlete was interviewed and his rational for still competing was if he showed he was a superior athlete it may sway the Nazi’s idea of Jews. But that athlete was sent to the concentration camps where he was killed, notes the exhibit.
In fact, the exhibit looks at where some of those athletes ended up.
“Some ended up in concentration camps, and ultimately dying there,” said Christian.
“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,” notes Christian.
The Museum is also holding a symposium on the Holocaust on March 6, featuring a Holocaust survivor and a historian. The symposium will be held at the Fraser River Presentation Theatre in Township Hall from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
For more information or for $5 tickets, call 604-532-3536.
Schools are encouraged to bring students to the presentation as well.