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  • Das Olympische Dorf von 1936: Planung, Bau und Nutzungsgeschichte by Emanuel Hübner
  • Allen Guttmann
Hübner, Emanuel. Das Olympische Dorf von 1936: Planung, Bau und Nutzungsgeschichte. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöningh, 2015. Pp. 636. 49.90€, hb.

Although the highly controversial games of the XI Olympiade (Berlin, 1936) are among the most thoroughly studied, Emanuel Hübner’s massive study of the Olympic Village constructed for the Organizing Committee by the German Army fills—one might say stuffs—a scholarly gap. After discussing the first Olympic Village, which housed the male athletes competing in the 1932 games in Los Angeles, Hübner delves into the history of the 1936 site, located on the army’s maneuver fields at Döberitz, fourteen kilometers west of Berlin. Toward the end of Das Olympische Dorf, Hübner provides the military history of the village after the 1936 games. He notes, for example, that children of the Hitlerjugend were sent to the village in April 1945 in order to haplessly defend Berlin from the advancing Soviet army.

A detailed account of the plans for and actual construction of the village, supplemented by numerous photographs of architects’ plans and models, comprises the main part of the book.

The Organizing Committee, whose most important members were Theodor Lewald (president) and Carl Diem (general secretary), chose the brothers Werner and Walter March as the chief architects for the village. The Marches were assisted by the landscape expert H. F. Wiepking-Jürgensmann. The lion’s share of the construction costs for the village was covered by the Reichskriegsministerium, which took ownership of the village after the games. The army also supplied many of the personnel necessary to staff the facilities and care for the athletes’ needs. (Norddeutscher Lloyd was another important provider.) Throughout the planning stage, the Organizing Committee worked closely with the very influential General Walther von Reichenau, but the most important military officer was the village’s commander, Captain Wolfgang Fürstner. There are biographical sketches, some quite lengthy, of all the principal actors. Reichenau, for instance, had been active in the same sports club as Diem. Like Lewald, Fürstner had Jewish ancestors. His postgame [End Page 111] suicide has hitherto been explained as his response to the threat of expulsion from the army, but Hübner concludes that marital problems were the most probable cause.

What motivated the army to build and maintain the village? Although postgame possession of the village was doubtless important, the Reichskriegsministerium hoped also to score a propaganda coup. Fürstner boasted that the village would be “an eternal monument to the enthusiasm of the German Army for Olympic ideals” (279). Some foreign athletes saw the army’s role differently. British runner A. G. K. Brown was critical of the “political propaganda” (198), but most of the athletes were impressed.

The main part of the village consisted of 140 structures to house 4,275 male athletes from 51 nations, but there were, necessarily, facilities to feed the athletes and to provide them with training facilities, medical care, and opportunities for religious worship and secular amusement. There was a sauna constructed on Finnish guidelines and a special steam bath for the Japanese team. Sexual adventures were unofficial.

That there is an extremely detailed account of the artworks embellishing the buildings’ entrances and interiors testifies to Hübner’s interest in visual art. Each of the residential houses was named for a specific city or region, and the eponyms were invited not only to contribute to the artwork but also to send artists to Döberitz to do the actual work. Most of the artists were students, but their teachers—also independent artists—were put to work. Germany’s most important painters were not involved. Their work appeared in the Nazis’ infamous exhibition of “decadent” art (1937). Most of the Olympic artwork was in the form of murals, but there were also symbolic markers for the houses’ entrances. There are many illustrations of the murals and the markers.

Each of the cities contributing artwork was also asked to provide twenty-four photographs of German sports and seventy-eight pieces of bedding and towels for “their” houses. The Organizing Committee...


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pp. 111-112
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