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Jewess » This Just in From Berlin

This Just in From Berlin


by Rebecca Honig Friedman

A new documentary about the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Berlin 36, reveals that the Nazis switched out their star female high jumper, who was a Jewess, for a man in drag. The London Times has the story:

She showered alone, shaved her legs several times a day and had a gruff, deep voice. It soon became clear why: the Nazis conscripted a man in drag to replace a star Jewish high jumper before the Berlin 1936 Olympics.

The film Berlin 36, which will be shown in German cinemas from next week, tells the extraordinary story of Gretel Bergmann, who was heading for an Olympic gold medal before she was bounced out of the squad. The Nazis wanted to ensure that Hitler would not be embarrassed by a Jewish athlete winning a gold medal for Germany. Her room-mate and eventual replacement, the film reveals, was Dora Ratjen — real name Horst Ratjen. “Dora”, despite his male hormones, managed to gain only fourth place.

There’s more to the story, including the ironic tidbit that “the high jump on that day in 1936 was won by Ibolya Csak — a Hungarian Jew.”

How’s that for poetic justice?
And what became of the man who tried, unsuccessfully, to fill Bergmann’s high-jumping shoes?

Two years later, still posing as a woman, he set a new world high jump record for women of 1.70m — but was disqualified after a doctor discovered that he had strapped up his genitals. He was stripped of his title and was quickly conscripted into the army; his personal details disappeared from German archives.

Weird.

One Response to “This Just in From Berlin”

  1. Thanks for letting me know about this film! When I read the Times article, I found it interesting that they placed Gretel Bergmann’s story in the context of gender issues in sports. Check out my response to the article at Jewesses With Attitude: http://jwablog.jwa.org/berlin36

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    Jewess is a blog about Jewish women's issues, and is part of the Canonist network of religion blogs.

    Senior Writer:
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