Geoff Walden


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Berlin -- Reichssportfeld and 1936 Olympics Site

     The area where the Olympic Games were held in Berlin in August 1936 was known as the Reichssportfeld. It included the Olympic Stadium and several other sports fields and buildings. Much of this area remains today as it did in 1936, still a sports center.

Click here to visit the Haus der Deutschen Sport and the site of the 1936 Olympic Village.

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Architectural model (left) and aerial photo (right) of the Reichssportfeld, showing the sites that appear below. The Olympic Stadium is at the center, with the Olympic Bell Tower on the other side of the adjacent sports field. The Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne Thingplatz appears at the lower left (lower center in the aerial photo).   (left - from Official Catalog of the 1st German Architecture and Crafts Exhibition, in the Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich, January-March 1938; right - 1936 dated postcard; both in author's collection)

 

The Olympic Stadium, designed by Werner March,  has the same general appearance as it did in 1936 (on the exterior), although one obvious change was the removal of the curved swastika symbol from the right-hand tower. More extensive changes came from 2001-2006 as the stadium was remodeled and modernized, altering the inside considerably and the outside to a lesser extent. These photos show the Podbielski Oak Tree, a tree that was left standing during the stadium construction in honor of Viktor von Podbielski, one of the original planners for an Olympic Stadium and Olympic Games in Berlin.  (Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938)

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The Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne was an amphitheater built in the "Thing" style, near the Olympic Stadium. It is known today as the Waldbühne, and is used for rock concerts.  (above left - Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938; others - period postcards). For another period photo, see http://www.silentwall.com/SceneryBuildings28.html

 

Looking down on the Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne from the Olympic Bell Tower.  (from a period postcard)

 

The Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne in use during the 1936 Olympics.  ("Olympia," 1936)

 

Three further views of the Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne from period postcards. The view at the left shows the Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne (right foreground) in relation to the Olympic Stadium beyond.

 

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Entrance to the Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne.  (Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938)

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Sculptures by Josef Wackerle, well known Third Reich period artist, grace the entrance to the Dietrich-Eckart-Bühne (other works by Wackerle stand outside the Olympic Stadium - see below).  (Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938)

 

The Glockenturm (bell tower) overlooks the large open sports field (Maifeld) adjacent to the Stadium. The tower contained the Olympic Bell, which was inscribed "Ich rufe die Jugend der Welt" (I call the youth of the world). The tower was burned out at the end of the war and blown up by the British occupying forces in 1947, and rebuilt in 1962. Today the tower contains a reproduction of the bell; the original is displayed outside the stadium itself (see below).  (Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938)

 

Beneath the Bell Tower is the Langemarck Halle, dedicated to the mythic cult of German student soldiers who were killed during the battle of Langemarck (West Flanders, Belgium) in November 1914 (World War I). Long closed to the public, the Langemarck Halle was reopened along with the remodeled Stadium, amid some controversy, since the original martial inscriptions remain on the walls. Below, Hitler visits the Langemarck Halle during the Olympic Games in August 1936.  (Bundesarchiv)

 

The Reichssportführer (Leader of German Sports) Hans von Tschammer und Osten died in Berlin in March 1943. Since he had been one of the principal organizers of the 1936 Olympics, his ashes were interred in a shrine in the Langemarck Halle on 2 May 1943. (The shrine no longer exists, nor does the barred doorway seen in the period photo above.)  (Bundesarchiv)

 

A Third Reich period memorial inside the Langemarck Halle. The interior walls seen in the period photos were removed to install the modern elevator.  (Official Report, the XIth Olympic Games, Berlin 1936 (Berlin, 1937)

 

On the left, men from the Labor Service (RAD) guard the Olympic Bell on its journey from the foundry to the Bell Tower. On the right, a model of the bell showing the Brandenburg Gate side.  (Official Report, the XIth Olympic Games, Berlin 1936 (Berlin, 1937)

 

The original 1936 Olympic Bell is now on display outside the Olympic Stadium. The bell has a German eagle holding the five Olympic Rings in its talons on one side, and the Brandenburg Gate on the other. The rim displays the Olympic motto "Ich rufe die Jugend der Welt" (I call the youth of the world). The bell also had two swastikas cast into the rim - these are still partially visible (see here). The bell was damaged during the war when it was accidentally struck by an anti-aircraft round fired at Allied bombers overhead. A long crack passing through the bell was the result of its falling to the ground when the bell tower was destroyed by British forces in 1947.

 

Above, Adolf Hitler leads the delegation of sports officials and foreign leaders into the Olympic Stadium for the 1936 Olympic Games. Below, the German athletes march in, led by flag-bearer Hans Fritsch (track and field events). The interior modernization is evident with new seating and sun screens.  (above - National Archives, Record Group 242HB; below - Hans Quassowski, ed., "Zwölf Jahre: 1.Kompanie Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler," Rosenheim, Deutsche Verlagsgesellschaft, 1989)

 

An innovation in 1936 was the Olympic torch relay, lit by the rays of the sun at Olympia in Greece and carried by 3,000 relay runners to the main stadium in the German capital. It is a tradition that has continued at every subsequent Olympic Games. In the left-hand photo, a runner prepares to light an Olympic Flame in the Lustgarten in front of the Berlin cathedral. On the right, the Olympic Flame in the stadium is lit by Berlin athlete Fritz Schilgen. Below, the original flame cauldron has been preserved.  (Official Report, the XIth Olympic Games, Berlin 1936 (Berlin, 1937)

 

Visible in the period photo above is another innovation of the Berlin Olympic Stadium:
an electronic announcement and score board, located opposite the Flame Cauldron.
The renovations removed the stone towers on either side and substituted a digital board.
(Official Report, the XIth Olympic Games, Berlin 1936 (Berlin, 1937)

 

The Olympic Flame cauldron with its stylized decoration symbolizing the journey of the torches to this spot. This engraving can still be faintly seen on the support beams.  (Official Report, the XIth Olympic Games, Berlin 1936 (Berlin, 1937)

 

Part of the colonnade that runs around the outside of the stadium, showing the changes from the renovation.  (Official Report, the XIth Olympic Games, Berlin 1936 (Berlin, 1937)

 

Hitler at the opening ceremony for the 1936 Olympic Games. The modern view shows the location where the special seating area was built for Adolf Hitler and visiting dignitaries (the different seating area on the left). However, the remodeling of the stadium removed Hitler's own box. (Life Collection).

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Behind the Stadium is the Maifeld (May Field), a large field for marching reviews, gymnastics demonstrations, and May Day celebrations. The entrance to the Stadium on this side was flanked by two equestrian statues by sculptor Josef Wackerle.  (

 

Various sculptures appear around the Olympic Stadium. Seen here are the Rosseführer (horse holders) by Josef Wackerle. Wackerle also designed works in Munich and Schweinfurt(Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938; below - "Kunst im Dritten Reich")

 

Sculptures by Karl Albiker on the Olympic Stadium grounds - Diskuswerfer (discus throwers) (above) and Staffelläufer (relay runners) (below).  (Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938)
 

 

Near the stadium exit leading to the Haus des Deutschen Sports complex is a large work by Willy Meller titled "Siegesgöttin" (Goddess of Victory - Nike). Meller also designed works in the Ordensburg Vogelsang and for the Seebad Prora(above - "Kunst im Dritten Reich"; below - Werner Rittich, "Architektur und Bauplastik der Gegenwart," Berlin, 1938)

 

Official website for the Berlin Olympic Stadium

Click here to visit a site (in English and Norwegian) about the Poststadion, where some of the Olympic soccer/football matches were held (thanks to Terje Herman Solheim for info):  http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.1990165596060.2120881.1300956648&l=64c82464f6&type=1

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Third Reich in Ruins, http://www.thirdreichruins.com/

All contents copyright © 2000-2014, Geoffrey R. Walden; all rights reserved.  All photos taken by or 
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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.


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