Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Olympic Swimming Heroine's without a Medal - 1936 Berlin Games

Judith Deutsch was Austria's top swimmer in the mid-1930s and was selected to represent her country at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. After hearing about what Jewish athletes were going through in Germany, she and two other Austrian Jewish swimmers, Ruth Langer and Lucy Goldman boycotted the Games. 

In a letter to the Austrian Olympic Committee, Deutsch wrote: "

...I protest...as a Jew I cannot participate in the Berlin Olympic Games. My conscience does not allow me. This is a personal decision and is not to be contested. I completely understand that I am giving up my rights to participate as the Austrian contestant in the Olympic Games. I sincerely hope you will understand this decision and not pressure me to change my mind."


Other sportsmen and women who boycotted the Olympics were American women’s swimming coach Charlotte Epstein, U.S. defending 1932 Olympic women’s Discus champion Lillian Copeland, Canadian amateur Welterweight boxing champion Sammy Luftspring, and French fencing champion Albert Wolff.

Tennis player Dennis Penn and boxer's  Erich Seeling and  Johann Trollmann were excluded from the German Olympic team for lack of racial purity.

The most vigorous and effective proponent of an American boycott of the 1936 Olympics in Germany was a devout Irish-American Catholic known all his life for his stubborn opposition to racial and religious discrimination. Born  in 1878, Jeremiah Titus Mahoney

By 1935, Mahoney had ascended to the presidency of the Amateur Athletic Union, making him responsible for the selection of America's Olympic team. After long reflection, he came to the conclusion that American participation in Hitler's Olympics would serve only to legitimate a wholly evil regime, a regime that was discriminating against its own Jewish citizens as it chose its Olympic teams.

"There is no room for discrimination on grounds of race, color, or creed in the Olympics," 

One of the three Austrian swimmers to Boycott the Berlin Olympics was 15 year old Ruth Langer, she  escaped to London in 1939  she won the last British long-distance championship swim in the Thames. Five weeks later, World War II began and she was evacuated from London to Bath as an ''enemy alien.'' She was later allowed to return to London, where she met John Lawrence, whom she married in 1943. and lived there until she died 2nd May 1999 aged 77

In 1995, the Federation of Austrian Swimming Clubs lifted the ban imposed on her. The Federation president wrote:

''When I learned in recent weeks that athletes who refused to serve as window-dressing for the Hitler regime received a lifetime ban . . . I blushed with anger and shame. I am deeply ashamed of the decision taken at that time.

''You, who as an irreproachable and decent athlete, did everything you could to achieve athletic success, were already stamped by the Nuremberg Laws as a second-class person, and for renouncing athletic success in order to show solidarity with the persecuted, you were punished.

''Those responsible today for the Federation of Austrian Swimming Clubs are glad that you survived that cruel and merciless time and humbly apologise for what our predecessors did. All of your athletic successes and achievements are hereby confirmed and recorded in the perpetual scoring tables. You, Ms. Lawrence, are an example to young people. We are proud that you are there.''