As people around the world watch the Olympic Games in Athens on TV, an elderly Iowan recalls listening to the 1936 Games in Berlin when he was a boy of ten, living in Germany. Herbert David, now 78 and a retired statistics professor at Iowa State University, says he remembers that troubled time well, though he’s learned much since then about what was really going on. David says “I didn’t know, for example, that there was some hesitation on the parts of other nations about participating in these Nazi games. By that time, by 1936, the Nazis had already showed a lot of their colors.” There were concentration camps as early as 1933 for opponents of the regime and Jews were being forced out of civil service jobs, in addition to other discrimination and persecution. David and his parents were able to escape to Australia in 1939 and eventually reached the U.S. David says he was a sports fan as a boy but couldn’t have, or wouldn’t have, gone to the Berlin games. “I did not actually attend,” David says, “As a Jewish boy, I would not have been comfortable in a mass audience like that, quite apart from other considerations, such as the cost and so on.” There was a token Jew on the German team that year who won a medal, though she was forced to give the Nazi “Heil Hitler” salute from the pedestal. David says he listened “feverishly” to the Olympics that year on the radio and created a memento-book which he still has at his home in Ames. He collected an album of photographs of the athletes at that time and it also contains pictures of Adolph Hitler, inevitably. David says the book also contains all of the information on the results of the various competitions “so I can look them up.” David is one of the panelists taking part in a roundtable discussion Thursday at 7:30 P.M. at the State Historical Museum in Des Moines. That panel accents “The Nazi Olympics/Berlin 1936” exhibition which is on loan from the U-S Holocaust Memorial Museum and will be on display through September 30th. Call (515) 281-4011 for more information or visit “www.iowahistory.org”.
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