In the video, "Teaching the Holocaust Using Sports", ISHS staff member Sheryl Ochayon presents the story of Gretel (Margaret) Bergmann, an accomplished Jewish German athlete. Bergmann's remarkable story sheds light on the challenges and hardships Jewish athletes had to face under the Nazi regime. Being unable to pursue her athletic career in Germany, Bergmann decided to leave her country of birth in 1934. She was forced to return and represent the country in the 1936 Olympic Games, only to be excluded from the national team just weeks prior to the opening of the Games.
Using sports in teaching about the Holocaust can be extremely useful. Students are generally familiar with sports, athletes, national and international tournaments, and so forth. The topic of sports is one which is relevant to the students' lives today. Furthermore, using sports makes the point that the Holocaust happened in the modern world – a world where there were sports teams, stars and cheering crowds.
Sports can be used as a means to bridge the gulf between the Holocaust as a massive historical event and the Holocaust as a human story.
Sheryl Silver-Ochayon is a staff member at the International School for Holocaust Studies, Yad Vashem
- Part 1: Introduction
- Part 2: The Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936
- Part 3: Gretel Bergmann - An Outcast Athlete
Further pedagogical considerations
- Sports provides a link to the historical events from the contemporary world of the student. It binds and transcends cultures and countries. Major sports figures were heroes before the Holocaust, as they are today.
- The sporting ideal is that athletes are judged based on performance, yet we see here an instance of completely irrelevant factors infiltrating this ideal - such as racism. This ostensibly normal world sporting event is a fraud.
- Nazism had permiated every aspect of life in Nazi Germany, and like so many other professions, Jews were pushed out of this one as well. Gretel Bergman experienced this personally.
- After the war, Bergman records were reinstated, but her career was already over.
- We can discuss the moral aspect of the participation of the world’s countries in an olympiad taking place in Nazi Germany.