East Gate, 1936 Olympic Stadium

by Leslie Hossack

75 years ago, in August 1936, the XI Games took place in the Berlin Olympic Stadium.


East Gate, 1936 Olympic Stadium, Berlin 2010

© Leslie Hossack

The East Gate of the stadium, also known as the Olympic Gate, is made up of the Bavarian Tower and the Prussian Tower; together they support the Olympic Rings. Although modernized in 2000-2004, the stadium as seen in this photograph looks much as it did for the XI Olympic Games.

In 1933, Hitler personally intervened in the design of the stadium; he had his architect Albert Speer modify its outward appearance to keep it more in line with the Colosseum in Rome. The Berlin stadium, made of reinforced concrete, was covered with a veneer of limestone at Speer’s suggestion. There are 136 columns supporting the two-story arcade around the outside of the oval arena that held 100,000 spectators.

Architecture in The Third Reich was used to express the power of the state, and massive buildings were designed to symbolize Germany’s international standing. Hitler said he wanted to see eternal works built in Berlin, “comparable only to Ancient Egypt, Babylon and Rome.” The Nazis used the Olympics as a showcase for the National Socialist dictatorship; however, these games are now often referred to as the Propaganda Games. At the same time as Hitler was opening the games on August 1st, 1936, forced labour was being used only 35 km away to build Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp.

After WW II, the British occupied the Olympic site until 1994. Following the recent renovations, the stadium hosted the 2006 FIFA World Cup and it is now home to Hertha BSC, Berlin’s soccer club.

Architect: Werner March               Date: 1936

Conversion Architects: GMP        Date: 2000-2004

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