The 55 acre Olympic Village built for the Summer Games of 1936 is located about 40 km west of the downtown Berlin near the town of Elstal. It was planned by Werner and Walter March.
It consisted of a reception building, 145 apartment buildings, a large canteen, kitchen, the commandant house, gymnasium, swimming pools and sauna. Doctors and nurses also lived in the village.
The vast, slightly hilly terrain has been left more or less to itself since the departure of Soviet troops in 1992. Deer now graze on the grassy areas between the dilapidated buildings. The only remnants of the original Olympic Village are a few one-story barracks, two larger community buildings, a boxing arena, a swimming hall and an athletic field.
Only male athletes were housed here during the Games, while women athletes were accommodated in hotels in the heart of the city. After the Olympics, the Nazis used the Village as a military installation.
During WWII the cabins and cottages were converted to an infantry training facility for the German troops, and after the war’s end the Soviet and East German military occupied the site until 1992.
Most of the original buildings were torn down by the Soviet Army, which took control of the grounds after the end of World War II, and replaced with numerous multistory housing units. These buildings have also been empty since 1992.
In 2004 the Olympic Village was listed as an historically protected site and officially opened to the public.
A major athlete in the 1936 Summer Olympics was Jesse Owens. He arrived in Berlin to compete for the United States in the Summer Olympics. Adolf Hitler was using the games to show the world a resurgent Nazi Germany. He and other government officials had high hopes German athletes would dominate the games with victories (the German athletes achieved a top of the table medal haul). Meanwhile, Nazi propaganda promoted concepts of “Aryan racial superiority” and depicted ethnic Africans as inferior. Owens surprised many and showed the fallacies of racial supremacy by winning four gold medals: On August 3, 1936 he won the 100m sprint, defeating Ralph Metcalfe; on August 4, the long jump (later crediting friendly and helpful advice from Luz Long, the German competitor he ultimately defeated); on August 5, the 200m sprint; and, after he was added to the 4 x 100 m relay team, his fourth on August 9 (a performance not equaled until Carl Lewis won gold medals in the same events at the 1984 Summer Olympics).
“The sportive, knightly battle awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn't separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That's why the Olympic Flame should never die.”
— Adolf Hitler, commenting on the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games
“German sport has only one task: to strengthen the character of the German people, imbuing it with the fighting spirit and steadfast camaraderie necessary in the struggle for its existence.”
— Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels