Hitler Did Not Snub Jesse Owens

“When I came back to my native country, after all the stories about Hitler, I couldn’t ride in the front of the bus [. . .] I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.” —Jesse Owens

In A Nutshell

Jesse Owens made history by winning four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This made the Nazi claims of Aryan supremacy look like rubbish, and in consequence Hitler is popularly supposed to have snubbed Owens. But actually, when he refused to acknowledge Owens, he was treating him just like he’d treated all the other athletes.

The Whole Bushel

The 1936 Olympic Games are perhaps the most notorious in the history of the event, due to the fact that they were hosted by Nazi Germany. The games had been awarded to Germany by the International Olympic Committee on May 13, 1931, a year and a half before Adolf Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. Although Hitler himself had minimal regard for the Olympics due to their international character, Josef Goebbels persuaded him of their propaganda value. As a result, the Nazi regime ended up providing full funding for the event.

International opinion was skeptical about the Olympics being held by the Nazis. In response to Jewish athletes such as the high-jumper Greta Bergmann, the amateur boxing champion Eric Seelig, and the tennis player Daniel Prenn, American Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage said: “The very foundation of the modern Olympic revival will be undermined if individual countries are allowed to restrict participation by reason of class, creed, or race.” The Nazis managed to hoodwink Brundage and other skeptics into believing that Jews were being treated fairly, lest the Games be taken from them and held elsewhere.

In order to offset further international disdain for the event, the Nazis toned down their anti-Semitic campaign and their militaristic stance, presenting their regime as a peaceful one. The subterfuge worked: Attempts to have the United States boycott the games, spearheaded by Amateur Athletic Union president Jeremiah T. Mahoney, failed. In light of what was to happen, though, the failure of the American boycott was something that many of the Nazis would have cause to regret, too.

For it was an American athlete, Jesse Owens, who would go on to be the star of the event. He set an Olympic record by leaping 8.06 meters (26.5 ft) in the long jump and won gold medals in the long jump, the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash and the 4×100-meter relay. That Owens was an African-American was particularly notable: In an event hosted by a regime that promoted the ideal of white racial superiority, Owens’ spectacular success and four gold medals stood in stark contrast to the myth of the Aryan master race that the Nazis sought to promote through the Olympics. It was a contrast that American journalists were all too eager to report on, jubilant that one of the “black auxiliaries” that the Nazi press ridiculed had upstaged the regime.

Given the situation, it was rumored that Hitler himself refused to acknowledge Jesse Owens out of spite for making the Nazis’ claims of racial superiority look like the arrant nonsense that it was. Olympic protocol obliged Hitler to either receive all medal winners or none, and Hitler chose to receive none. Reports circulated that Hitler’s snub was intended to let him avoid shaking hands with “non-Aryans,” particularly Owens.

However, despite this plausible interpretation, the snub was disputed by Owens himself, who said: “Hitler had a certain time to come to the stadium and a certain time to leave. It happened that he had to leave before the victory ceremony after the 100 meters. But before he left I was on my way to a broadcast and passed his box. He waved at me and I waved back. I think it was bad taste to criticize the ‘man of the hour’ in another country.” To say that Owens had nothing to gain by speaking highly of Adolf Hitler would be an understatement at best, so we have to assume that this is honest. Indeed, he compared Hitler favorably to US President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who also didn’t invite Owens to shake his hand.

Show Me The Proof

Owens pierced a myth
The Pittsburgh Press: Owens Arrives With Kind Words for All Officials
The Nazi Olympics—Berlin 1936
Jesse Owens: Olympic Medals

  • Guest

    I’m fairly sure that the treatment Owens received from the Nazis in 1936 was no worse than he was getting in his own country.

    • Robinho

      I agree, the way they treated black people was an utter disgrace.

      • Ray

        Is you a nigger?

        • Karma

          “Is” you a neanderthal?

          • Ray


          • Karma

        • not important

          The Nazis weren’t as racist as the victors of WW2 would have you believe.

    • Realist

      Not so…he repeatedly stated that he was welcomed and feted in every hotel, restaurant, etc. wherever he went. Further….throngs of girls screamed and followed him all over Berlin. When he returned to the US, he was snubbed by Roosevelt. And, as he himself put it “I was relegated to performing Clown stunts”. i.e racing a horse…etc.

    • messejproduction

      at least Hitler waved at him.

  • Hadeskabir

    Yea, the americans were happy because they thought that an inferior race, like the black Jess Owens, won against the Nazis so the white americans being so much better would destroy the Nazis. Racists till the end.

    • SargentH12121

      We aren’t racists now, buddy.

  • Jen

    I’ve heard about Hitler snubbing Owens a lot, interesting read

    • adplatt126

      Yes, interesting that it literally never happened. An invention of the American propaganda machine, pure and simple.

  • oslojournalist

    “Owens was given a tickertape parade in New York. But when he arrived at the Waldorf Astoria hotel for a reception in his honour, he was instructed to take the service lift rather than the normal guest lift, which was reserved for whites.

    President Franklin Roosevelt never congratulated Owens or invited him to the White House. ‘Hitler didn’t snub me – it was FDR who snubbed me,’ Owens said.”

    Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1205901/Forget-Hitler–America-snubbed-black-Olympian-Jesse-Owens.html

    • Hadeskabir

      That kind of racism makes me sick.

      • Ray

        What kind of racism do you like?

        • Hadeskabir

          Racism towards racists.

    • UN

      so what r u saying fdr was worse than hitler??

  • Aly

    Wow, interesting read

  • The Ou7law

    People are all around jerks especially back then, if you werent the right color it was game over for you.

    • Arjan Hut

      Even now, in country’s known to be not only tolerant, but even
      supportive of diversity – if your skin is darker than average, you
      better carry identification.

      • The Ou7law

        Its bullshit how the world goes round

      • Blahblahblah

        If you ask me I say these days white people are more discriminated against.

        • Danny

          And if you ask me, that isn’t true at all and I don’t know how you even think that.

          • Ray

            You must be black.

          • Danny

            Brown actually.

          • Ray

            That explains why you dislike whites.

          • Paynefully

            Where do u get that he dislikes whites? He simply made the point that whites aren’t more discriminated against because they ate not. People who make such claims are ignorant to the facts.

          • Danny

            Me saying that white people aren’t discriminated more than coloured people means I hate white people?

        • d_g

          and you would be so laughably wrong. good thing no one is asking you.

        • Nomsheep

          I have never been discriminated against because of my skin colour and I’m white. So I have no idea what you are on about.

  • Marozia

    Minimal regard for the Olympics!!! That seems rather odd to me as Hitler’s Germany lauded sports and the human physique as well as beauty (male & female) above all else as ‘aryan pride’.

  • John Kaiysen

    Does anyone know which bridge Ray lives under and how many goats he eats daily?

  • chairde

    The Olympics is and always was political. Each host country goes on an orgy of self involved nationalism. There has never been an exception in any country. Of course the opponents of Hitler jumped at the chance to make him look foolish. Just like the phony dance he was supposed to have done outside the railroad car treaty. Don’t get me wrong Hitler was an evil racist man but still the journalism was terrible. We would all be better off if the journalists were honest. The bad guys will show themselves soon enough so there is no need to embellish stories. When the truth finally comes out and you lied then you look foolish.

  • poetman

    Jesse Owens and German news reporters have all gone on record stating that Hitler did not have anything against Owens.

    Hitler also did not detest any Black people. There were 30,000 black people living in Germany at the time and they fought on the side of Germans in both World War 1 and 2.

    Black Germans were also NOT sent to concentration camps.

  • Wow_Who_Would_Think

    Women got the right to vote in 1920, several decades after colored males got the right to vote.