Alpine Resort Town's Uncomfortable Past

He publishes books that dispute Germany's responsibility for starting World War II and is an adviser to the "Society for Free Journalism," the largest right-wing extremist cultural organization in Germany. He spent several months in prison in 1993 for printing an article by a Holocaust denier. That was just three years before he published the commemorative publication for Garmisch-Partenkirchen, the same publication Mayor Schmid is now touting as evidence of how remarkably well the town has come to terms with its past.

Schmid says that this is the first time he has heard about all this. He seems embarrassed when he hears the story.

Naturally the commemorative publication makes no mention of what happened in Garmisch-Partenkirchen after the Olympics. The anti-Jewish signs were put up again. Beginning in 1937, the resort administration inserted notes that read "Jews not wanted" into all brochures sent to addresses within Germany. On Nov. 10, 1938, the last group of roughly 50 Jews living in Garmisch-Partenkirchen was given a few hours to leave the town. Some committed suicide out of sheer desperation. The local newspaper, Tagblatt, wrote: "Now we are among Germans once again!"

Nevertheless, the IOC awarded the 1940 Winter Games to Garmisch-Partenkirchen once again. But the games never happened. A few months after the IOC decision, the German army invaded Poland, marking the beginning of World War II.

Harming the Town's Image

Alois Schwarzmüller still has one of the anti-Jewish signs that were posted in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. An acquaintance found it in her attic and gave it to him. The circular sign, which depicts a swastika on a yellow background, along with the words "Jews Not Wanted," would be a good item to display in an official exhibition.

But Schwarzmüller doesn't think that will ever happen. He senses that town officials are "inhibited and reticent" when it comes to the Nazi past. "They're worried that it could harm the town's image," says Schwarzmüller.

The Garmisch football and track & field stadium is a case in point. Until four years ago, the arena was still named after the president of the organizing committee for the 1936 Winter Games, Karl Ritter von Halt. A member of the IOC at the time, Halt joined the Nazi Party and the SA, the party's paramilitary organization, three months after Hitler came to power.

Later, as a member of the board of directors of Deutsche Bank, he contributed funds on behalf of the bank to a group called the "Circle of Friends of Heinrich Himmler." Shortly before the end of the war, the SS chief appointed Halt to head the Third Reich's umbrella organization for sports.

After a tourist complained that the stadium was named after a high-ranking Nazi, it was rededicated in the summer of 2006. It is now called "Stadion am Gröben."

Members of the town council were notified in an email of the renaming of the stadium, which was done on the quiet. They were also instructed "to refrain from discussing this issue in public."

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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