Geoff Walden

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   In order to show off the growth and strength of his new Reich, Hitler pulled out all the stops for the 1936 Olympic Games to be held in Germany (the location had already been decided before Hitler's seizure of power in 1933). The summer Olympics were held in Berlin, but first, in February, the IV. Winter Games were held in the Bavarian alpine venue of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. An Olympic ice stadium was built in Garmisch, and a ski stadium was built in its sister village of Partenkirchen (the two municipalities are on either side of the Partnach River), in the shadow of Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze. Both stadiums are still in use today.   (MapQuest Map Link)


The Kunsteisstadion (on the left) was the venue for the ice skating, hockey, and speed skating events. The Festhalle or Festsaalbau (on the right) was built to support the Olympic festivities. The Ice Stadium field was covered over in 1962, and the Fest Hall was torn down several years ago.  (Bundesarchiv)


The Olympic Ski Stadium was built for up to 100,000 spectators. In the center, directly in front of the ski jumps, was the Olympiahaus, with a restaurant and VIP viewing area. The stadium exists today much as it was in 1936.


Hitler viewed the 1936 Olympic ski jump events from his special covered area on the balcony of the Olympiahaus. Seen at far left above are Dr. Wilhelm Frick and Dr. Robert Ley. These scenes were all from the opening ceremony on 6 February 1936.  (above - "Olympia" cigarette-card album, 1936; below - Bundesarchiv)


Left - the 1936 Winter Games are declared open by Dr. Karl Ritter von Halt, president of the Winter Olympics Committee. Right - Hitler and entourage view the Olympic events. Seated with Hitler on the front row are Press Chief Otto Dietrich, Gauleiter Adolf Wagner, and adjutant Wilhelm Brückner (facing away). Note also Eva Braun in the row behind, sitting next to Sofie Stork.  ("Olympia" cigarette-card album, 1936)


Above - Hitler's viewpoint toward the ski jumps, and a view from a period postcard - note the swastika design in the grass of the longer jump. Below - my father took an almost identical view in the winter of 1945-46, and the view has changed very little today. 2007 note - The existing ski jump, some of which was rebuilt in the 1950s, was torn down in April 2007 to allow a new jump to be built that would comply with current European standards. So this view is somewhat different now.  (above - "Olympia" cigarette-card album, 1936; below - collection of G.R. and G.A. Walden)


View of the ski stadium entrance and grandstands, taken in winter 1945-46 by my father, Army Air Forces Lt. Delbert R. Walden. The view today has hardly changed at all. Only the U.S. Third Army signs above the entrance reliefs are missing.  (collection of G.R. and G.A. Walden)  (MapQuest Map Link)


The Olympiahaus in the center was flanked by the two main entrances for the spectators, featuring large sculptures of a woman holding a falcon or eagle, a flag bearer, torch bearer, and a woman holding a victors wreath.


On the outside of the entrances was the 5-ring Olympics symbol. Flagpoles ringed the stadium grandstands.


The Garmisch-Partenkirchen Rathaus (city hall) was built in 1935 by Oswald Bieber, with sculptures and painted decorations by noted artist Josef Wackerle.


On the left is a postcard view showing the Garmisch post office decorated with a Nazi sign over the street.


The U.S. Army moved into Garmisch at the end of  April 1945. This view shows M4A3E8 Sherman tanks, probably of the 10th Armored Division,  moving through the streets of Garmisch following the town's surrender.  (U.S. Army Signal Corps photo)

Another view that is largely unchanged today. Even the original display cases outside the shop windows remain. One would think these tanks would have been moving along the main street (which is narrow enough), but they weren't - this picture was taken on Am Kurpark street.


On the left is the Garmisch Standort Lazarett, or garrison hospital. The photo on the right shows the U.S. Army Abrams Hotel in the 1970s (building at the left in the period photo). The hotel was closed in 2007 and the complex is used today to house refugees (see also here).  (left - Frau Prof. Gerdy Troost, "Das Bauen im Neuen Reich," Vol. 2, Bayreuth, 1943; right - courtesy Gerald Stephenson; 2010 info courtesy Robert Newton)


GarmischGebirgs.jpg (75044 bytes)

Another remainder of the period that could be seen in Garmisch is this wall mural in a stairwell of the U.S. Army Post Exchange (PX) building (actually in Partenkirchen). Garmisch was the headquarters of the German Gebirgstruppen (Mountain Troops), and the Americans took over their military facilities in 1945. (Note - This post has now been closed, and this building has been torn down - thanks to Tim Heck and John Mannfor this news.)


Third Reich in Ruins,

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This page initially uploaded on 20 July 2000.