Hitler 1936: Foreign athletes at Berlin Olympics exempt from Nazi anti-gay law

I just stumbled on something rather remarkable. According to the United States Holocaust Museum, in 1936, Hitler promised not to apply the country’s ruthless anti-gay law, called “Paragraph 175,” to foreign athletes, guests and media attending the Berlin Olympics.

Yet, the International Olympic Committee can’t even get Russian President Putin to do the same during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Yes, Adolf Hitler was better than Vladimir Putin in his treatment of gay Olympic athletes.  How disturbing is that?

From the US Holocaust Museum:

Also in preparation for the arrival of Olympic spectators, Nazi officials ordered that foreign visitors should not be subjected to the criminal strictures of the Nazi anti-homosexual laws.

The International Olympic Committee has also been working with the Russian government in attempt to get Vladimir Putin to also agree not to subject foreign visitors to Russia’s draconian anti-“gay propaganda” law during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia.

I’d reported earlier on a chilling NYT story from 1935 about Hitler promising the International Olympic Committee to take down his anti-semitic signs during the Olympics.  But I had no idea that parallels were this close.

NYT Nov. 6, 1935: Hitler to take down anti-semitic signs during Olympics, IOC blasts boycott movement as “lies”

NYT Nov. 6, 1935: Hitler to take down anti-semitic signs during Olympics, IOC blasts boycott movement as “lies”

Equally disturbing, the Nazis, like the Russians, promulgated new anti-gay laws right before their respective Olympics.  The laws had some remarkable similarities, including this from the Nazi anti-gay law, also via the Holocaust Museum:

Paragraph 175 was re-written to broaden the law’s scope of “indecencies between men” from a narrow interpretation of an intercourse-like act, to include virtually any contact between men deemed to have sexual intent, even “simple looking” or “simple touching.”

Under Russia’s extremely broad anti-gay law, anything that could be perceived as suggesting in public that “gay is okay” is now illegal.  We know it includes wearing rainbow suspenders.  It could also include simple looking or simple touching (e.g., holding hands).

More from the Holocaust Museum:

Paragraph 175 was the German statute prohibiting homosexuality between men. Enacted in 1871 following the unification of the German Empire, its enforcement was sporadic prior to 1933, particularly in urban areas. In 1935, Nazi jurists undertook an extensive overhaul of the German criminal code. Paragraph 175 was re-written to broaden the law’s scope of “indecencies between men” from a narrow interpretation of an intercourse-like act, to include virtually any contact between men deemed to have sexual intent, even “simple looking” or “simple touching.”

The revised law took effect on September 1, 1935. Heinrich Himmler appointed chief of German police the following year pursued it with vigor. Between 1936 and September 1, 1939, the outbreak of World War II, nearly 78,000 men were arrested for violating Paragraph 175.

Okay, I’m a bit more weirded out than I was five minutes ago.

Not that it’s enough to simply exempt Olympians from Russia’s anti-gay/anti-gay trans.  The situation has gone far beyond that now.  Putin has created, and inflamed, such a climate of hate and violence in Russia that it’s simply no longer safe for our gay and trans athletes, or anyone else, to visit Russia.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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39 Responses to “Hitler 1936: Foreign athletes at Berlin Olympics exempt from Nazi anti-gay law”

  1. James Wall says:

    You stated: ” I dislike homos, and I would never support a state that puts their rights above mine. I’m fine with situation that was before when homos had absolutely equal rights to mine.”
    You dislike homos.- I get that.-
    What I don’t get is…Which state puts a “homos” rights above Yours?!
    What rights do “homos” have that You do not?!

    I’m NOT trying to start an argument here, I’m just curious (Because I sincerely, do not know):

    Which state(s) put a “homo’s” rights above Yours?!
    What rights do “homos” have that You do not?!

  2. Nathanael says:

    No, they don’t. The majority in Russia very much does not support muzzles on free speech. The majority hasn’t noticed, unfortunately, how extreme the law is.

  3. Злой Преступник Карбофос says:

    Interesting point. Why don’t you invite all these wonderful homos to your country instead so they will form wonderful and blossoming majority, instead of being an oppressed 5th column in evil medieval Russia? Like you did with Soviet jews for instance? You share their values, was not USA created as a place of refuge for all oppressed? Or are we supposed to have this shitty American oppression allover the world instead, that’s why homos, nationalists, extremists of all sorts are not invited to live in USA, but instead are funded and working in interests of this global brainwashing system you’ve just blamed. It’s adorable how you notice that you are being brainwashed, but make conclusions this brainwashing wants you to make? We must prevent it, you say. How many unjustified colonial wars did you prevent in last decade, Mr. Robin Hood? How many of them did you protest?

  4. Злой Преступник Карбофос says:

    Um. Do not blame the church and right-wing exclusively, majority does support this law, not only these two freak groups.

  5. Злой Преступник Карбофос says:

    Of course there would be an incident, why do you think western media started the hysteria to attract attention to the topic majority doesn’t give a fuck of?

  6. Злой Преступник Карбофос says:

    Nobody was ever going to exempt anyone. Its your homo oriented propaganda brainwashing. Law forbids propaganda of homosexual relations among youngsters, thus forbids popularization of gay-relationships and involving new fresh YOUNG blood into them, this is what makes foreign homos crazy. Do homo athletes come to compete in damned OLYMPICS, or they are going to come to cry out loud about gay rights. If we talk about competition, everyone is going to have equal opportunities in participation. If we talk about politics – this topic is raised by western propaganda, for these clowns never can bear Olympic games taking place in any other place than their wonderful west. In China they were whining about dissidents, in UK topic was terrorism, absolutely fake but one that shows how much a western state cares about security and how wonderful it is. For some reason gay topic was not raised in China, clown Obama lacked guts? Or Chinese love homos? Old topic for Russia was Georgian conflict, but since its rotten already, they picked homo law. Probably it’d be better not to adopt this law, which would make Russia a lot more liberal than your hypocritical states when its obligatory to love homos. I dislike homos, and I would never support a state that puts their rights above mine. I’m fine with situation that was before when homos had absolutely equal rights to mine.
    There was no oppression intended on state level, nobody actually gives a fuck, they are just earning points among majority, even I do not support Putins state, I’m more than sure that state must base its support on majority. But if we speak about American state, where 2 gangs of capitalists flip a nickel of who will rule the money steams for next 4 years, such minor support might make sense. This creates illusion of choice which bourgeois democracy is.
    Have no idea why this is supported on global level though.
    Speaking of Third Reich, which I absolutely despite as a Russian, I checked out the law – and its well, rather liberal for that time. I have no idea if homos were to be arrested just by the fact of being homos, law says that they were to be arrested for kissings and other acts, thus, from legal point of view they must have had committed a crime first, no idea how it was implemented on practice, I didn’t live there, I did not research it for I don’t care much for it, so its hard to say if Hitlers ‘ban’ was necessary. Like this ban is obviously unnecessary in Russia, for this law forbids only ‘propaganda among youth’ and NOTHING else. So if somebody comes to COMPETE in Olympics – no problem. If he would fuck and kiss with people of same gender in Russia – no problem from the state (can not guarantee there’d be no problems with people, there would be, most likely, and police would protect homos in this case), but if they would use Olympics to yell around how cool its to be a homo, or what achievements compared to normal people a homo achieved just by being homo (Is there a difference? I bet not, being a homo doesn’t make you a better sportsman, but idiot Barack Obama thinks otherwise) they’ll probably (but with 0.1% of possibility would have problems with the law). Russia might have harsh laws(though actually Russia rarely after 1917 had harsher laws than most of western states), but they are rarely used until somebody pays attention.
    Law is just laughable, sure it somehow oppresses homos, but definitely not the way they yell about it. I’m more than majority didn’t even try to read it, if not everyone. Because otherwise I do not understand, if you are sane people who use OWN brain to think, wth the hysteria? Homos are being used for propaganda of so-called freedom, freedom of being anyone, the only thing you must never dare to think – is to get rid of those who rob you every day.

  7. Bill_Perdue says:

    In a capitalist context what you say had some validity. But the vote count in the last election – 40% eligible not voting means that each of the lesser evils got less votes that eligible voters who who sat it out because they don’t subscribe to the lesser evil theory. That trend has been increasing because of the vast radicalization caused by Clinton’s Depression.

    “A report estimating the percentage of eligible voters who cast ballots in Tuesday’s election shows the rate was lower than in the past two presidential contests, though it surpassed the rate from 2000.

    Thursday’s report, from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate, put 2012 voter turnout at 57.5% of all eligible voters, compared to 62.3% who voted in 2008 and 60.4% who cast ballots in 2004.” http://www.abc15.com/dpp/news/national/election-results-2012-voter-turnout-lower-than-2008-and-2004-report-says

    One sign that Democrats and their cousins are headed for history’s giant trash bin is the fact that a socialist city council candidate in Seattle just won 35% of the vote and forced the Democrat into a runoff.

  8. Swiggy says:

    On the money on everything but the sheep mentality. A person may be intelligent, but any group of people can be manipulated like a fine violin by a virtuoso.

    When Pearl Harbor was attacked, it was not, “Gee, should we send the Japanese-Americans to internment camps?” While not the best place to be, it did protect them from violence by fellow Americans. Take the shooting up of the Sikh temple last year. The Islamiphobia is strong in this country, today after the Boston Bombing, but that wasn’t the case last August. So enraged at the Muslims, the shooter didn’t even bother finding out there was a difference between them and the Sikh.

    What fed that hate? Commentators on TV and radio pushing the extremist agendas.

  9. Bill_Perdue says:

    Pointing out the dangers of the situation is one thing, because we have to prepare for what will be a very dangerous time for our Russian sisters and brothers and do what we can, coordinating our efforts with them and supporting their strategy for confronting the Putinistas at Sochi. That said, pretending that Russia is a fascist state, or pretending that Russians are illiterate and unthinking are political errors that undercut the fight.

    LGBT communities are under attack all over the world, and that includes here in the US, the nation that’s responsible for most of the violence in the world, and much of the worst anti-GLBT violence in places like Iraq, Uganda and elsewhere.

    Your description of people as ‘stupid sheep’ is totally wrong, unscientific and ignores the main cause of fascism, which is capitalism in its death agony.

    Anti-muslim sentiments – islamophobia – is promoted by the ultra right, christer and zionist.

  10. Swiggy says:

    Unfortunately, it takes people to point to Nazi Germany to prevent the atrocities from happening again. Until somebody points it out, it will continue to escalate and you have another holocaust on our hands? Don’t believe so? Remember, as a group, people are stupid sheep that can be lead. 50 years ago, not a single person thought much about “those Moslem people”. How many of those same people were calling for all the Muslim people in the US to be carted off to detention camps in the last days of 2001?

  11. bimbo says:

    Why do these opinion pieces on homosexual advocacy read like teenage girls complaining about not getting to stay up late at night because there’s a test the next day?

  12. Bill_Perdue says:

    The RF is not Nazi Germany. Russian GLBT communities, with booming international help and assistance, are fighting to keep it from becoming like Nazi Germany.

    With it’s antigay laws, murder and kidnap tortures and long history of state (Russia) and court (US) enabled anti-LGBT violence it’s more like the US.

    We can help with boycotts and divestment campaigns against groups who are complicit with or enable the bigotry of the the IOC. A good place to start is with NBC. NBC was all too aware of the progress of the Russian bigot law as early as 2006: “Human Rights Watch (HRW) notes that before Sochi was chosen for the 2014 games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and other stakeholders, including American multinational sponsors of the Winter Olympics, as well as NBC Universal, which has the broadcast contract, carefully tracked the path of the legislation… .” emphasis mine http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

  13. karmanot says:


  14. nicho says:

    Naw — it’s just a form of vandalism. These are the same sort of people who go into a cemetery and tip over gravestones.

  15. nicho says:

    Oh, a lot of the foreign athletes have sponsorship too — even athletes from poor countries. Advertisers lavish them with money and provide them with training facilities or fly them to places that have them. You don’t see many top Olympic athletes who have a second job.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I see we’ve been hit by another downvote parade. Someone’s a little sensitive over Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum being insulted. Aww…

  17. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    morally, spiritually,physically

  18. Terry Jackson says:

    I agree with most of what you’re saying about the IOC. But a lot of that is going to have to change in a world where mass communication isn’t just a rule but in which we are all a part of it. (Hence our conversation.)

    The IOC can’t handle the level of negativity it is going to have to face during the next few months. Some sort of major action will be taken, if not by the IOC, then by the competing nations. I won’t be surprised if the UN takes up the issue on some level. With Russia having a disproportionately large voice within the UN, not much can be successfully achieved, but the discussion itself would be huge news.

    Russia’s anti-gay laws can withstand global negativity, though, because they still have state-run news organizations, even if not all are. (In fact, Reporters without Borders “Press Freedom Index” ranks Russia 148th out of 179 nations; the US stands at 32.)

  19. Naja pallida says:

    I think it would be worth it, if they would just shake the laughable notion the IOC keeps trying to hide behind that it’s not a competition between countries, that there is no politics involved, it’s all just sport for the sake of sport. If it was actually a fair competition of human capability, it might be interesting. But when I consider the difference between an American athlete who has no other job but to train, and an athlete from a poorer country who works a full time job while training for the Olympics in his spare time, and doesn’t even have any formal facilities to train at. How can that even be considered equal footing?

  20. Naja pallida says:

    The Olympics themselves may not be the problem, but the IOC is certainly a big part of it. They have chosen to ignore human rights, time and time again, as a way of demonstrating how they are apolitical. And they are the ones that make all the decisions on where to hold the games, who is allowed to participate, and what rules participants will have to follow. The IOC is beholden to their corporate sponsors… so, as things always seem to, it comes back around to the money. If we have any hope of making a change in how the Olympics operates, we have to put a significant dent in the money. There’s really nothing else, because nothing short of a world war has significantly spurred the IOC in the past.

  21. therling says:

    One sad aspect of this is that people like Rick Santorum would like to see our country take a similar stance.

  22. Terry Jackson says:

    The problem isn’t with the Olympics… it’s with Russia. So, take the Olympics away from Russia and let them deal with their civil rights concerns the same way every other nation has. This isn’t something that can be solved from the outside. Russians have to decide that what they are doing is wrong. It will lead to blood and death, but that’s the way these things have to happen if they are to hold.

    Meanwhile, don’t cancel the Olympics or even postpone them. Have them take place all over the world in the cities that are already able to hold individual events. And don’t allow Russian athletes to participate unless they are willing to speak out against the laws that are causing this to happen. Current plans don’t make sense because they’re just going to result in gay athletes not being able to participate no matter what. That’s not progress.

  23. Hue-Man says:

    John, thanks for this – the parallels with 1930s Germany are frightening (I still haven’t rewatched Bent). I’d recalled that the last gay concentration camp survivor had died recently. Here’s the Deutsche Welle story from August 8, 2011, and link:

    “Rudolf Brazda, the last known survivor of the thousands of men who were sent to Nazi concentration camps because of their homosexuality and died last week at age 98, was buried Monday near his home in Mulhouse, in eastern France.”

    “Brazda was born in Germany in 1913 and was living as an openly gay man in Leipzig when Adolf Hitler came to power. The Nazis quickly expanded anti-gay legislation and began raiding gay pubs and meeting places. Brazda was arrested for the first time in 1937 and sentenced to six months in prison for “debauchery.” He was then deported to what was then Czechoslovakia, where he stayed even after it was occupied by the Nazis in 1938.

    Brazda was arrested for a second time in 1941 and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp the following year, where he was made to sew a pink triangle onto his uniform identifying him as a homosexual. He remained at Buchenwald for three years until the camp was liberated by
    American soldiers in April 1945.” http://www.dw.de/last-gay-survivor-of-nazi-concentration-camps-dies/a-15298275

    Picture caption (DW.de):”Mayor of Berlin Klaus Wowereit met Rudolf Brazda in 2008″

  24. Stev84 says:

    It doesn’t apply to valid comparisons with Hitler or the Nazis. That would be very inconvenient:

    And technically, it only says that with increasing length of a discussion the probability of a Nazi comparison approaches 1. Not that any Nazi mention is off limits.

  25. nicho says:

    There’s going to be an Olympics.

    I don’t want to be watching.

    Total waste of time.

  26. nicho says:

    I don’t think so. I don’t think Putin gives a damn about gays one way or the other. This is something that was dreamed up by the leaders of the Orthodox church and the right-wing goon squads. Putin needs their support to maintain power, so he goes along with what they want. No skin off his nose.

  27. Dave of the Jungle says:

    He does.

  28. Ninong says:

    Propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations is illegal in Russia but neo-Nazi propaganda is tolerated. The neo-Nazis can not only get an official permit to demonstrate, they can get hundreds of Moscow police to protect them.

    MOSCOW — Thousands of far-right nationalists and neo-Nazis marched through Moscow on Friday calling on ethnic Russians to “take back” their country, as resentment grows over dark-complexioned Muslim migrants from Russia’s Caucasus and the money the Kremlin sends to the restive region.

    Some 5,000 people, mostly young men wearing medical masks and balaclavas, marched through a working-class neighborhood of gloomy apartment buildings on the outskirts of the capital. They chanted “Russia for Russians” and “Migrants today, occupiers tomorrow,” along with anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic slurs and obscenities.

    Some raised their hands in a Nazi salute as hundreds of police officers stood shoulder-to-shoulder along the street, which was blocked to traffic.

    HuffPost: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/04/russia-far-right-nationalists_n_1075687.html

  29. UncleBucky says:

    The Escher Police. LOL!

  30. UncleBucky says:

    Ask Mike Godwin. He ain’t an obscure 19th century writer.


  31. UncleBucky says:

    There’s going to be an incident.

    I don’t want to be watching.

  32. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    it is a closed recursive loop. notify escher.

  33. rudolf schnaubelt says:

    he sort of resembles el rushbo

  34. blonkert says:

    I’ve always thought Putin was a closeted gay man.
    I think these new laws confirm that for me.

  35. nicho says:

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t want them to exempt Olympic athletes. That’s not really the problem — just a symptom of a larger problem. If they exempt the athletes, then a lot of people will think the “problem” is solved and walk away. Just as the exemption from the Third Reich in 1936 didn’t stop the Holocaust, the exemption now wouldn’t stop the assaults and murders against non-athletes. That’s the problem.

  36. nicho says:

    Doesn’t matter. Godwin’s “law” is just Internet bunk.

  37. caphillprof says:

    If Godwin’s “law” prevents us from acknowledging and countering a threat to a copycat holocaust–within a century of the previous–then it is no law at all and useless as a club to bludgeon LGBTQ folk from preventing yet another occurrence of middle European violent hatred.

  38. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Hermann Göring looked so dashing as a morbidly obese morphine addict.

  39. therling says:

    How does Godwin’s Law apply if Hitler is in the original post?

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