The Nazi Olympics

Authored by Stephen Young

A telegram written by George G. Battle and Henry S. Leiper to Reverend James M. Gillis

A telegram written by George G. Battle and Henry S. Leiper to
Reverend James M. Gillis


This telegram was written by George G. Battle who formed the
Committee on Fair Play in Sports to boycott participation of American
teams and athletes to compete in the 1936 Olympics hosted in
Berlin, Germany by the Nazi regime. This letter was addressed to
Reverend James M. Gillis on October 1st, 1935.


Historical Context

Attorney George G. Battle and secretary of the Federal Council of Churches in America Dr. Henry S. Leiper announced on October 13th, 1935 the establishment of the Committee on Fair Play in Sports. During this point in history Adolf Hitler had gained control of the German government and made a dictatorship. Once America found out that Hitler’s intentions to rule were hostile and anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, and anti-masonic a strong boycott movement to oppose American involvement in the Berlin Olympics started. The proposition to oppose the Olympic Games in Germany were published in a classic Christian magazine known as the “Christian Century” founded in 1884 and the “Commonweal” founded in 1924.

The Content

In the telegram George G. Battle and Dr. Henry S. Leiper invite James M. Gillis to join the movement to stop any American participation in the 1936 Olympics. Mr. Gillis is informed that it is his choice to participate actively or not in the committee. Their understanding is that the Nazi Government was only interested in flaunting their power and that any participation on America’s part would only promote the Nazi’s fascist policies. The Committee on Fair Play in Sports was determined to prevent American participation in the Berlin Olympics. In the telegram, it mentions the deceptive news of Nazi authorities writing and inviting two Jewish Olympic athletes to attend the Olympics in Germany. It was later confirmed by one of the athletes Helene Mayer that no such invitations existed and that it was all a front cover up the Nazi’s anti-Semitism and win the opinions of American citizens.

The Result

It is not clear if Reverend James M. Gillis joined the Committee on Fair Play in Sports. Research shows that Reverend James M. Gillis was a Paulist Father and a broadcaster for the radio program “Catholic Hour” during this time period. He was known for his talks on the moral law and was well received by millions of Catholics. The Fair Play Committee was the most known internationally to boycott the the Berlin Olympics. The Committee was received by support from many organizations and people such as politicians, athletes, and unions. In the end the Amateur Athletic Union of the United states voted for the participation in the Olympics in 1935. It was seen that athletes should not become involved in world politics.
The Vincentian Perspective

The artifact is about two perspectives involving politics and the olympics. The United States and other countries chose to boycott the Olympics being held in Germany. Countries involved to boycott the games believed in respect for diverse people and culture. They believed it was their responsibility to strive against Germany’s prejudice.


Schulz, H. B. and Hansen, K., “Only Nazi Games? Berlin 1936: The Olympic Games Between Sports and Politics,”  July 30, 2012. Retrieved from

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “The Movement to Boycott The Berlin Olympics of 1935,” Holocaust Encyclopedia, June 20, 2014.
Retrieved from

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “Committee Launches Olympic Boycott Drive,” October 11, 2015.
Retrieved from

Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Jewish and Non-Jewish Leaders Urge Olympics Boycott, October 28, 2015. Retrieved from

The History Place, The Berlin Olympics, 2011. Retrieved from