An American in Berlin, 1936

Authored by Lindsay Jankovitz

Postcard written by J.J Cole to Edward J. Bartlett’s parents while at the Berlin Olympics, August, 1936 (front)

Postcard written by J.J Cole to Edward J. Bartlett’s parents while at the Berlin Olympics, August, 1936 (front)

This postcard was found among the collection I have been working with during my Academic Service-Learning component for course LIS 203 at Bard College. This collection details the letters of a student, Edward J. Bartlett, to his parents during his time at Bard College from 1936-1940 and while serving in World War II from 1943-1945. This postcard is unique in that it places Bartlett at the Berlin Olympics at a time when most Americans felt strongly about boycotting the event, and when many European scholars and artists were finding refuge at his college, including Hannah Arendt, Stefan Hirsch, and Werner Wolff. This postcard was written to Bartlett’s parents by J. J Cole, whose relationship to Edward J. Bartlett is currently unknown.

Berlin Olympics
The National Socialist German Working Party came into power in 1933 in Germany under Chancellor Adolf Hitler, during a time of social unrest. As this party came into power, their ideals of anti-Semitism became widespread, and persecution of peoples deemed as inferior began to occur, causing other countries to view Germany with distrust. The Berlin Olympics, held from August 1st through August 16th, 1936, was used as a propaganda mechanism to “celebrate the Aryan ideal and shap[e] the Nazi image,” and to deter the world from seeing what was actually occurring under the Nazi regime. Weeks prior to the Olympics, anti-Jewish posters were removed from streets and buildings, Berlin was made immaculate, and brutality ceased. Tourists who visited this city were meet by friendly citizens and were surrounded by a seemingly tolerant environment. An African American athlete stated that “he didn’t have to sit in the back of the bus” and a New York Times writer stated “the games…even made [Germans] more human again.” Although many countries called for a boycott of the Berlin Olympics, including America, numerous Americans, including Edward J. Bartlett and his peers, did attend this event. America would have the second largest team participating in the event with three hundred and twelve athletes, ranking behind Germany’s team of three hundred and forty-eight, and a total of forty-nine countries would participate, making it the largest Olympics to date in 1936.

Vincentian Perspective
This postcard and the events that would follow in Europe serve as a reminder of what can happen when one does not use a Vincentian perspective to view what is happening around him or her. The Nazi Party violated the principles of truth, love, and respect, and were inadvertently supported by those nations in attendance. Choosing to turn a blind eye to the persecution and treatment of those peoples deemed inferior and by participating in the highly structured environment created by the regime, allowed for the advancement of hate and dishonesty. Days after the conclusion of the Olympics, a main figure of the Olympic Village would commit suicide due to his Jewish heritage and Germany would return to its previous intolerant, militant state, setting the tide for World War II.


Angel, Christine. “Information representation through the Vincentian lens of transparency: Providing the under and misrepresented with a voice within our cultural heritage records.” 2013.

“Bard College History,”, accessed March 1, 2016.

Berkes, Howard. “Nazi Olympics Tangled Politics and Sports.” NPR, June 7, 2008.

“Berlin 1936 Olympic Games.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Last modified April 9, 2015.

“The Nazi Olympics Berlin 1936.” United States Holocaust Museum, Last modified January 29, 2016.