High jumper Gretel Bergmann’s Olympic hopes were dashed when Nazi officials both refused to let her leave Germany and refused to let her compete in the 1936 Games. Bergman attended a boy’s school and played a variety of sports before transferring to a gymnasium where she became one of the best high jumpers in Germany. As the Nazis took power, her father sent her to London, where she became the British high jump champion in 1934, but she was forced to return to Germany (or face reprisals against her family) to prepare for the Olympics and counter international charges of Nazi anti-Semitism. Despite her record 1.60-meter jump at the qualifying championship, she was told she had underperformed and her non-Jewish teammates were told she had suffered an injury to prevent any protest about her being barred from the Olympic team. Bergmann left Germany in 1937, won the US Championship in high jump and shot put, and won high jump again in 1938 before retiring to raise a family. In the 1980s and 1990s, her entry into multiple Jewish Halls of Fame renewed interest in her career. Stadiums in both Berlin and her hometown of Laupheim were named in her honor.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Gretel Bergmann." (Viewed on February 19, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/bergmann-gretel>.