'Jesse Owens Was Here'

Berlin's 1936 Olympic Village once housed Nazis and Soviets. Today, there's an effort to convert the neglected site into a museum.

Berlin's 1936 Summer Olympics began on August 1 at the city's Olympic Stadium.

Hitler saw the event as an opportunity to showcase the Third Reich to the world (a mission dampened by the success of U.S. track and field athlete Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals). The remaining infrastructure of those Olympics carries a tainted legacy, though the main stadium was thoroughly renovated for the 2006 FIFA World Cup.


The Olympic Village in Elstal, 18 miles from Berlin's city center. View Larger Map

The same can't be said for the city's Olympic Village. Located in Elstal, about 18 miles from Berlin's city center, the site was eventually turned into military barracks for the Nazis. It served the same function for the Russians during the prolonged Soviet occupation. Now, it suffers from neglect, with recent restoration efforts moving at a slow pace.


A VOA report from 2012 on the progress made at Berlin's Olympic Village.

Currently, one can currently get an official paid tour of the grounds or pay to walk around solo. However, only the room where Jesse Owens stayed has been fully restored for tourists, But German Bank DKB has pledged to convert the residence halls, swimming pool, and the Hall of Nations into a fully renovated museum that tells an uncomfortable but nonetheless important part of the city's history. Below, what the site looks like today:

Image courtesy Flickr user Rupert Ganzer
Image courtesy Flickr user Michael Kötter
Image courtesy Flickr user Michael Kötter
The exterior of Jesse Owen's room at Berlin's Olympic Village. 

Image courtesy Flickr user Rupert Ganzer

The room where Jesse Owens stayed at Berlin's Olympic Village.

Image courtesy Flickr user Rupert Ganzer

About the Author