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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

IMMIGRANT OF THE DAY: GRETEL BERGMANN - ATHLETE

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I had never heard of Ms. Bergmann until I recently saw a fascinating documentary on her on HBO. Ms. Bergmann, who is now in her 90s, was a leading athlete in Germany set to take a medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. While the Germans were facing world criticism for their treatment of Jewish athletes, they chose Bergmann as the only Jewish member of the team (Helene Mayer, another team members whose deceased father was Jewish, was raised in her mother's Christian faith). And then she was kicked off the team at the last moment along with her fellow Jewish teammate.



The film interview Ms. Bergmann at length and one can tell those years of training have benefited her - she looked at 20 years younger than her years and her memory of that remarkable time in her life was impeccable.



Bergmann managed to emigrate to the US in 1937 and avoided the horrors that were to befall her people in the years to follow. Because the Olympics were canceled in 1940 and 1944 because of the war, Ms. Bergmann never had the opportunity to win her gold medal, though she has the satisfaction of at least knowing that the height of the high jump that was enough to win the gold medal in Berlin was the same as she achieved in competition just a month before the Games.



Bergmann did have a chance to compete in her adopted country. She was the 1937 American high jump and shot put champion and repeated the high jump championship in 1938. She became an American citizen in 1942.



In a nice epilogue to her story, she was honored by the the German people in 1999 with the naming of a stadium after her. The stadium was one that she was not allowed to keep in (or even enter) when she was living in Germany. She returned to the Germany for the first time since fleeing in the 30s to attend the dedication ceremony.

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Comments

  1. cheryl raaymann's Avatar
    I just watched the HBO special, Hitler's Pawn, which was about Ingred Bergman. What a wonderful and strong willed woman!
  2. Horst Hentschel's Avatar
    Hello,

    can anybody help me along with a copy of that documantary? Would be great. Be sure I?ll pay in full.

    Please contact

    Schattengewaechse@t-online.de

    Best wishes
    Horst Hentschel
  3. darien's Avatar
    does any1 know her father's name? i need it for a report???
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