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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Technology for Hitler's Olympics

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:


The donation contains six locations:

Photo: A view of the upper tier of the Olympic Stadium. Resembling a street light, the loudspeaker is positioned above an entrance in the centre of the image. Behind it we see a closed structure made of stone, with windows pointing toward the field.

Omnidirectional loudspeaker on the grandstand of the Olympic Stadium, 1936

Photo: A reporter wearing headphones sits at a desk, talking into a large microphone that resembles a thermos flask. In the background we see more reporters and the Olympic Stadium from behind.

Radio reporter with a crystal microphone during the swimming competitions, 1936

Photo: A mushroom loudspeaker conceals half of the victory column – in the background we see the statue of Victoria ('Golden Else') The mushroom loudspeaker resembles a funnel-shaped street light made of aluminium.

Mushroom loudspeaker in
front of the Victory Column in Berlin, 1936

Photo: A room like a cinema theatre, filled with people staring at the screen. A box-shaped projector stands in front of the screen, showing the image of a sprinter nearing the finishing line.

Large screen television
viewing point, the Reichspostministerium on Leipziger Straße (today: Museum for Communication Berlin)

Photo: Omnidirectional loudspeaker on the stands of the Maifeld during the dressage competition. In the background the Olympic Stadium, festooned with flags.

Omnidirectional loudspeaker on the Maifeld

Photo: Two men with hats and coats stand on the field in the empty Olympic Stadium. The man on the right holds a measurement instrument in front of his stomach. The other on the left points a microphone at the stands, connected to the instrument by cable.

Measuring the volume in the Olympic Stadium, 1936

Technology for Hitler's Olympics

The 1936 Olympic Games as a Testing Ground for New Media

Gallery of Photo Technology, Beamtenhaus, 2nd Floor

13 July to 3 October 2016

Berlin 80 years ago: The city is hosting the XIth Summer Olympics, which begin with the opening ceremony on 1 August 1936. The Nazi regime skilfully abuses the international sports spectacle for propaganda purposes.

Photo: A darkened, windowless room. There are large switch cabinets on the left and the right, operated by three technicians.

Control centre for the loudspeaker system, located in the catacombs of the Olympic Stadium, 1936.

No expense is spared to exploit a perfectly organised mass event as proof of Germany's supremacy.

The media fulfil a key role in staging the Olympics as a spectacle. Recently developed electronic news carriers are used in addition to print media and film. Live reports from the competitions - by radio, public address systems and for the first time also by television - are organised to enable as many people as possible to share directly in the competitions.

Telefunken GmbH from Berlin, at the time market leader in the field of radio technology and electronics and most important purveyor to the German Wehrmacht, provides a large proportion of the technical equipment and documents the process in high-quality photographs.

This exhibition shows 64 of the black-and-white images taken at the time, which until now have rarely been put on public display. They are part of the AEG-Telefunken company archive, which today belongs to the Historical Archive at the German Museum of Technology.

Diagram: The ringed transmission grid with the location of the 320 microphones, 220 amplifiers and 20 broadcast vans encircles the stadium and Broadcasting House at the centre.

The transmission grid used by the Olympic world service

Olympia Everywhere

These are the first Olympic Games to be covered live on the radio. In addition to their dissemination via the German and 41 foreign radio stations, the 3000 live reports are also broadcast simultaneously by public address systems. Telefunken provides the complete technology: from microphones at the venues to control, amplifier and broadcast systems, as well as radio receivers and loudspeakers.

Public address systems, nicknamed mushroom loudspeakers, are installed in many public spaces in Berlin and other German cities. These omnidirectional systems, already tested at various mass events organised by the Nazi regime, are designed to deliver consistent sound quality.

Television and Public Viewing

Television is still an experimental technology in 1936. Nonetheless, the first regular television station had opened its doors in Berlin a year earlier. The Nazi regime orders that the Olympic competitions should also be broadcast by television.

A vehicle resembling a bus stands before the thick side wall of the gateway. A reporter with a film camera sits on its flat roof, behind a sun screen. All around there are visitors to the Olympic Games.

Intermediate film van at Marathon Gate

Shooting television images during daylight hours proves challenging. A variety of experimental techniques are used. A normal cinema camera, mounted on a transport van, initially records footage for the Reichpost's intermediate film system. The film is immediately developed inside the van and then scanned using a television camera. The TV images can be broadcast with between 15 and 30 seconds delay.

In addition, three state-of-the-art iconoscope cameras are also used, among them Telefunken's ‘Olympic Canon’, which earns its nickname due to the large lens.

Photo: Viewers perched on rows of wooden seats in a public television parlour. The screens on the two television sets in front of them, each the size of a washing machine, are barely larger than a modern tablet PC display.

Public Viewing 1936

These four cameras broadcast eight hours of moving images per day. There are 75 television sets in Berlin, most of them in the 27 public television parlours. There are two other parlours in Potsdam and Leipzig. At the time, the television broadcasts are sensational events for the audience. But they are barely comparable with today's public viewing: the screens on the television sets are barely larger than a modern tablet PC display.

Header photo: The Telefunken television camera 'Olympic Canon'. Behind the camera is Walter Bruch, who went on to invent the German colour television system PAL.


All photo and grahic credits: © SDTB / Historical Archive