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Olympic video with Berlin footage withdrawn

TORONTO (JTA) — The organizers of the Vancouver Winter Olympics have withdrawn an official video of archival footage from Leni Riefenstahl’s film of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

The video was withdrawn after the Canadian Jewish Congress and others complained about the doctored footage, according to reports.

The four-minute video, "Lights Will Guide You Home," has been screened for months to participants in the Olympic torch relay after they boarded shuttle buses to their positions along its route. The video was also posted on the Vancouver organizing committee’s Web site.

A recent article in the Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper reported what had long been noted on YouTube: That the archival footage is from "Olympia," Riefenstahl’s controversial film of the Olympic flame being lighted in Greece and carried to Berlin.

Reports noted that the segment was edited to avoid, among other things, the runners passing between two Nazi flags. A shot of the torch bearer entering the Olympic stadium in Berlin was digitally altered to remove a number of silhouetted arms in Nazi salutes.

Riefenstahl made propaganda films for Adolf Hitler, most notably "Triumph of the Will."

"Couldn’t they find another 22 seconds of footage to use? To many members of our community, the entire 1936 Games and all related images are rooted in hate," Romy Ritter, the Pacific region director of the Canadian Jewish Congress, told The New York Times.

Jim Richards, program director for the torch relay, said the video was being replaced with new footage of highlights from the current torch relay.

However, Richards defended the use of footage from "Olympia," saying its producers considered three options: not using the footage, altering it or using it in its original form.

"We chose the middle ground, in order to respect the relay’s history, while not highlighting the political environment of the day," he said in the statement quoted in the Times. "We weighed the decision carefully, as even though the Berlin 1936 Games footage lasts only a few seconds, we wanted to try to do the right thing to reflect the relay’s past."

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