The Politics of Sport

Photo of sports week promotional poster

From the advent of the modern sporting movement in the late 19th century, German sport advocates, physicians, educators and government officials expressed a range of opinions about the role of sport in society. Most agreed that physical exercise should be promoted to improve the human body.

The Nazis radicalized notions about fitness, health and beauty, linking them to racial categories. Only those considered to be “Aryan” could now reach perfection. Sporting and leisure organizations advocated fitness in service of the nation. German sports imagery of the 1930s reflected the value the Nazi regime placed on physical fitness. Magazines and posters featured idealized figures, both male and female, that promoted a myth of “Aryan” racial superiority.

A promotional poster for a German national sports week, May 26 to June 2, 1935. The poster promotes “Aryan” physical ideals through its depiction of blond and athletic German men.

Bundesarchiv, Plak 003-019-020