Jesse Owens & Adolf Hitler Shaking Hands at 1936 Olympics: Fact Check

Picture of Jesse Owens and Adolf Hitler Shaking Hands at the 1936 Olympics
Picture of Jesse Owens and Adolf Hitler Shaking Hands at the 1936 Olympics


Jesse Owens and Adolf Hitler during the Olympics

Other Versions

Jesse Owens and Hitler shaking hands at the 1936 Olympics

Fact Check:

A picture doing rounds online purports to show Adolf Hitler close-beside well-known American athlete Jesse Owens during the 1936 Olympics, suggesting they both shook hands at the historic event when Jesse Owens won four gold medals. Although the picture is shared sometimes to wrong the popular notion that Hitler snubbed (ignored) Jesse Owens, for he is black, the picture in question is a Photoshop hoax.

Picture Photoshopped

As you can see in below picture, the photoshopped picture of 1936 does not show Jesse Owens with Adolf Hitler, but with Ralph Harold Metcalfe at track and field tryouts at Randall’s Island Stadium, New York.

Did Hitler Snub Owens at 1936 Olympics?

Jesse Owens stole the show in 1936 Berlin Olympic Games by winning four gold medals. The picture below shows him standing on the podium after winning the gold medal in the 100-meter sprint. Most accounts suggest that Adolf Hitler, who visited the event, was so annoyed at the fact that a black non-German performed so well that he did not want to shake the American’s hand.

According to sports news website, Jesse Owens himself said that he did receive a greeting from Adolf Hitler, the Nazi leader. “Hitler had a certain time to come to the stadium and a certain time to leave and it so happened that he had to leave before the victory ceremony after the 100 meters,” Owens told The Pittsburgh Press on 24 August 1936. Similar case is reported in the video by Idy Uyoe, an Olympic Historian. “But before he left I was on my way to a broadcast and passed near his box. He waved at me and I waved back. I think it was bad taste to criticise the ‘man of the hour’ in another country,” explained Owens about Hitler and the instance.

A German veteran sports reporter Siegfried Mischner also claimed that there was a handshake between Owens and Hitler, adding that the athlete showed him a photo of Hitler extending his hand – which he kept in his wallet – in 1960. Owens seems to have told Mischner that it was one of his most beautiful moments. Mischner says that the photograph of Adolf Hitler and Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics was taken behind the honour stand and so was not captured by the world’s press. “The predominating opinion in post-war Germany was that Hitler had ignored Owens. We therefore decided not to report on the photo. The consensus was that Hitler had to continue to be painted in a bad light in relation to Owens,” Mischner says.

Did Hitler Snub Jesse Owens?

Contrary to the popular belief that Hitler snubbed Jesse Owens at 1936 Berlin Olympics, as reported by History Extra magazine website, Jesse Owens said, “Hitler didn’t snub me; it was our president Roosevelt who snubbed me. The president didn’t even send me a telegram“. After 1936 Olympics, only white athletes were invited to see and meet then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Jesse Owens was upset he wasn’t invited to White House to shake hands with President. He was however recognized in 1955, when President Eisenhower named Owens a “Goodwill Ambassador for Sport”. In later years Owens said he was treated better in Germany than in America where blacks faced segregation. After his death in 1980, a West German Government named a street leading to the Olympic stadium as Jesse-Owens-Allee.

Hoax or Fact:


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Prashanth Damarla