At the Berlin Olympics in 1936, Carla de Vries waited until after the men’s 1500m freestyle race and then approached Adolf Hitler to ask for an autograph. As the Fuehrer obliged and began signing, she pulled herself over the railing and gave him a kiss.
Footage has recently surfaced of the woman from Norwalk, California, who was forty at the time. In the video, Hitler can be seen pulling away from the woman on her first attempt. She successfully kissed him on her second try, whilst an SS guard fails to keep her away from Hitler.
The footage was banned in Germany for fear that the Nazi leader’s security would seem weak. The footage was seen throughout the world and Ms. de Vries became known as “the woman who kissed Hitler.” Hitler was said to be so angry that he fired his entire security team.
When asked about the moment, de Vries said that she hadn’t planned to do it, but that Hitler seemed so “friendly and gracious.” She said that she must be a woman of impulses.
She told an interviewer that she had gone to get a picture of Hitler with her movie camera. Hitler appeared so friendly that she went ahead and asked him for his autograph and handed him her swimming ticket to write on. Hitler continued smiling and so she kissed him.
The fans in the area cheered so loudly that she went to her husband and told him that they needed to leave.
She continued to be referred to as the “woman who kissed Hitler,” even after the Olympics. First, after she and her husband returned to the States, when she prevented a patient in an asylum from committing suicide and again when her dairy farmer husband George had to deal with a union strike.
Hitler had just watched the 1500m men’s freestyle race while seated next to General August von Mackensen when Ms. de Vries saw an opportunity for a photo. Nazi guards attempted to pull her off of the Fuehrer while General Mackensen laughed and the 20,000 people attending the races cheered and applauded.
Later, Hitler fired or demoted several of the SS guards that had been unable to keep the woman from making contact with the Nazi leader.
The Berlin games were the first to be televised internationally, being shown in 41 countries.
Hitler used the 1936 Olympics to show off his ideas of racial supremacy and anti-Semitism. The official newspaper of the Nazi party had written strongly about the necessity of keeping Jewish athletes from competing in the games.
Several nations threatened to boycott the games so Hitler made concessions to allow some athletes of different ethnic groups to participate. He still forbade German Jews from competing. US Jews were not sent to the Olympics that year in order to avoid upsetting the Nazis.
Jesse Owens famously won four golds in the Berlin Olympics, foiling Hitler’s plans to demonstrate the superiority of the Aryan race. Hitler and the Nazi party staged a propaganda spectacle to show the world the new, united Germany and the many advances being made by the Nazi party. They showered the visiting athletes and spectators with hospitality and grandeur, all while hiding the human rights abuses that were underway in their country.
The US and many European countries had called for a boycott of the games for the first time in Olympic history. The move was unsuccessful but paved the way for future actions in later games.
Without the boycott, the Nazi government was legitimized by the arrival of athletes from 49 countries. Once the games were over, Germany began the Holocaust and its expansion into Europe in earnest.