Jewish athlete's record restored by Germany

By Jessica Elgot, November 24, 2009
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Gretel Bergmann has had her record restored after being stripped of it by the Nazis

Gretel Bergmann has had her record restored after being stripped of it by the Nazis

A 95 year-old Jewish woman stripped of her high jump record by Nazi Germany has had her record restored by the German track and field association.

Gretel Bergmann, who is now Margaret Bergmann Lambert, emigrated to New York in 1937 after she was 'replaced' at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by the Nazi government because she was Jewish.

Mrs Lambert had already left Germany for the UK in 1934 after she was banned from her athletics club for being Jewish.

She had previously recorded a world record high jump of 5 feet and 3 inches, having been on the German team for two years.

The award doesn't bother me one way or another. If it would never have happened I wouldn't have killed myself either.

Margaret Bergmann Lambert

But, fearing a boycott from the United States at the 1936 Olympics in Germany, the Nazi government invited her back to try out for the German team.

But two weeks before the Games began, she received a letter telling her she has not qualified to be part of the Olympic team, despite setting the world record just one month previously.

Her replacement at the Olympics was Dora Ratjen, who was later revealed to be a man, Horst.

Ms Lambert became went on to become the American champion in women's high jump in 1937 and 1938 but gave up athletics when war broke out in 1939.

A spokesman for Germany’s track and field association said: “This can in no way make up for the past. But it is an act of justice and a symbolic gesture.”

Mrs Lambert said: "The award doesn't bother me one way or another. If it would never have happened I wouldn't have killed myself either.

"To tell the truth, I used to sit there and curse my head off when the Olympics were going on. Now I don't do that anymore. I've mellowed quite a bit."

Last updated: 2:55pm, November 24 2009