For Hitler, the 1936 Olympic Games was an opportunity to showcase to the world his new regime. Since becoming Germany’s führer, Nazi doctine had steadily impacted on it’s citizens. Sport was to play a major part under the new regime. Athletic prowess was not just about competition but for Hitler, it would be the first opportunity to show how his new Germany were fit, healthy, inspirational and a force to be reckoned with.
The showcase hid many of the appalling evils of Nazism away from the world, yet glimpses of it did show its ugly face. Many already knew about Hitler’s views including his views on race. As Jesse Owens crossed the line to claim the 100 metres title it proved that Hitler was wrong. His so-called superior race had taken a hammer blow.
Yet, the story doesn’t end with the closing ceremony at the 1936 Olympiad in Berlin. The Nazi desire to prove that they were the greatest sporting nation did not just apply to track and field. Golf became the next target. Soon after the notorious Berlin Games of 1936 a Golf tournament took place in the town of Baden-Baden. The führer himself personally sanctioned the event.
The story that unfolds to one of Golf’s lesser known events is one where the führer takes yet another knock in his attempts to put Nazi Germany on the sporting map. The Hitler Trophy by Alan Fraser brings the event to life in a wonderfully researched and compelling narrative that tells the story of how two plucky young Englishmen (Arnold Bentley and Tom Thirsk) took the title away from Germany, much to Hitler’s disgust.
However the book is so much more than giving the reader an account of the tournament that annoyed Hitler. It is also the search and battle to bring the Trophy back to its spiritual home. Appearing as Lot 169 at a Chester auction there was plenty of interest in the silver-gilt salver. Hesketh Golf Club were desperate to bring the Trophy back to the club where Arnold Bentley played. However, there was lots of interest including from Germany.
What the Hitler Trophy proves is that the game golf is so much more than just a game. In extraordinary circumstances the game can be a tussle on and off the course. It also emphasises the power of a trophy and the honour that comes with it.
Published by Floodlit Dreams