Jewish athlete banned from Olympics by Nazis, dead at 103

Margaret Bergmann Lambert, a world-class German high jumper who was blocked by the Nazis from competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics because she was Jewish, has died.

Lambert died in Queens Tuesday at the age of 103, the New York Times reported.

The standout athlete known as the “Great Jewish Hope” took first place in a competition against Germany’s most elite high jumpers in June 1936.

Her joy turned to shock and sadness when she received a letter from Nazi officials informing her she would not be selected for the Olympic team.

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Facing a backlash from nations that threatened to boycott The Games, the Germans had used her as a pawn in a bid to convince the world that they did not discriminate.

“It was a terrible shock,” she told Newsday in 2015, “because I was the best.”

Lambert died in Queens Tuesday at the age of 103.

Lambert died in Queens Tuesday at the age of 103.

(Seth Wenig/AP)

Her story became the subject of a 2004 HBO documentary called “Hitler’s Pawn.”

Lambert immigrated to the United States the year after she was barred from competing in the Olympics.

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She quickly established herself as a star, winning the U.S. women’s high-jump championships in 1937 and 1938.

But she was robbed of competing in the 1940 Olympics after World War II forced its cancellation.

Lambert gave up sports not long after.

In 1996, while living in a two-story brick house in the Jamaica Estates section of Queens, Lambert received a letter from the German Olympic Committee.

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Lambert was an athlete known as the “Great Jewish Hope.”

Lambert was an athlete known as the “Great Jewish Hope.”

(Seth Wenig/AP)

“It is my honor and pleasure to inform you that the National Olympic Committee for Germany has decided to invite you to be our guest of honor during the Olympic Centennial Games in Atlanta,” the letter began.

Lambert accepted the invitation, according to The Times.

“I don’t hate all Germans anymore, though I did for a long time,” Lambert said.

“But I’m aware of many Germans trying to make up for wrongs as well as they know how. And, yes, I felt that the young people of Germany should not be held responsible for what their elders did.”

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Her husband, a fellow former German refugee named Dr. Bruno Lambert, died in 2013, She’s survived by two sons, two grandchildren, and a great-grandchild, according to The Times.

Tags:
obituaries
nazis
track and field
religion

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