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Politics and sports – Birger Ruud and the Olympic games at Garmisch Partenkirchen 1936


Text from Norsk Bergverksmuseum skimuseet
Translated by Åse Klundelien

Sportsmen from Buskerud have certainly manifested themselves in Olympic winter games.

We remember the achievements of Thorleif Haug, Ivar Ballangrud, Sigmund and Birger Ruud in some of the first winter games, and Ole Einar Bjørndalen’s harvest of gold medals in Salt Lake City in 2002.

In addition to their sports achievements, several of the athletes form Buskerud have shown that they are worthy representatives of their nation, also outside of the sports arena. As an example of this, we will tell you how Birger Ruud behaved during the Olympic winter games at Garmisch Partenkirchen in 1936.

Before the winter games, Birger worked in Germany for a couple of years. He took part in several ski jump- and downhill competitions, and he had become very popular in Germany.

On one occasion he was arrested by German police, on suspicion of anti-Nazi- activities. The reason for this was, according to what Birger told himself, that he wore the red club sweater with the white K for Kongsberg Idrettsforening KIF (Kongsberg Sports Union ). When asked by some German police officers what the K meant, Birger, full of fun as usual, said that this indicated “communist”. After a while he was released, because of his popularity.

During the opening parade at the winter games in 1936, the Norwegian troop with Ballangrud as standard bearer and Birger as one of the participants, refused to greet Adolf Hitler at the tribune, with a Nazi greeting (an upright right arm). Reporters in German Nazi newspapers pass over the Norwegians in silence, but they hail British and French sportsmen for having greeted the “Führer” with an upright right arm. When the medals are handed out after the ski jump competition, we can see Birger, Sven Eriksson and Reidar Andersen in strong positions, while the Norwegian national anthem is played, whereas the German persons in charge do the Nazi greeting.

From 1940 on, when Norway had been occupied by German troops, Birger Ruud played an important role in the ideological fight to prevent the Norwegian sports movement to be included in the Nazi movement. He was arrested by Gestapo in 1943, and was offered to be set free, if he would front the view that Norwegian sportsmen should lift the blockade of the Nazi sports union. He refused, and was held prison in one and a half year at the German concentration camp at Grini near Oslo. When he got out of prison, Birger joined the Home forces (secret guerrilla movement) “Milorg” , and he carried the flag when the Milorg paraded in front of King Haakon, on the King’s return from London to Norway in spring 1945.

Seierspall vinterleker 1936Fotograf: NNCopyright:

After the ski jump competition we can see Birger, Sven Eriksson and Reidar Andersen in strong position, but they do not greet Hitler with a Nazi greeting (an upright right arm) .


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Sist endret 01.03.2010 Terje Bautz
Opprettet 01.03.2010 Terje Bautz
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