10 October 2014

Hitler's olympic kiss (1936)

In 1936, Olympic Games were held in nazi capital Berlin. On August 15, Hitler sat watching swimming contests next to general von Mackensen. A young woman, who had taken his picture, came forward and asked for an autograph, which he willingly supplied. In return, the woman tried to kiss him on the cheek, and succeeded on her second try, in spite of his (amused) attempts to escape.

The event was filmed from nearby, and the 14 second reel can be downloaded here. Unfortunately, the triumphant return of the woman to her seat, applauded by everyone including Hitler, is not shown.

The German public was never informed of the event, though its hero escaped unharmed and even played a congenial role (officially endorsed during the games). Foreign press was less reluctant, especially after it turned out that the woman was American: Carla De Vries, from Norwalk, California. Here are three of many newspaper clippings. (F.l.t.r.: The Sydney Morning Herald, August 17, 1936; Nevada State Journal, August 24, 1936; The Milwaukee Sentinel, November 3, 1936.)

"The woman who kissed Adolf Hitler" gained some notoriety, and in the papers she was referred to by that name in two later events that had nothing to do with her Olympic feat. Months later, back home, she prevented an asylum patient from committing suicide and the following year, her husband George De Vries, who owned a huge dairy farm, had to face unions and strikers.

The left clipping reads as follows.
HERR HITLER Kissed by Excited Woman During Olympic Swimming
Berlin, Aug. 15.
Shortly before the finish of the men's1500 metres free-style swimming to-day, a plump woman, conspicuous in a red hat whom Black Guards repeatedly prevented from photographing Herr Hitler at close range, broke the cordon during the excitement of the finish of the race, shook Herr Hitler by the hand and then kissed him, while the crowd of 20,000 rocked with laughter. Herr Hitler, who was in high spirits, joined in the fun, clapping his hands as the woman returned triumphantly to her seat.
Herr Hitler arrived Just before the race, and sat with Field-Marshal Mackensen on a plain hard seat. He showed great excitement during the race, swaying from side to side, and rarely taking his eyes off the German swimmer, Arendt, till it was clear he would be beaten. Herr Hitler rose to his feet, applauding an exciting fight for second place.
Terada (Japan) made a new Olympic record, and won by 20 yards from Medica (U.S.A.), who beat Uto (Japan) by a touch.
After the kissing incident, the aquatic events continued amusingly. The water polo final between Germany and Belgium was prefaced by the incongruous spectacle of the German team, clad only In slips, bobbing up In the water and shouting: "Heil, Hitler."
The match was played in a bedlam of whistling and Jeering. There were shouts to the French referee to send out players. Fouls were frequent, and three players of either side were temporarily suspended.
Herr Hitler shared the excitement of the crowd. He was never still, and looked as grim as any onlooker as incidents developed or a goal threatened. Herr Hitler remained to the end. He received farewell aquatic "Hells" from the victorious Germans, and departed through a lane of extended arms.
And here is our heroin's own account, in the third clipping.
Wife of Californian Surprised at Stir She Caused.
Norwalk, Calif., November 2
Admitting surprise at comments caused by her stolen kiss from Chancellor Hitler during the Olympic games in Berlin, Mrs. Carla de Vries returned to her home here today.   
"Why, I simply embraced him because he appeared so friendly and gracious" said Mrs. De Vries, wife of George de Vries, dairyman.
"People sitting near Der Fuehrer's box began to cheer and applaud so loudly that I ran back to my husband and told him we had better leave.
I don't know why I did it. Certainly I hadn't planned such a thing. It's just that I'm a woman of impulses, I guess.
It happened when I went down to take Hitler's picture with my small movie camera. Hitler was leaning forward, smiling, and he seemed so friendly that I just stepped up and asked for his autograph, which he wrote on my swimming ticket. He kept on smiling and so I kissed him."