Based on the true story of Gretel Bergmann, who unwittingly became the biggest threat to the Nazi Party during the 1936 Olympic Games, this film is about one of the most bizarre Nazi schemes to keep a Jewish athlete from succeeding in sport. Hitler’s National Socialist Party finds itself at odds with the international sports community after they attempt to ban Jews from the German Olympic teams.
Gretel Bergmann is the best female high jumper in the world, but is relentlessly sabotaged by the Nazis as they stop at nothing to keep her from a gold medal because she is Jewish. Her skill and ethnicity undermined the Nazi belief that Aryans were the superior race, so the German authorities schemed to replace Gretel with another woman – but “she” had a secret that, if uncovered, could be even more embarrassing to the Nazis. Gretel valiantly defies them as long as she can and excels in training, only to be forced off the team after the Nazis stoop to threatening her family if she continues to persist for a spot on the German Olympic team. Gretel ultimately escapes to America where she can begin a new life and put the Nazis behind her.
This film features an interview with Gretel Bergmann, now Margaret Lambert, the name she had taken after her arrival in the United States and marriage to her husband, Bruno Lambert. We had the distinct pleasure of getting to meet Mrs. Lambert and sharing more of her story of arriving in the United States and beginning a new life, as well as of her consulting role in the production of Berlin ’36. Mrs. Lambert has long since reconciled with her native country of Germany, and cast away the bitterness of the past. A stadium in her hometown of Laupheim is named after Mrs. Lambert in her honor.
Excerpt from Press Release following the 2010 Stony Brook Film Festival, Stony Brook, NY
“These wonderful German films rose to the top, with hundredths of a point separating them in the balloting,” noted Alan Inkles. “Berlin ’36 takes us back to Hitler’s Germany, while Ayla is a look at the life of Turkish families living in Germany right now. Both are about admirable, young, determined women.”
FESTIVALS / AWARDS
- Stony Brook Film Festival – BEST FEATURE AUDIENCE CHOICE
- New York Jewish Film Festival
- Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival