An Olympic handbook from Berlin 1936 [photos]

Never seen an Olympic Handbook before? Let’s leaf through Eugene Fruehauf’s, US rower who attended the Berlin 1936 Olympic Games.

Eugene Fruehauf olympic games berlin 1936, olympic handbook
The US rowing team for Berlin 1936 Olympic Games. Eugene Fruehauf, Allyson’s grandpa, is the smiling man in the center, bottom row.


Allyson Klein is a colleague of mine at Automattic. We were talking about the upcoming Rio 2016 Olympics when she mentioned with proud that her grandfather Eugene attended the Berlin 1936 edition as a rower.

He’d shot a series of amazing photos during his Olympic adventure, and Allyson’s grandfathers and cousin scanned them into an online album for their family. That’s how this Olympic Handbook is born!

The Olympic Handbook – US rowing Olympic Team for Berlin 1936

I personally loved leafing though Eugene’s pictures. They’re extremely genuine, and make me see the whole experience through the eyes of an Olympic athlete who attended the Games 80 years ago.

Also, the settings of this Olympic handbook are quite fascinating: the US Olympic team reached Europe by boat! Then, Eugene pictured the Opening Ceremony, the Olympic village, the rowing fields and some races.

Considering also the timeframe and the place – the Nazi Germany three years before the beginning of WWII – the vibes I can catch from the Olympic handbook are nice and relaxed. The happy, laughing people captured by Eugene don’t clash with the Nazi flag appearing in some picture backgrounds.

The Olympic athletes and the world couldn’t imagine that the following Olympic edition wouldn’t take place.

Eugene Fruehauf, a 4- US rower

I asked Allyson about his grandfather Eugene and his wonderful experience at Berlin 1936. Here’s what she told me:

He was in a 4-person coxswain-less boat which means they didn’t have a coxswain shouting at them to keep rowing. They were very behind the times on boat craftmanship and construction which I find so interesting. UC Berkeley and the University of Washington State had boats that almost floated over the water they were made so well! They used completely different types of wood and had specialty designer make them for both teams, and many teams around the US! I don’t know why my grandpa’s team never got wind of it or if maybe they didn’t have the money to buy one. They got blown out of the water in their competition because their boats were so heavy in comparison to the other teams and countries.


My grandpa was married by the time he went to the Olympics. I don’t know if his whole boat was by then or not but he was working and trying to train and support his wife by then. I don’t remember if one of my uncles was born by then, I don’t think so. He worked construction so he was strong as were so many of the guys from Washington. they all worked on building dams, logging, etc. Washington guys and my grandfather all were very hardworking, poor people working hard for to achieve their goals. They had a lot in common unlike Berkeley where there was a lot of money to be spent and they were well to do.

Want some context behind this Olympic Handbook?

If you haven’t heard of the book Boys in the Boat, that’s the right reading connected to Eugene’s story. It’s about the Berkeley and Washington teams at the 1936 Olympics. You will learn more about reading that book than anywhere else! It makes you feel like you were right there with the author ;)

Eugene did an amazing job of documenting Berlin 1936 with his photos and telling his story through the Olympic handbook! Thanks to Allyson for sharing this amazing story with us!

Photo credit: Eugene Fruehauf