Olympic Medal Sells for $488K: 'Hitler Must Have Gone Crazy'

Silver medal won by Germany's Luz Long, who embraced gold winner Jesse Owens at '36 Games
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 19, 2022 10:05 AM CDT
Olympic Silver Medal With Quite a Backstory Sells for $488K
In this Aug. 11, 1936, file photo, America's Jesse Owens, center, salutes during the presentation of his gold medal for the long jump, alongside silver medalist Luz Long, right, of Germany, and bronze medalist Naoto Tajima, of Japan, during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.   (AP Photo/File)

The silver medal captured by Luz Long, the German long jumper who befriended Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, sold at auction for more than $488,000, a sum the auction house said was a record price for a publicly sold second-place prize. Long walked arm in arm through the stadium with Owens to celebrate their victories while Adolf Hitler watched from the stands. The family of the long jumper, who was killed in World War II, decided to auction the medal and other collectibles, per the AP. The auction house labeled the Luz collection as the "Beacon of Hope." "These world-record results showcase the amazing story of Luz Long, the most courageous Olympian," said David Kohler, the president of SCP Auctions.

About a year ago, Bill Russell's Olympic gold medal from the 1956 Games sold for $587,000. One of Owens' gold medals sold for $1.46 million in 2013. The exact price of Luz's medal was $488,435. Long cemented himself in Olympic lore during the Berlin Games when he was the first to congratulate Owens on his triumph in the long jump. Later they walked around the stadium together and posed for pictures. There's also the story Owens told of Long approaching him after he fouled on his first two attempts in the preliminary round. With only one more try to make the final, Owens said Long suggested he take off a foot in front of the board, to assure he wouldn't foul on his last try.

Owens took that advice and went on to win the title—one of four he captured in Berlin—with a then-Olympic record jump of 8.06 meters (26 feet, 5 1/2 inches). Owens was Black, and his stirring success at those Olympics was said to have annoyed Hitler by puncturing the Nazi myth of Aryan racial superiority. "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me," Owens said years later. "You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment. Hitler must have gone crazy watching us embrace."

(Read more Olympic medal stories.)

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