2 September 2022
By Tim Koch
Tim Koch has not yet finished with the Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe.
Historically the borders between Poland and Germany (Prussia before the 1871 Unification of Germany) have been fluid but I am still not sure how one particular group of German rowing photographs ended up in the Polish National Digital Archives (Narodowe Archiwum Cyfrowe), the treasure trove that I recently wrote about in my piece, Wioślarskie on the Web: Images of Rowing during the Second Polish Republic. The pictures show rowing contests on the 1936 Olympic rowing course in Grünau, Berlin, during the 1939 – 1945 War.
That rowing continued in Germany during the first eight months of the Second World War is not too surprising. This was the period that the British christened “The Phoney War” or “The Bore War”, the French, “Drôle de guerre” (“The Funny War”) and the Germans, “Sitzkrieg” (“The Sitting War”, a word play on “Blitzkrieg” or “Lightning War”).
Nazi Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 and the “phoney” period began with the declaration of war by the United Kingdom and France against Germany on 3 September 1939. After this, little actual warfare occurred until the German invasion of France and the Low Countries on 10 May 1940.
Even the end of the Sitzkrieg probably did not mean the end of leisure activities throughout the Reich. Hitler had expected a million of his soldiers to die in the Blitzkrieg in France. Instead, his goal was accomplished in just six weeks with 45,000 Germans killed or missing. The unexpectedly swift victory resulted in a wave of euphoria among the German population and Hitler’s popularity reached its peak with the French surrender in June 1940.
August 1940, The German Championships
There were German National Rowing Championships before the war, but the archive notes seem to count them from 1940. Presumably the wartime championships were not included in the run of “normal” competitions.
22 June 1941
Only with defeats at Stalingrad in 1942 and in North Africa in 1943 did Germanic doubts about certain victory start to set in. Coincidentally or not, the last Grünau rowing pictures in the Polish archive are from June 1943.