The 14th European Maccabi Games, or "Jewish Olympics," were in full swing Wednesday, hosted in a Berlin stadium built seven decades ago by Adolf Hitler. More than 2,500 Jewish competitors are participating in the 10-day event at Olympic Stadium, where Hitler attempted to bar Jews from taking part in the 1936 Olympics, Reuters reported.
Participants from 36 nations will compete in the games that run through Aug. 5 featuring 19 events -- including basketball, chess, fencing and soccer. Germany is hosting the Maccabi Games for the first time, with many of the events taking place in the Nazi-era stadium.
“It is a special joy for us that the [games] are taking place in Germany for the first time,” Joseph Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement, via the Guardian. “Jewish athletes demonstrate that we Jews are a part of Europe, we belong to Germany -- and we won’t let anybody take that away from us.”
— The Independent (@Independent) July 28, 2015
After Hitler's Nazi Party took power in 1933, many Jews fled the country and some 6 million Jewish people were killed during the Holocaust in concentration camps. By the end of World War II, just 30,000 Jews remained in the country. But that population has grown since the end of the Cold War to the present number of about 250,000, Reuters reported.
"Berlin is the city in which the Holocaust had its beginnings," said Alon Meyer, president of Maccabi Germany, according to the Independent. “I am glad that we now have another Germany.”
Berlin's Maccabi Games, which began with opening ceremonies Tuesday, faced opposition from older Maccabi supporters because of Germany's past. But Meyer said most of the organization's 400,000 members supported the idea.
"The younger generation won in the end," he said, according to the Independent. "We will remember the Holocaust but we will then look forward to the future of Jewish life in Germany."
The Maccabi Games were created in 1929 in Prague as Jews wanted a competition free of anti-Jewish sentiment. Participants in the games need at least one Jewish parent or grandparent. The European championships are held every four years in different cities, two years after the Israel-hosted Maccabiah Games, which are also held quadrennially.