Margaret Lambert had just won the high jump at the 1934 British Championships and was traveling with her father in the outskirts of London when she first saw published reports declaring the news. The Nazi party in Germany had just completed a purge of its political opponents, consolidating power for Adolf Hitler. Which is why what her father told her next was so shocking.
Lambert — then Gretel Bergmann — was Jewish and did not expect to return to the country in which she was born. But her father said they had received a letter from the Nazi government demanding that she come back to Germany.
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She recalled her father’s words: “Look, I won’t force you into anything, but we were threatened, the family, living in Germany. The consequences, they can’t guarantee what’s going to happen.”
Lambert, one of the premier high jumpers in the world, was specially requested to join the German Olympic team in a bid to paint the Nazis as non-discriminatory, and thus avoid a boycott of the 1936 Berlin Olympics by the United States and other countries. One problem: “It was a sham,” she said 60 years later in a video interview published by the USC Shoah Foundation.
Lambert, 103, died in her home in Queens on…
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