Margaret Bergmann Lambert, a record-breaking athlete who was barred by the Nazis from competing for Germany in the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics because she was Jewish, died in Queens, N.Y. on Tuesday at the age of 103.
Lambert was known in her athletic prime as “The Great Jewish Hope.” Then known as Gretel Bergmann, she set the German record with a high-jump of five feet, three inches at a meet at Adolf Hitler Stadium in Stuttgart a month before the Games. But she soon received a letter from Nazi officials stating: “Looking back on your recent performances, you could not possibly have expected to be chosen for the team.”
The meet had only been an exhibition to convince athletes considering boycotting the Olympics that Germany didn’t discriminate in sports. Her name was removed from the German record books.
She immigrated to the United States the following year, and quickly won the U.S. women’s high-jump championships in 1937 and 1938. But World War II forced the cancellation of the 1940 Olympics — she was never able to compete on the biggest stage in sports.
In 1938, she married another German refugee, Dr. Bruno Lambert, who died in 2013. She is survived by two children, two grandchildren, and a great-grandchild.
Today, sports stadiums are named after her in Queens, Berlin and her hometown of Laupheim. Her German national high jump record was restored in 2009.