August 11, 2008
Washington, D.C.- Relatives of former New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and other Americans who opposed U.S. participation in the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany, have protested China’s cancellation of a visa for a former Olympic athlete who has criticized the Chinese role in Darfur.
The protest letter, which was organized by The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and sent to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, D.C. today, is in response to China’s decision to revoke the entry visa of Joey Cheek, an Olympic gold medalist speedskater. Cheek heads Team Darfur, a group of former Olympians who are critical of China’s support for the genocidal government of Sudan.
“The families of those who spoke out in 1936 are carrying on the tradition of their fathers and grandfathers, by speaking out against injustice,” said Wyman Institute director Dr. Rafael Medoff. “Barring Joey Cheek contradicts the Olympic spirit of tolerance and openness that China pledged to uphold.”
The signatories on the protest letter include:
* The family of Mayor La Guardia, a leading critic of the Nazi Olympics.
* The family of U.S. Representative Emanuel Celler (D-NY), the leading Congressional critic of U.S. participation in the 1936 games.
* The family of 1940s New York Yankees pitching ace Marius “Lefty” Russo, who in the 1930s was a Long Island University basketball star and boycotted the 1936 Olympics because of the Nazis’ persecution of the Jews.
* The families of track and field stars Herman Neugass, Norman Cahners, and Syd Koff, who likewise boycotted the 1936 Olympics.
* The families of Rabbis Louis Newman and Charles Levi, prominent American rabbis who were active in the movement to boycott the Nazi Olympics.
The complete text of the petition, with all the signatories, follows below.
* * *
The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies
August 8, 2008
Hon. Zhou Wenzhong
Office of the Ambassador
Embassy of the People’s Republic of China
via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
and fax 202-588-9760
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
As the families of American athletes and others who protested against the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany because of the persecution of German Jews, we are deeply disappointed that China has revoked the visa of Olympic gold medalist Joey Cheek, who has been critical of China’s support for the genocidal government of Sudan.
The lesson our family members taught us is that the Olympics present an opportunity to promote greater international tolerance and understanding. In 2001, China was awarded the right to host this year’s Olympics in part because of its promise to permit open access to the games by the international media and to allow those who disagree with Chinese government policies to express themselves. Barring Joey Cheek contravenes the spirit of openness and tolerance that China pledged to facilitate and our family members valued so highly.
Like our parents, Joey Cheek and his colleagues at Team Darfur have spoken out against injustice and oppression. They have a moral right to do so. We respectfully urge your government, in keeping with the Olympic spirit, to restore Mr. Cheek’s visa.
Marian Markovich and family
Fort Myers, FL
(Daughter of LIU basketball star Marius “Lefty” Russo, who boycotted the 1936 Nazi Olympics.)
Prof. Eric La Guardia
(Son of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who was a leading opponent of U.S. participation in the 1936 Nazi Olympics.)
Richard Neugass and family
(Son of Tulane sprinter Herman Neugass, who boycotted the 1936 Nazi Olympics.)
Robert and Nancy Cahners
(Children of Harvard track and field star Norman Cahners, who boycotted the 1936 Nazi Olympics.)
Steve Cooper and family
New York, NY
(Son of track and field star Syd Koff, who boycotted the 1936 Nazi Olympics.)
Family of the late U.S. Congressman Emanuel Celler
New York, NY
(Celler was the leading Congressional critic of holding the 1936 games in Germany.)
Rabbi Charles S. Levi
(Grandson of Rabbi Harry Levi, who persuaded two Olympic-qualifying athletes to boycott the 1936 games in Nazi Germany.)
Prof. Saul Newman and family
(Grandson of Rabbi Louis I. Newman, who was a leading opponent of the 1936 Nazi Olympics.)