Sunday, July 23, 2017

Luz Long and Jesse Owens

In the 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens won four gold medals under the eyes of Hitler. He also made a friend, German long jumper Luz Long, who congratulated Owens after his winning jump in front of the whole stadium. The two remained friends and wrote numerous letters to each other. This is Long's last letter to Owens, written from North Africa in 1941, not long before Long was killed:
I am here, Jesse, where it seems there is only the dry sand and the wet blood. I do not fear so much for myself, my friend Jesse, I fear for my woman who is home, and my young son Karl, who has never really known his father.

My heart tells me, if I be honest with you, that this is the last letter I shall ever write. If it is so, I ask you something. It is a something so very important to me. It is you go to Germany when this war done, someday find my Karl, and tell him about his father. Tell him, Jesse, what times were like when we not separated by war. I am saying—tell him how things can be between men on this earth.

If you do this something for me, this thing that I need the most to know will be done, I do something for you, now. I tell you something I know you want to hear. And it is true.

That hour in Berlin when I first spoke to you, when you had your knee upon the ground, I knew that you were in prayer.

Then I not know how I know. Now I do. I know it is never by chance that we come together. I come to you that hour in 1936 for purpose more than der Berliner Olympiade.

And you, I believe, will read this letter, while it should not be possible to reach you ever, for purpose more even than our friendship.

I believe this shall come about because I think now that God will make it come about. This is what I have to tell you, Jesse.

I think I might believe in God.

And I pray to him that, even while it should not be possible for this to reach you ever, these words I write will still be read by you.

Your brother,
Owens did indeed go to Germany and meet Karl Long; he ended up being the best man in Long's wedding.

From Letters of Note

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

Sometimes I think the most important pieces of history are the ones that remind us that people are not their governments, that enemies in war are made up things, and that at the end of the day, we're all merely human, whatever other differences may exist.