Celebrity Lawyer: Luz Long, 1913-1943

Luz Long, 1913-1943

Carl Ludwig Luz Long was a German sprinter and long-jumper who finished second to Jesse Owens in the Berlin Olympic Games of 1936.

Long was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1913.

By the time the great black American sprinter Jesse Owens arrived in Berlin in the summer of 1936, little worried him ... except Long who was German and the reigning European long-jump champion.

But as Adolf Hitler and 100,000 spectators watched, Long went right up and shook the black American's hand. He thus befriended the great American athlete and did not shy from reaching out even though his own government was promoting a white Aryan race policy which would soon slip into genocide.

Owens and Luz LongLong helped Owens at the long-jump trials, when Owens was so spooked by European rules that he almost failed to qualify, even while Long posted an Olympic record, (soon to be smashed by Owens in the final). In the finals, Long finished second to Owens, and took home Olympic silver. When they stood on the podium to receive their medals, Long, standing behind Owens, made the de rigeur Nazi salute.

Owens was delighted as he knew that Long was the German opposition and was not expecting such a charming friend. One night, Long found Owens in the Olympic Village and they had a long private talk, resulting in a long friendship.

Luz continued to compete in track meets achieving his personal best of 7.90 meters in the long jump in 1937.

Luz finished law school at the University of Leipzig and briefly practiced in Hamburg. But inevitably, when the war turned against Germany, all healthy men were drafted and he became a Nazi soldier.

He wrote Owens a final letter in 1942, just after the United States declared war on Germany:

Jesse Owens and Luz Long

"My heart is telling me that this is perhaps the last letter of my life. If that is so, I beg one thing from you. When the war is over, please go to Germany, find my son and tell him about his father. Tell him about the times when war did not separate us and tell him that things can be different between men in this world.

"Your brother, Luz."

Luz Long was injured on July 10, 1943 when the Allies invaded Sicily. In a British field hospital, he died on July 13, 1943. He was only 30 and was buried in the war cemetery of Motta Sant'Anastasia, in Sicily.

In 1951, Jesse Owens kept his promise and found Long's son in war-torn German. He later said that what he valued the most from Olympic experience had been his friendship with Luz Long.

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Published: Monday, September 28, 2009
Last updated: Saturday, May 05, 2012
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