• Siegfried Eifrig 1936 with the torch on avenue Unter den Linden
    Siegfried Eifrig 1936 with the torch on avenue Unter den Linden © Sportmuseum Berlin - AIMS Marathon-Museum of Running
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Siegfried Eifrig - Last Berlin Torch Bearer from 1936 Dies - His torch will find a permanent home in the Berlin Sports Museum - AIMS Marathon Museum of Running

With the death of Siegfried Eifrig on Monday, June 23, 2008, likely the last German torch bearer from the first Olympic torch relay from 1936 has passed away, speculates Gerd Steins, sports historian for the Berlin Sports Museum.  According to Steins, approximately 3,000 runners participated in the relay from Athens to Berlin, yet only a few were recorded by name. 

The 400m-runner Siegfried Eifrig, who later served for years as treasurer for the Berlin Marathon, died at age 98.  On August 1, 1936, Siegfried Eifrig carried the Olympic flame into the center of Berlin, lighting two urns that burned for the duration of the Olympic Games.  From there the flame was carried to the Olympic Stadium, where Fritz Schilgen, the final runner in the relay, ignited the Olympic flame. 

Schilgen died in 1995 at age 99.  In an interview with the German paper Tagesspiegel a few years ago, Siegfried Eifrig recalled his experiences carrying the Olympic torch.  120,000 people gathered along the grand boulevard in the center of Berlin.  It was a proud moment for him to be chosen by his Berlin club, Sport Club Charlottenburg (SCC), to carry the torch for Germany. 

Despite the extensive propaganda during the Games by the National Socialists, Eifrig never belonged to any political party.  After his torch was extinguished, he simply went home; he did not even get a ticket to the stadium to watch any of the Games.

As a sprinter for SCC, he was Berlin and Brandenburg champion in 1935 in the 4x400m relay and ran the traditional Berlin-Potsdam relay 40 times.  His personal best for the 100m was 11.0 seconds and 49.8 seconds for the 400m.  He was enlisted as a soldier in the Second World War and was in a British POW camp in Egypt, where he helped pass the years by organizing soccer and track events for the other internees.  When he returned to Berlin in 1947, he helped to rebuild his sports club in Charlottenburg, and later also the state bank, the Berliner Sparkasse, as bank director.

Siegfried Eifrig had five children, eight grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.  He kept his greatest memento from his career, his Olympic torch with the remaining magnesium candle, on a shelf in his living room; it survived the war in a suitcase hidden under a bowling lane, along with numerous clippings and photos from the athletic highlights of his youth. 

The torch will find a permanent home in the Berlin Sports Museum - AIMS Marathon Museum of Running, where it will always remain a reminder of a modest and fair man, who was a role model for many.

General Information on the Berlin Sports Museum - AIMS Marathon Museum of Running