Host City: Amsterdam, Netherlands
Venue(s): Olympic Stadium, Amsterdam
Date Started: August 8, 1928
Date Finished: August 9, 1928
Format: Twelve-person teams. Team score only given based on drill, score on apparatus, and jumps.
Only five teams competed in the first women's Olympic gymnastics event. The Dutch team won the event quite easily with Italy a clear winner over Great Britain for the silver medal. The Italian team was remarkably young, with 9 of the 12 members under 15-years-old. The oldest team member was Lavinia Gianoni at 17 years, 190 days old while the youngest was Luigina Giavotti at only 11 years, 300 days old. Through 2012 she is the youngest woman to compete at the Summer Olympics, although five figure skaters at the Winter Olympics have been younger.
The event is more remembered, however, for the fate of half the winning Dutch team. Four of the team members, the alternate, and their coach, were Jewish, and all would lose their lives, along with several of their children, in Nazi concentration camps.
The coach was Gerrit Kleerekoper, who died at Sobibor on 2 July 1943, along with his wife, Kaatje, and their 14-year-old daughter Elisabeth. Their 18-year-old son Leendert died at Auschwitz on 31 July 1944. The alternate was Judikje Simons, later Themans-Simons, who died on 3 March 1943, also at Sobibor, along with her husband, Bernard Themans, and their five-year-old daughter Sonja, and three-year-old son Leon.
Of the actual competitors in 1928, Lea Nordheim, Ans Polak, and Stella Agsteribbe all went to their fate at the hands of the Nazis, along with their families. Nordheim was killed at Sobibor on 2 July 1943, along with her husband, Abraham, and their 10-year-old daughter, Rebecca. Polak was killed at Sobibor on 23 July 1943, alongside her six-year-old daughter, Eva, while her husband, Barend, died at Auschwitz on 30 November 1944. Agsterribbe, later Blits-Agsterribbe, was killed at Auschwitz on 17 September 1943, along with her six-year-old daughter Nanny, and two-year-old son Alfred. Her husband, Samuel Blits, died at Auschwitz on 28 April 1944.
Of the Jewish team members, only Elka de Levie survived the war. She died in Amsterdam on 29 December 1979 and never spoke of the tragedy of her teammates or how she survived. In 2003, Alie van den Bos, who was not Jewish, died at the age of 101, the oldest surviving Olympic champion prior to her death.