Publication Date: Feb 06, 2018
List Price US $12.99
List Price US $24.95
Trim Size (H x W): 5.5 x 8.25
A lively account of the 1936 Olympics told through the voices and stories of those who witnessed it, from an award-winning historian and biographer
Berlin 1936 takes the reader through the sixteen days of the Olympiad, describing the events in the German capital through the eyes of a select cast of characters—Nazi leaders and foreign diplomats, sportsmen and journalists, writers and socialites, nightclub owners and jazz musicians. While the events in the Olympic stadium, such as when an American tourist breaks through the security and manages to kiss Hitler, provide the focus and much of the drama, it also considers the lives of ordinary Berliners—the woman with a dark secret who steps in front of a train, the transsexual waiting for the Gestapo’s knock on the door, and the Jewish boy fearing for his future and hoping that Germany loses on the playing field.
During the games the Nazi dictatorship was in many ways put on hold, and Berlin 1936 offers a last glimpse of the vibrant and diverse life in the German capital in the 1920s and 30s that the Nazis wanted to destroy.
Excerpt from Berlin 1936
Joseph Goebbels is a great admirer Strauss’ ‘Olympic Hymn’. ‘It is truly wonderful’, he gushed after one of the rehearsals. ‘That fellow really can compose.’ Hitler, too, is satisfied with Strauss, telling one of his assistants to summon the composer to be congratulated after the ceremony. ‘Handshake with Hitler’, Pauline Strauss will note in her diary.
Spectators get no respite. As Strauss is still climbing down from his platform, the torch bearer charged with taking the Olympic flame the final kilometres from the Lustgarten to the stadium arrives through the Eastern Gate, runs across the oval track to the Marathon Gate and ignites a giant bowl of fire. Then Spyridon Louis, the gold medallist in the marathon at the first modern-day Games in Athens in 1896, presents Hitler with a symbolic olive branch from Olympia in Greece. At the end of the ceremony, the athletes—represented by the German weightlifter Rudolf Ismayr—take the Olympic oath. After reciting the vow, he waves a swastika flag instead of the Olympic one. Baillet-Latour is appalled at this violation of protocol. But what can he do?
The opening ceremony is almost over. Before Hitler leaves the stadium at 6.16 p.m., the musicians perform the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Georg Friedrich Händel’s Messiah—the final item on the programme. As the choir sings ‘And he shall reign forever and ever, king of kings and lord of lords forever, hallelujah, hallelujah’, the Polish ambassador to Germany, Józef Lipski, discretely taps Baillet-Latour on the shoulder. ‘We have to be on our guard against a people with such a talent for organisation’, Lipski whispers in the count’s ear. ‘They could mobilise their entire nation just as smoothly for war.’
“Carrying readers to venues far from the fields of athletic competition, the richly detailed 16-day narrative spotlights men and women who receive no medals but who deserve empathetic attention….With the skill of a novelist, Hilmes weaves into his account the menacing presence of Hitler, deviously staging the Games to deceive a global audience unaware of the horrific evils he is about to unleash. A riveting drama.” —Booklist (starred review)
“The drama and personal stories behind one of the most famous—and infamous—Olympic Games….offers memorable sequences, from chillingly amusing (Hermann Göring appearing in public in a different uniform depending on which of his many appellations an occasion called for) to harrowing, such as that prisoners already in Nazi camps were “beaten with sticks and hung from hooks with their hands bound behind their backs” while athletes celebrated 40 minutes away.” —Kirkus
“[A] witty, ironic diary of the final transitional days of Berlin, from bohemian superpower, to Goebbels-inspired new social media center for the gangsters of the Nazi party…It captures a moment in time never seen before…A delight to read.” —Stephen Hopkins, director of Race
“Oliver Hilmes’s Berlin 1936 is a punchy, vibrant, and highly original account of the most controversial of all modern Olympiads. By viewing each day of the festival through a wide cast of characters, from diplomats and sportsmen through coroners and concentration camp inmates, Hilmes pulls the reader into the drama of the moment without neglecting the wider context of Nazi oppression and brutality.” —David Clay Large, author of Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936, and Munich 1972: Tragedy, Terror, and Triumph at the Olympic Games
“A rewarding read for the specialist historian and general public alike. Hilmes has written a history that succeeds where other narratives of the ‘Nazi Games’ often fail. He manages to bring these sixteen days in the summer of 1936 back to life by unfolding a panorama in which the everyday and banal interacts with the special and extraordinary in often surprising and insightful ways. Through his vignettes of how individuals from all walks of life experienced the Berlin Olympics he takes us back to what many contemporaries in Germany and beyond perceived as the ‘good years’ of a dictatorship that simultaneously was planning the death of tens of millions through war and genocide.” —Professor Kay Schiller, author of The 1972 Munich Olympics and the Making of Modern Germany