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Berlin 1936 Reviews

Berlin 1936 by Oliver Hilmes

Berlin 1936

Sixteen Days in August

Oliver Hilmes

4.10 out of 5

4 reviews

Category: History, Non-fiction
Imprint: The Bodley Head Ltd
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 22 Feb 2018
ISBN: 9781847924339

Takes you through the sixteen days in August 1936, when the Olympic Games were staged in Berlin. With a chapter dedicated to each day, this title describes the events in the German capital through the eyes of a select cast of characters - Nazi leaders and foreign diplomats, athletes and journalists, writers and actors, nightclub owners and more.

1 Prize for Berlin 1936

William Hill Sports Book of the Year
2018 Shortlist

Graham Sharpe, Chairman of Judges and co-founder of the Award, said:

“This has proved to be one of the most competitive renewals in the lengthy history of the Award, with 17 worthy titles vying for a place on the shortlist. We believe the resulting magnificent seven set an extraordinarily high standard, bringing a depth of insight and fresh perspective to areas of sport and sporting history so often misunderstood, misinterpreted, underestimated or overlooked in the headline-led, here today, gone tomorrow media culture.  We believe readers will not only enjoy but also learn from these game-changing books as we have. 

“At 30 years old, we’re in the unique position to look back over three decades of publishing and to see how some things have changed dramatically, and others have not - the notably small number of female authors being published in this field, for instance, across a range of sports. Whilst the breadth and scope of sports writing has undoubtedly improved, and its reception and recognition by the literary world is much changed, there are still some areas where there is significant work to be done.”


4 stars out of 5
25 Nov 2018

After trawling the archives, Hilmes has contrived a daily journal covering the 16 days of the Olympic Games in Berlin in August 1936. Sporting reports, weather forecasts and police bulletins are interweaved with semi-fictional renderings of such various figures as Henri de Baillet-Latour, the Belgian president of the IOC, Thomas Wolfe, the American novelist, and Joseph Goebbels. It all conjures up a sense of corruption, nauseating decadence and impending doom.

5 stars out of 5
Peter Carey
1 Mar 2018

"...mesmerising. He mimics the way we absorb news and current affairs through myriad sources"

Hilmes’ narrative mosaic becomes mesmerising. He mimics the way we absorb news and current affairs through myriad sources, and thereby lends his portrait of the Games an immediacy that is unsettling. This is due to the strength of the illusion but it is also because of a sense of mounting claustrophobia. It becomes horribly clear that if you are from a targeted minority group then you need to get out of Berlin and Germany just as fast as you can. The government has stoked up hatred to staggering levels and you linger at your peril...In Germany Berlin 1936 has been a bestseller. It is easy to understand why it is compulsive reading in a country where the shadows of Nazism never recede, but it has disconcerting resonances for a wider audience too. 

3 stars out of 5
Nikolaus Wachsmann
22 Feb 2018

"...by favouring anecdote over analysis, Berlin 1936 is ultimately more entertaining than revealing"

There are more substantive histories of the Nazi Olympics, but Berlin 1936 is the most readable. Hilmes has a gift for storytelling...Yet by favouring anecdote over analysis, Berlin 1936 is ultimately more entertaining than revealing. There is plenty of high society tittle-tattle, such as Hitler’s favourite film-maker Leni Riefenstahl lusting after the “perfectly toned body” of a US decathlete. By contrast, the book has little about ordinary Berliners, who did not frequent fancy nightspots, and it skimps on the wider political context and the long-term significance of the games.

4 stars out of 5
Robbie Millen
17 Feb 2018

"It dances from comedy to tragedy, from the ironic to the sinister, to give a picture of a darkening Germany"

Berlin 1936 is an entertaining account of the 16 days of the Berlin Olympics. It is not a straight history of the Games — though it will tell you that Germany won 33 gold medals and the US came second with 24, and that the athletes consumed 80,261 kilos of meat and 233,748 oranges. Rather it is a vivid collage of vignettes gleaned from diaries and memoirs, police reports, snippets from newspapers, and so on. It dances from comedy to tragedy, from the ironic to the sinister, to give a picture of a darkening Germany...Hilmes has an eye for incidental detail. An excerpt from the daily instructions of the Reich press conference commanded: “The Italian gold medallist is named Georg Oberweger, not Giorgio Oberweger. Sports reporters are to take care not to de-Germanify athletes’ first names.