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Dynamo: Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev Paperback – September 1, 2004

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Paperback, September 1, 2004
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In 1941 the Ukraine had surrendered to Germany, and its citizens tried to prepare for their new lives under Nazi rule. Some of these citizens were members of Kiev's crack football team, the Dynamo. This very interesting book is the story of these men, who worked together in a bakery--the owner wasn't rescuing them, a la Oskar Schindler, so much as enjoying the prestige of having so many sports greats around him--and played a series of matches against various cobbled-together teams, including the German Luftwaffe. The author, better known for biographies of motion-picture giants such as Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, tells this unusual World War II story the way it should be told: by setting it in its context. These games were played out against a backdrop of ruthless and capricious tyranny. The book reaches a shocking conclusion, as--perhaps not entirely surprisingly--the Germans decided the Kievans were enjoying altogether too much freedom as a result of these sportsmen and their games. A fascinating, exciting, and, ultimately, deeply unsettling book. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Dougan's narrative is both inspiring and humbling... this is a moving and memorable book."
--London Tribune

"The author tells this unusual World War II story the way it should be told: by setting it in its context. A fascinating, exciting, and ultimately, deeply unsettling book."-- Booklist


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592284671
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592284672
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,633,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Anthony Calabrese on November 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The events detailed in this book have become the stuff of soccer legend. The infamous Kiev "Death Match" against the Nazis has been told and retold, but it is more myth than reality. Eduardo Galeano in "Soccer in Sun and Shadow" wrote that Dynamo "committed the insane act of defeating Hitler's squad in the local stadium" with the result that "all eleven were shot with their shirts at the edge of a cliff."
The story also became the inspiration for the cult classic movie "Victory" in which a team of allied prisoners of war play against the German National team in occupied Paris.
Yet the real story behind the myth, while in some ways not as dramatic, is just as compelling. Dynamo was the team of the Kiev branch of the NKVD. Yet most of the players were not secret policemen or even committed Stalinists. Rather, they were a group of extremely talented men who wanted to play soccer. All that changed with the coming of the German army in 1941.
But the Germans wanted to show that all was normal in occupied Ukraine, and normalcy required soccer. Finding themselves employed in a bakery, Dynamo was reborn as FC Start and played in a makeshift league against teams of Ukrainian nationalists collaborating with Hitler, Romanian and Hungarian occupation troops, and German army and air force teams.
Andy Dougan makes the era come alive, and shows the fears that drove the players. In the end, Dougan demolishes most of the myths of the "Death Match," though, unfortunately, not all. While the book was clearly written for a soccer audience, anyone interested in World War Two would be fascinated by Dougan's treatment of life in occupied Ukraine.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
British journalist Dougan's subject is probably better suited to a lengthy magazine essay, but has been inflated into this short book. In it, he examines the legend legendary "Death Match" between a squad of Ukrainian footballers and their German occupiers in Kiev during World War II. It's a legend that the former USSR was keen to propagate, and has remained largely intact through retellings in books such as Soccer In Sun and Shadow and Football Against the Enemy-until now. Although Dougan's book is about FC Start and their role as rallying point for the terrorized citizens of Kiev, the bulk of it really concerns the brutal Nazi occupation of the Ukraine. Indeed, there can be no better measure for it than to acknowledge that the horror comes through loud and clear despite Dougan's barely adequate prose. The book starts badly, with a wildly irrelevant and off-putting prologue wedding scene just prior to the Nazi invasion in 1941. Then the reader get various chunks of information: the history of football in the Ukraine, the history of the Dynamo Kiev team, a few profiles of key figures, a condensed version of Ukrainian history, and then the story of the siege of Kiev. All of which is welded together in prose that can only be described as serviceable.
Fortunately, Dougan's story of the '42 summer season (which the Germans allowed in order to demonstrate that life under their rule wasn't too bad, even as they were systematically murdering most of the population though death camps and slave labor), is told a little more ably. The tension builds as FC Start destroys all the competition in a league comprised of a teams ranging from a collaborationist Ukrainian nationalist side, to Romanian and Hungarian occupying army troops, and finally to German army and Luftwaffe teams.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kevin M Quigg VINE VOICE on February 19, 2007
Format: Paperback
The German Nazis were many things including murderers, and racists. In this interesting book by Dougan, they were also sore losers. This great Kiev team of footballers who survived the initial occupation of Kiev played several German teams. They dominated them and beat them in front of the German high command. This should have been the end of the story, but the German Nazis could not take defeat of their "superior" team, and arrested the team in mass and placed them in a concentration camp.

In the 1960s and 70s, Leondid Bresnhev resurrected the story of these footballers and made them national heroes. Dougan now details this terrific story for the Engish speaking world. The beginning of this story was rather slow, and the summary also could have been more detailed of the fates of all in the story. Other than that, a nice heroic story.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is much more than I expected. I purchased it because of my interest in football, Dynamo Kiev, and because of my german-russian background. I expected a book about soccer and it was much more. It opened my eyes to the facts surrounding the occupation of Kiev and the Russian perspective of the war. The story draws you in and it is hard to put the book down. It is also very personal for somebody with ties to the Kiev area and people.
If you are interested in these subjects, you should read this book. You will not be disappointed.
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