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Berlin Games: How the Nazis Stole the Olympic Dream Paperback – August 7, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. An iconic cast of athletes and political figures shares an international stage in this complex and engaging account of the planning, execution, and aftermath of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Demonstrating an impressive and well-controlled sense of scope, Walters transitions between the International Olympic Committee debates regarding Germany's political situation, the individual stories of certain key athletes, and the world-wide perception of Hitler's regime as seen through the contemporary press. The pervasive and sometimes cunningly subtle anti-Semitism that pervaded all aspects of 1930s Germany provides a provocative thread that Walters follows diligently, teasing out the truth behind the Nazi propaganda and exploring the motivations of part-Jewish German athletes, such as Helene Meyer, to conform, at least outwardly, to Nazi ideology. Walters also follows the legendary Jesse Owens, debunking some of the myths surrounding his performance in the '36 games (Hitler probably did not personally snub Owens, for example) and replacing them with the equally impressive reality of his accomplishments. Throughout, Walters lays on the pathos without falling into melodrama or sports cliché. Instead, his rigorous journalism relies on succinct summations of his characters' histories, which prove both even-handed and generous. Walters strays from objectivism only in his tireless maligning of the Nazi agenda, providing the work a righteous momentum.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Walters, a novelist and historian, chronicles not just the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics but also the several years leading up to the games and (briefly) their political and historical aftermath. There are several stories to juggle: Jewish athletes excluded from competition by Adolf Hitler's racist policies, Olympic organizers caught up in Hilter's political machinations, a dictator's rise to power, and a world poised on the brink of war while its athletes tried to pretend everything was just fine. Walters does an excellent job of painting the big picture while zeroing in on the small details. He writes with a journalist's precision and a novelist's dramatic flair, and he packs a staggering amount of information into the book. (Did you know that the official Olympic salute is, coincidentally, virtually identical to the Nazi salute?) The combination of sports, history, and politics should guarantee this volume a large and enthusiastic audience. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I had not realize that the torch run from Olympia in Greece was introduced in the 1936 Olympics. It was the beginning of the tradition which still is present today. It will be interesting to see if that tradition is continued in Rio de Janerio in 2016.
Thus, despite the fact that the Nazis had passed the Nuremberg Laws in 1935 (forbidding, e.g., marriage or sexual relations between Jews and Germans), the International Olympic Committee worked with the Nazis to ensure that the games went on and colloborated in pretending that there was no actual discrimination.
In this regard, placed in a particularly bad light are American sports officials who more often than not were guilty of racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism against their own citizens. (E.g., much to do was made in the American press about the (apparently false) story that Hitler snubbed Jesse Owens by refusing to shake his hand, yet Jesse Owens came home to a country whose citizens as a whole treated him worse than the Germans he dealt with during the Olympics.)
In the end, however, despite all the much-deserved hoopla about Jesse Owens, the real winners of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games were the Nazis as they impressed the world with their efficiency (a record number of countries, over 4 dozen, participated in the Games) and the Games were a propaganda bonanza for them. For example, the Nazis instituted the practice of carrying the Olympic torch from Olympia to the site of the games, an event which they heavily publicised. In addition, their organization of the Games was impeccable (including premier housing for the athletes), their Olympic Stadium (holding over 100,000 spectators) was a monumental showpiece, and the Games even turned a profit.Read more ›
The book is a page-turner with Walters' captivating narrative style, and successfully combines the political and athletic stories of the 1936 Olympic Games. Unfortunately the author lets his personal views enter his narrative to the point that it becomes quickly repetitive. While it is obviously understandable for one to despise the Nazi regime, Walters would be better served to tell a straightforward narrative rather than to constantly interject his disgust for all things Nazi. The story also seems to stray from its main point--who really won the Olympics that year--by including results from athletic contests that do not seem to have any direct impact on the overall story. In place of this content could have been stronger examples of exactly how the Olympics positively impacted the Third Reich's international image (how did other nations respond?). These are small complaints that really don't mar what is a solid overview of what happens when politics and athletics crossover.
Author Guy Walters does impeccible research of documents and individuals to bring a complete picture of how the Nazi Party virtually took over the International Olympic movement as it set the stage for war. Though the Games were awarded to Germany before the Nazi Party took full control of the government and Hitler was initially not in favor of holding the event, the benefits from a propoganda machine operating from every home to each Olympic venue became too great to pass up.
Though athletic officials and politicians knew about the growing oppression in Germany, Walters uses documents and quotes culled from meetings to show the utter appeasement that occurred. For example, American sports official Avery Brundage had written that Hitler was "a god," and then did everything in his power to successfully discredit and destroy the movement in the U.S. to boycott the competition.
Brundage did not see anything wrong with the Nazi ideal, but he did deal harshly with a top female swimmer on the U.S. team. She was kicked off the squad due to her partying on the ocean liner that was taking the team to Europe.
There were athletes who wanted to use the world stage to destroy the myths surrounding the Nazi movement. A German wrestler - who was a member of the Communist Party - hoped to parlay a winning performance by refusing to give the Nazi salute on the medal stand and use a live-radio interview as a means to tell the world about the real Germany.
There were other athletes who used the Olympics for different goals.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is the most fascinating of the Olympic games.
I'll just repeat this over and over. I recommend every book on the 1936 games.
Great insights into the most politically interesting Olympics ever held.Published 20 months ago by Stephen M. St Clair
But I must. Maybe it is a personal bias, but I can't stand sensationalism with no redeeming qualities. Read morePublished on January 16, 2009 by Neurofox