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Berlin Games: How the Nazis Stole the Olympic Dream Paperback – August 7, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (August 7, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060874139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060874131
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,104,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A rather fascination look at the 1936 Olympic Games, both winter and summer, in Nazi Germany, It was more than Jesse Owens four gold medals which most Americans are led to believe. Overall the number of medals were won by Germans as Hitler et.al. wanted and expected. The politics of the games were paramount to the Germans and disturbing when they came up short in the track and field events won by Owens. The fact that the German audience was cheering for an American "neger" was certainly an embarrassment to the Reich officials.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is an interesting, and long overdue, chronicle of not just the 1936 Olympic Games themselves (held in Hitler's Germany) but also of the many machinations that went on behind the scenes to ensure that the Games would be held despite the Nazis' treatment of the Jews and others considered to be undesirable.

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.
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Format: Paperback
The main strength of this book is its cast of fascinating figures. Berlin Games follows Nazi leaders such as Hitler and Goebbels in their attempt to stage the 1936 Olympics as state propaganda, athletic leaders such as the American Avery Brundage (future president of the IOC) who resisted the social pressure to boycott the Berlin Olympics, and of course the athletes. Obviously the story of Jesse Owens contradicting Aryan racial myths with his stellar performance, winning four gold medals by the end of the games, receives a fair amount of coverage, but numerous other athletes with interesting stories to tell were also present. These include the German wrestler Werner Seelenbinder, whose quest it was to win a medal in order to snub the Nazis on a grand stage; Helen Stephens, the track star who resisted romantic requests from both Hitler and Hermann Goering; and Helene Mayer, a Jewish fencer who competed for the Nazis despite the persecution she suffered because of her background.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin was a watershed moment for sports and politics, with its ramifications rippling through history some 70 years later.

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.
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