Thomas Mann, listening to the Games from exile in Switzerland, knew that Hitler’s intent was “to intimidate, indeed...



The drama and personal stories behind one of the most famous—and infamous—Olympic Games.

Hitler’s goal for the 1936 Berlin Games, as Hilmes (Malevolent Muse: The Life of Alma Mahler, 2015, etc.) writes, was “to give visitors a positive impression of the Third Reich using the Olympics as camouflage.” The author uses this event—the book has 16 chapters, one for each day of competition—to show the extent of Hitler’s deception and its effect on actors, nightclub owners, everyday Berliners, and others. Among the ordinary citizens are a woman with a secret so painful that, rather than confess to her husband, she stepped in front of a moving train and a transvestite so afraid of detection she would not leave her apartment to see a doctor and died from a burst artery. Among the celebrities are Richard Strauss, who disdained “sports foolishness” yet still composed an “Olympic Hymn”; Jesse Owens, the American track star whose four gold medals were, in Joseph Goebbels’ view, “an affront to the idea of white supremacy”; Leni Riefenstahl, whose film about the Games gives “a seemingly objective picture of an open-minded, cosmopolitan and peaceful Germany”; and Thomas Wolfe, whose falsely sanitized view of Germany changed dramatically during the event. Though Hilmes bogs down the story with too many unnecessary details—e.g., the streets people live on, the clubs they frequent, weather forecasts—he still 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.

Thomas Mann, listening to the Games from exile in Switzerland, knew that Hitler’s intent was “to intimidate, indeed overwhelm the rest of the world.” This mostly illuminating book chronicles those efforts and suggests the horrors to come.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59051-929-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?


For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

Did you like this book?