Berlin 1936: Sixteen Days in August
The Nazi Olympics are told, day by day, through the lives of an impressive array of sources, including top Nazi officials, international athletics, musicians and writers, and ordinary Berliners. Hilmes has written, from these disparate characters, a narrative which unfolds naturally, the text as riveting and digestible as a well-constructed piece of fiction. The use of extracts from Joseph Goebbels’ diaries is striking, situated as they are alongside the others, making passages such as “After the Olympics we’ll get ruthless… Then there will be some shooting” especially disturbing. It can be difficult at times to keep track of so many people, which is the only drawback, and is not aided by Hilmes introducing individuals to add flavor to a section only to never mention them again. The effort and expense to which the Nazis went in order suppress the repulsive nature of their regime for sixteen days comes across spectacularly; the obvious resulting question is ‘why?’, and though Hilmes mentions Germany not yet being prepared for war, he could have further explored Hitler’s motivations. An enjoyable read.