Flight from Berlin

Written by David John
Review by Audrey Braver

In 1936, Berlin is ready to host the Olympics. Everything has been done to make the city appear cosmopolitan, modern, and welcoming to its international guests. While the black eagle flags and swastikas are evident everywhere, all signs indicating “Jews not welcome” have been removed from shops, hotels, and restaurants.

John’s protagonists are two journalists: Richard Denham, who is British, and Eleanor Emerson, a former American Olympic champion swimmer. The German Olympic team includes a token Jew, international fencing champion Hannah Liebermann, who has been coerced into competing for the German Reich in order to save her family. When Eleanor learns of this coercion, she tries to interview Hannah. She wants to expose Germany’s persecution of Jews. Meanwhile Denham is mistaken for a British agent and is being closely watched by the SS, Hitler’s black-shirted Schutzstaffel, the very name invoking terror in even the most loyal of German citizens.

David John has written an intelligent, fast-paced novel that is at times gripping. There is an escape from Germany aboard the ill-fated Zeppelin, the Hindenburg. John uses real people interwoven with the fictional characters to add color and authenticity. While there may be some historical manipulation, it is employed to enhance the story. This is an excellent novel.