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  • Published: 6 June 2019
  • ISBN: 9781784705428
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $19.99

Berlin 1936

Sixteen Days in August

A captivating account of the Nazi Olympics – told through the voices and stories of those who were there.


A captivating account of the Nazi Olympics – told through the voices and stories of those who were there.

'Compelling, suspenseful and beautifully done' Anna Funder, author of STASILAND

For sixteen days in the summer of 1936, the world’s attention turned to the German capital as it hosted the Olympic Games.
Seen through the eyes of a cast of characters – Nazi leaders and foreign diplomats, athletes and journalists, nightclub owners and jazz musicians – Berlin 1936 plunges us into the high tension of this unfolding scene.

Alongside the drama in the Olympic Stadium – from the triumph of Jesse Owens to the scandal when an American tourist breaks through the security and manages to kiss Hitler – Oliver Hilmes takes us behind the scenes and into the lives of ordinary Berliners: the woman with a dark secret who steps in front of a train, the transsexual waiting for the Gestapo’s knock on the door, and the Jewish boy hoping that Germany may lose in the sporting arena.

During the sporting events the dictatorship was partially put on hold; here then, is a last glimpse of the vibrant and diverse life in Berlin in the 1920s and 30s that the Nazis aimed to destroy.


  • Published: 6 June 2019
  • ISBN: 9781784705428
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Oliver Hilmes

Oliver Hilmes studied history, politics and psychology in Paris, Marburg and Potsdam, and holds a doctorate in twentieth-century history. His books include Malevolent Muse: The Life of Alma Mahler, Cosima Wagner: The Lady of Bayreuth and Franz Liszt: Musician, Celebrity, Superstar. Berlin 1936 was a top-ten bestseller on publication in Germany.

Praise for Berlin 1936

A dense, enthralling portrait of those sixteen days, reflective of the whole of Germany. As riveting as a novel.

Neues Deutschland

A breathtaking book

Die Welt

A punchy, vibrant, and highly original account of the most controversial of all modern Olympiads.

David Clay Large, author of NAZI GAMES: THE OLYMPICS OF 1936

Carrying readers to venues far from the fields of athletic competition, the richly detailed 16-day narrative spotlights men and women who receive no medals but who deserve empathetic attention . A riveting drama.

Booklist (starred review)

This story is so well told it's almost criminal - precise and swift like a 400-meter-hurdle race. It's difficult to assign this book to a single genre . It reads like a historical novel of society, albeit one grounded in diaries, newspaper reports and other sources.

Frankfurter Rundschau

The light-footed, elegant tale of a summer 80 years ago.

Berliner Zeitung

A riveting, immersive glimpse into German-and indeed global-life tiptoeing towards disaster. Through Hilmes's creative approach to historical storytelling, a multivocal Berlin lives and breathes vividly.

Jessica J. Lee, author of TURNING: A SWIMMING MEMOIR

This fascinating work captures the simmering complexity of a society as it enters one of the darkest chapters of modern history. With chilling immediacy, Hilmes offers portraits taken from a whole cross section of Berlin, characters as vivid as any from an Otto Dix or George Grosz painting

Chloe Aridjis, author of BOOK OF CLOUDS

Written with great verve, compassion and humour, Hilmes' book brings to life a panoramic cast of characters ... Compelling, suspenseful and beautifully done

Anna Funder, author of STASILAND

Entertaining... A vivid collage of vignettes gleaned from diaries, police reports, snippets from newspapers, and so on. It dances from comedy to tragedy, from the ironic to the sinister, to give a picture of a darkening Germany... Hilmes has an eye for incidental detail.

Robbie Millen, The Times

Hilmes has unearthed many memorable vignettes ... Jefferson Chase's smooth translation contributes to a chillingly breezy read.

Simon Kuper, Spectator

Hilmes has a gift for storytelling ... entertaining ... a delicately crafted treat

Nikolaus Wachsmann, Guardian

Hilmes' narrative mosaic becomes mesmerising.

Peter Carty

Thrilling ... Berlin 1936, with its keyhole glimpses into otherwise private lives, gives us an engaging portrait of those last flashes individuality in the Third Reich.

Robert Leigh-Pemberton, Daily Telegraph

Fascinating. Oliver Hilmes' pen portrait immerses the reader in a city still resistant to totalitarian control

David Evans, The Tablet

Fascinating. meticulous research

Roger Domeneghetti, Times Literary Supplement


Matt Chilton, **Books of the Year**, Daily Telegraph

A German historian charts the Berlin Olympics day by day through a series of memorable vignettes of life under Nazism. Hilmes' deceptively jaunty, even comic tone echoes that of the Games themselves

Simon Kuper, Financial Times, **Books of the Year**

Anybody looking for an alternative history of one of the most controversial Games in the history of the Olympics should look no further

Daily Express

Jefferson Chase's excellent translation gives us taut prose that adds to the sense of unease

Emma John, Guardian, **Books of the Year**

This book reads like a tourist guide to a city on the eve of destruction

Gerard DeGroot, The Times, **Books of the Year**

Eighty years after the events it depicts, Berlin 1936 is a small masterpiece - you actually feel like you were there. The book was originally in German, but Jefferson Chase's translation is so perfectly judged, you'd never even notice

Marcus Berkmann, Daily Mail, **Books of the Year**

A masterpiece, and a highly original one too

Simon Briggs, Daily Telegraph, **Books of the Year**

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