Eighty years ago this summer, the world converged on Berlin for the 1936 Summer Olympics. It was the biggest, most modern and most perfectly choreographed spectacle the world had ever seen – and whose inventions, from the Olympic torch relay to live television coverage – still define the Olympic Games today. Thanks to a stream of perfect and beautiful images, the games tricked much of the world into thinking, for a very brief time, that Adolf Hitler’s Germany meant no harm. It was the first time an unsavory regime successfully used a sporting event for propaganda purposes, but it would not be the last.
Oliver Hilmes, a bestselling biographer of Alma Mahler and Cosima Wagner, is the author of Berlin 1936: Sechzehn Tage im August (Sixteen Days in August), published by Siedler Verlag in May.