Monday, January 14, 2013

Recent Read: Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics

Over Christmas I got in a little extra reading time and got to read a book I'd been looking forward to: Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics by Jeremy Schaap. I enjoy reading athletes' stories but didn't know much about Owens' accomplishments. Also, I didn't learn anything about the 1936 Berlin Olympics when I visited the city (but I learned plenty about other things) and was curious. Not only did I get what I needed to know about Owens and Hitler's manipulation of and propaganda for these Olympic games, several other things I've recently read also popped up here.

American Ambassador to Germany William Dodd got box seats during the Berlin Olympics to watch Owens run. (In 2012 I read In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson, an account of Dodd's time with his family in Berlin between the World Wars.) Author Thomas Wolfe sat with him in his box watching Owens win his three gold medals in three events (I visited Wolfe's Asheville home a few years ago and have just moved You Can't Go Home Again closer to the top of my reading stack). Also, there was mention of the eugenics programs in effect while Hitler was in power. Unfortunately, the same practices were also happening in some states in America, and exploring the program and its practice in North Carolina after World War II (when many states put an end to these programs) was something I spent a lot of time studying, contemplating and writing about in graduate school. 

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