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Day: March 6, 2018

“Berlin 1936” by Oliver Hilmes

Berlin 1936” by Oliver Hilmes, translated from German by Jefferson Chase
c.2016, 2018, Other Press
$25.95 / higher in Canada
320 pages

You are not alone.

While you may be the only person in the room, you are one of many. Every word you’ve written was written before. Every place you’ve visited has been seen by other eyes. The things you experience have been done elsewhere. You’re not alone: in “Berlin 1936” by Oliver Hilmes, an entire city rushes to an end.

On the first day of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, composer Richard Strauss is impatient. He hates sports and he hates the tax that’s been enacted for this sporting event. For the hymn he writes on behalf of it, he demands 10,000 reichsmarks, and it rankles him that he ends up taking less.

Tom Wolfe has been to Berlin many times, and he couldn’t pass up a chance to see the Olympics there. Berlin is vibrant, friendly, and Berliners love the American novelist. He loves them… until a society matron whispers secrets in his ear.

On the second day of the Olympics, Toni Kellner is found dead in her apartment. She was not a social woman – in fact, she was not a woman at all, and Nazi-enforced edicts made her afraid to seek help for her bad heart. Berlin used to have a thriving gay community, but the Third Reich is über-aware of gay men and people like Toni now.

Joseph Goebbels can’t stop thinking about the trouble his wife put him in. Not only did she have an affair with a swindler some years ago, but something else recently came to light: the Nazi Minister of Propaganda’s wife was the child of a Jewish man.

Jesse Owens won gold. And again. And again. And again.

By the eighth day of the Olympics in Berlin , the city’s Roma and Sinti populations are taken from their apartments and moved to a sliver of land near a sanitation field. Most of them will die in concentration camps similar to the one being built just forty minutes away by local train.

And by the end of the Olympics, Hitler “is already determined to go to war.”

It may seem trite to say that “ Berlin 1936” reads like a novel, but it does. It’s nonfiction that reads like a horror novel, with a swirl of unaware and innocent victims, ruthless killers, and a stunning, invisible stream of ice just beneath its surface.

The compelling thing about that is that it’s not one large tale of the Nazis and the Games; instead, it’s as if author Oliver Hilmes starts with major historical figures and adds little Advent-calendar windows with real people inside: here’s the Roma child, snatched from her bed; there’s the terrified, ailing transvestite; here’s the American woman who kissed Hitler; there’s the Romanian Jew who owns a thriving nightclub; all in the middle of an international story that readers know is only the beginning…

How could you resist?

Don’t even try. Instead, just take “ Berlin 1936” to a corner and don’t count on coming out for a good, long time. Start this book, and you’ll want to just be left alone.”


Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin

Salem-Keizer appeal denied

Of the Keizertimes

McNary High School will officially be competing in a league with Bend beginning next fall.

Salem-Keizer School District’s appeal against the OSAA’s decision to place five of its high schools, in a conference with Bend, Mountain View and Summit was dismissed by hearings officer Michael Gillette, who stated there was “no legal basis on which I can sustain the district’s appeal.”

The school district received the opinion on Thursday, Feb. 22, more than three weeks after Salem-Keizer argued its case at a hearing on Jan. 29.

“Understandably, we are disheartened by this ruling,” said Superintendent Christy Perry. “We know this will impact our students and our staff, as well as their families. We have already begun assessing ways to reduce the impact to our budgets, but we know our student athletes are going to have to make some difficult decisions about participation because of the impact to their time in our classrooms.”

In its appeal, Salem-Keizer said OSAA did not give the district sufficient notice that SKPS would be placed in a district that included Bend-La Pine. The district also stated the Classification and Districting Committee failed to consider the safety of students, fans and school personnel; the impact to student instructional time; and the additional expenses imposed on the schools as a result of redistricting.

In regards to lack of notice, Gillette noted that the CDC issued two draft classification and districting proposals in October of 2016, a six class proposal and a five class proposal. Both placed Bend high schools in the same district as Salem-Keizer. Moving forward, further drafts continued to assign most Salem-Keizer schools in a league with Bend. A later suggestion from the Salem-Keizer athletic directors even supported a proposed five class model that would combine the three Bend and five Salem-Keizer schools.

“I find that the district had plenty of notice,” Gillette wrote in his opinion. “Whether with respect to a five or six tiered classification system, Salem-Keizer was aware virtually from the outset of the CDC’s work that there were those who believed that a joint league of Salem-Keizer and Bend-La Pine schools was appropriate.”

Gillette also noted that nearly half of the proposals by the committee over its year-long process placed the two school districts in a league together and that two different proposals from the district itself to the CDC appeared to accept the idea.

“It may be that, as the process neared its end, Salem-Keizer believed that it was no longer in danger of being placed in such a league, but there was no guarantee of that,” Gillette wrote.

Gillette added that the district’s arguments about safety of students, loss of instructional time and additional expenses were “such that I might be persuaded by one or more of them.”

But it wasn’t his role to decide the case on its merits. It is OSAA’s task to make the decision.

“My only task is to assure that the choice that OSAA made is one among many that it has a right to make,” Gillette wrote. “Here, its choice is precisely that.”

Gillette added that the same concerns from Salem-Keizer could be shared by the three other districts that could’ve been placed with Bend, and all three districts are farther from Bend than Salem is.

“All three face roads at least as treacherous—and longer—than those faced by Salem,” Gillette wrote. “All three face at least an equal if not a great loss of class time than does Salem. And all three will face added transportation costs. Choosing among the four groups of schools was a thankless task, but it was a choice that OSAA could not refuse to make.”