The Summer Olympics are coming up in a few weeks, and yes, I know, you’re just looking forward to watching Michael Phelps one final time in the pool, and maybe you also like watching the gymnasts. Personally, I was more of a Winter Olympics fan because of my 2nd grade teacher’s fascination with ice skating—that is, until I was awestruck by the Beijing Opening Ceremony in 2008, and later in 2012 I bonded over the Olympics at a family reunion. This year, I’m ready for the Olympics because I’ve just read Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat, and even though I have rowed, I’ve never wanted to watch rowboats race each other as eagerly as I want to this year.
The Boys in the Boat tells the history of the University of Washington’s rowing team that took gold in the 1936 Olympic Games. Those Olympic Games were held in Nazi Germany, and Brown expertly connects the happenings of the U of Washington shellhouse to the happenings of Nazi Germany so closely that it is hard to believe the one was not on the other's mind at that moment in history. We get a glimpse into Nazi propaganda and the toil Hitler took to mislead the entire world by hosting the games. The Ministry of Propaganda curated an image that would welcome those worldwide by removing anti-Semitic posters, moving Jews out of the city center, filling apartments temporarily with the homeless, putting flowerpots on the sills of every apartment—even the empty ones—and ensuring there were far more swastikas than blades of grass in Berlin that summer. And the only German team not handpicked by Hitler himself, or his regime, was the rowing team, although the team was likely heavily subsidized. The German rowers looked as though they were going to sweep gold that summer. But.Read More