IAN COLE reviews the final book from a prolific sportswriter
The voice on the end of the phone was familiar. “Now then…”
“What if Hitler had won?”
“Pardon?” I spluttered.
“What if Hitler had won? Have you ever thought about it… the consequences for sport, I mean?”
“Not recently,” was the best I could offer.
Hilton clearly had and, to back up his point, he was about to deliver two trial chapters of his latest and, sadly, his last book.
Hilton’s belief was that if Hitler’s Third Reich had conquered Europe then sport as we know it would have disappeared.
If all the countries of Europe – including ourselves – had been swallowed up by the Nazis, then sporting competition between them would cease. We would all be part of the German Empire.
Unlike the Soviet Union, who saw contests between their puppet states in football, athletics and ice hockey as a sign of strength and satisfaction, Hitler’s Europe would have nobody left to play. Not only that, the Fuhrer had already declared that future Olympics Games would always be held in Berlin.
Hilton’s pursuit of material to support his theory took him to Berlin, where he researched the events of the 1936 Olympics, the dissolution of one of the world’s finest football teams, the 1930s Austria, and beyond.
It was to be his final journey. At the end of November 2010, he died in his sleep in a Berlin hotel. His labours were not in vain, however. His devoted wife Jean has managed to access the material and forwarded it to his publisher.
The result, How Hitler Hijacked World Sport, is now in print and forms a fitting finale to a man who abandoned life as the Daily Express Formula 1 and Torvill and Dean correspondent to pursue his passion for writing books.
More than 60 titles came off Hilton’s Sawbridgeworth production line, each one bearing his unique style combined with his fanatical attention to detail. It is a lasting legacy for Jean and their daughter Julia and a tribute to a fine sports writer.
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