The Amazing Story of the Jew who Defeated Hitler's Favorite Boxer
The Amazing Story of the Jew who Defeated Hitler’s Favorite Boxer

The Amazing Story of the Jew who Defeated Hitler’s Favorite Boxer

Mike Wood - March 1, 2018

 

The Amazing Story of the Jew who Defeated Hitler’s Favorite Boxer
Max Schmeling at a reception with Hitler. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Schmeling did get his shot in the end, after Louis had defeated Braddock, but was knocked out by Louis, again at Yankee Stadium. “Looking back, I’m almost happy I lost that fight,” Schmeling would later say, “Just imagine if I would have come back to Germany with a victory. I had nothing to do with the Nazis, but they would have given me a medal. After the war, I might have been considered a war criminal.” Losing such a high profile fight to a black opponent left Schmeling high and dry with the Nazi propaganda machine and he was dropped as a symbol of the regime.

The Amazing Story of the Jew who Defeated Hitler’s Favorite Boxer
Max Schmeling is given a hero’s welcome on returning to Nazi Germany after his first fight with Joe Louis. Scribol.com

 

Many in Germany have debated just how much Max Schmeling was linked to the Nazi government, and just how much he was himself exploited by the regime. Undoubtedly, when Schmeling was in his prime, he was one of the most famous men in Germany and, as such, found it impossible to avoid being feted by his own government. He fought in his homeland for the first time in 6 years in August 1934 in front of a European record crowd of 102,000 people in his hometown of Hamburg, knocking out Walter Neusel, the other great hope of German boxing, in 9 rounds. Schmeling was a personal friend of Hitler’s, but it proved fleeting: once he had been defeated by Joe Louis for a second time, they dropped him.

Schmeling was never considered politically reliable, as it was known that he was not an active Nazi nor necessarily a supporter of the regime. His promoter and friend Joe Jacobs was Jewish, and Schmeling refused to ditch him even when personally ordered by Hitler to do so. Later, he would shelter Jewish children in his house to save them from the Nazi purges. It is likely that he was simply an exceptional sportsman who held little interest in politics and had his actions exploited for political capital rather than anything that he himself had advocated. After the war, he became a businessman and died in Germany in 2005 at the ripe age of 99. Max Schmeling is one of the few major figures of the Nazi period who is still widely celebrated in Germany, a tribute to his prowess in the ring. He is still rated by influential boxing organ Boxrec as the greatest German boxer of all time and has several streets that bear his name, as well as being featured on German stamps and having the largest boxing arena in Berlin named after him.

The Amazing Story of the Jew who Defeated Hitler’s Favorite Boxer
Max Baer in later life, during his career as a Hollywood actor. Wikipedia.

Baer, who wore the Star of David on his shorts for the rest of his career, would only hold the world title for one defence, losing it to Jim Braddock. He later faced Louis too, losing by fourth round knockout. He fought on until 1941 and, after retirement, became a Hollywood actor, appearing in over 20 films. He died suddenly in 1959 at the age of just 50 years old.

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