Friday, February 04, 2005

Schmeling's dead, though

Had first heard about Max Schmeling many years ago at a quiz contest in Calcutta. Ages, ages back. Sounded interesting with his defeat of Joe Louis and open defiance of the Fuhrer during those crazy years.
That he died and all doesn't make a difference to anyone, obviously. But it was what he stood for, being German, that's so important.
I remembered him as being one of the few white boxing champs of the time...wasn't quite sure he was German though. Of course, the Hitler connection was there, but hadn't really stayed in mind.
What I had was the rather gruesome vision of the white-faced man beating Beautiful Smokin' Joe.
Madison Square Garden and all that...
But it was the defiance of Hitler that made him more famous. Found out in a news report today that it was back in 1936 (when my father was two) that he busted Louis' guts. He lost the rematch (Go Joe!) in 1938.
The Hitler bit came in later.
This is what the report says: "However the boxer was almost as much of a legend outside the ring as in it. Hitler tried repeatedly to get him to join the Nazi party and use him as a propaganda tool, but Schmeling refused and was eventually forced to join the army."
Also: "The Nazis tried to exploit his victory over Louis, a black boxer considered the greatest man at his weight to have ever stepped into the ring, as proof of white physical superiority."
And: "Schmeling's generosity and modesty earned him respect in Germany and abroad. During the war, he visited more than one prisoner of war camp holding Allied troops and handed out photographs to inmates. He never outwardly opposed Nazism but nor was he a slave to it. During the infamous Kristallnacht pogrom in 1938, when synagogues and Jewish interests were attacked, he hid the brother of his Jewish friend Henry Levin and helped him escape to the United States."
Finally: "Schmeling also gave financial help to Louis, who later became destitute, and set up a foundation to help charity groups and retired boxers in need."