Hitler came to power in Germany and started rounding up gays, Roma (Gypsies), people of color, handicapped people, and millions of Jews to be loaded into cattle cars and shipped to their deaths; all with the support of thousands of Germans who attended his rallies and cheered as he ranted, Deutschland uber alles, “ Germany first.
That’s about the time I was born in the 1930’s. A time when prize-fighting was very popular in the U.S. and Europe and the Olympics were held in Berlin.
Hitler expected the black Americans to fail in the Games and the white Germans to prevail. Wrong! And he expected the German champion heavyweight fighter, Max Schmeling, to beat the young black American. Well, he was right the first time–Schmeling knocked out Joe Louis in the 12th round of their first fight. Two years later, Louis hammered Schmeling unconscious in the first 124 seconds of the fight.
Schmeling had been thought to be a stooge of Hitler. In fact he didn’t like the Nazis, resisted their pressure to fire his Jewish manager, and he risked life hiding two Jewish boys on Kristalnacht.
(On Kristalnacht, Night of Broken Glass, Nazi thugs ravaged Jewish neighborhoods. My Rabbi saw his father beaten in the street that night.)
Louis volunteered for the U.S. Army and Schmeling was drafted into the German forces. Disabled by a battle-wound, he visited American P.O.W. camps in Germany, boxed in exhibition bouts, and occasionally tried to help conditions for the prisoners.
What interests me here is that after the War, Max and Joe spoke often on the phone and became friends ! When Max visited Joe in Chicago in 1954, they shared regret that publicity over the years had made them appear to be bitter enemies.
Schmeling became rich in the Coca Cola business and with others helped to support Joe Louis who never saw most of the $4.6 million he earned fighting. Louis worked for awhile as a greeter at Caesar’s Palace, a Las Vegas casino, even tried pro wrestling to earn his living.
Max gave money to Joe’s widow when he died.
Though Max had always asked him to avoid talking about the event, Henri Lewin, the president of the Sands Hotel, made this statement at a dinner in 1989:
“Beginning on Nov. 9, 1938, for four days, Max Schmeling hid my brother and me in his Berlin apartment. That was the night known now as ‘the Crystal Night,’ when the Gestapo began picking up all Jews off the streets”.
“Max Schmeling risked everything he had for us. If we had been found in his apartment, I would not be here this evening and neither would Max. And that, friends, is the kind of champion Max Schmeling is.”
http://www.raoulwallenberg.net/es/prensa/2005-prensa/max-schmeling-joe-louis-s/ Detailed article followed Schmeling’s death in 2005 at age 99. “Above all, Max Schmeling was much appreciated inside and outside Germany as a human being and private person.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Louis_vs._Max_Schmeling#Louis.E2.80.93Schmeling_paradox The two fights with background information.
http://www.espn.com/boxing/story/_/id/9404398/more-just-fight It was … the fight’s cultural, racial and political ramifications that set it apart and led historian Bert Sugar to label it “The greatest sporting event of the 20th century.”
http://articles.latimes.com/1989-12-23/sports/sp-588_1_max-schmeling “An old friend recalls how the former champion saved his life by outwitting the Gestapo”
http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/7-historical-odd-couples ” . . . they formed an enduring friendship that lasted the rest of their lives.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LNzWHuygpw VIDEO First round knockout VIDEO of 128-second 2nd fight. Warning: it’s brutal.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSaXM0vZrws VIDEO “Great Documentary about the lives and fights between Max Schmeling and Joe Louis!”
Max Schmeling, Max Schmeling an Autobiography. 1998, Bonus Books. German edition, 1977. Lots of photos. Reviewer doubts distance between himself and Hitler and Nazis that Schmeling claims, http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-56625-108-2