Friday, February 04, 2005

Max Schmeling...Rest in Peace World Champion


Max Schmeling...God Bless your Soul, originally uploaded by mightymerk.

It was June 22nd, 1938. The long anticipated rematch between the Bronx Bomber Joe Louis, and Max Schmeling is to take place. The fight was portrayed by most as the battle of the Germany Aryan versus the American Negro. Schmeling was the former heavyweight champion of the world (to this day he remains the only German every to hold such a title), and Joe Louis was the up in coming star.

Louis was avenging, at the time his only loss as a professional, to Schmeling 2 years earlier. At that time Schmeling entered the fight a 10-1 underdog. He was to be easy pickings, for the then invincible Joe Louis. Schmeling won the fight by knockout in the twelfth round. Some say this was the upset of the century. For his victory, Schmeling was further cast by the Nazi propagandist (a party he refused to join) as the German Superman and a true example of Aryan superiority. For his loss Joe Louis suffered initial embarassment and stress as he carried the wait of his race and nation on his shoulders.

On this night Joe Louis won the rematch by a first round knockout in one of the most famous fights of all time. It was a lightning quick victory for Louis, who by this time was much the better fighter. The radio broadcast of the fight in Germany was cut short at the bequest of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. Joe Louis went on to become one of the greatest heavyweights of all time. Max Schmeling this time carried the same weight and undue racial/national burdens as Louis did two years earlier, back home with him to Germany.

After years of disappointing Adolf Hitler by not joining the Nazi party, nor to tow the Nazi propaganda line, and because he was no longer champion, he was drafted into the German paratroopers and was sent on several suicide missions. On one mission Max was seriously injured requiring a hospital stay of several months.

After World War II, Schmeling fought five more times, finishing with a career record of 56-10-4 with 39 knockouts. From these final fights, the last of which was a loss to
Walter Neusel, Schmeling made enough money to purchase a Coca-Cola dealership. Max Schmeling is known throughout Germany as someone who was a very generous philanthropist.

Max Schmeling's life story is deeper though. Schmeling was often portrayed (quite unfairly) as being in line with Nazi ideology. Nothing could be further then the truth. Over Goebbels' personal protest, he refused to stop associating with German Jews or to fire his American Jewish manager, Joe Jacobs. At the time of Kristallnacht in November of 1938, when Nazi pogroms against Jews rose to new levels, Schmeling agreed to hide two teenage sons of a Jewish friend, David Lewin. Schmeling then helped them flee Germany to safety and they subsequently came to the United States. This is so little known because it was not until 1989, when one of the brothers, Henry, who had becme a prominent hotel owner, invited Schmeling to Las Vegas to thank him for saving his life.

Max Schmeling also had a quality especially rare amongst those in a pugilistic sport such as boxing and that was of tremendous compassion and camaraderie that he had with most of his ring oponents, including Joe Louis in his later down-and-out years (for whom he gave regular gifts and money to). This generosity continued after Joe Louis' death as Schmeling helped pay for the funeral. During the 1936 Olympics in Germany, Schmelling also exacted a promise from Hitler that all U.S. athletes (including the black and Jewish athletes) would be well protected.

Max Schmeling was also a devoted husband to his wife of 54 years, Anny Ondra. The Czech born Ondra was also a point of contention with leading Nazis and they considered it yet another blemish against his character. Ms. Ondra died in 1987.

Understandably Max Schmeling is best known for his two fights against Joe Louis. I suggest that on equal footing Max Schmeling be remembered for the class act he was as an athlete, German citizen, and human being. It would be overly gratuitous to offer the title of "Greatest Fighter", but I certainly believe a strong case for "Greatest Heart" could be justified.

Max Schmeling dead at the age of 99. February 4th, 2005. Rest in Peace.

Posted by mightymerk, 7:15 PM

4 Comments:

By Blogger Vector

Wow, quite a life he had!

What I remember of sports and Hitler is the 1936 Olympics where Jesse Owens was showing what he could do.
Didn't really please the local propagandists, I think.

PS. Do you still need help with HTML and stuff?

@ 6:54 AM  

By Blogger mightymerk

Hi Vector,

Yes Max Schmeling lived a full life that is for sure. Actually I just viewed the movie Joe and Max in honor of both Schmeling and Louis.

I actually have an exact reproduction of the ticket for the second Louis Schemling fight. It is a personal favorite of mine.

Yes, I could use help with the html. What is the first step?

@ 8:22 PM  

By Blogger Vector

Well, send me an email about what you would like to have and I'll see what I can do about it.

I usually use a ready made template from one of the nice people who make those for others to use. You can also check some of those out if you want, maybe you'll see something you like.

Using a template saves loads of time since it has all the tags Blogger uses already in it. It is only a matter of making some changes according to your personal taste. I mean new graphics, new sections for links, moving something to other place and so on.

Also if you have any graphics you want to incorporate, I'd like to see some of that too...and ideas for colors, almost forgot about that. It's important so that you don't end up having a red text on a blue background. Kills your eyes :)

My email: vectorian (at) gmail dot com

@ 7:00 AM  

By Blogger Just another American Expat

Interestingly enough, that propaganda machine is still in place today. The Bild Zeitung, in its commemoration of Max, spoke glowingly of Schmeling’s “great victory” over Louis in the first fight, complete with a frame by frame photo account of the famous knockout, while relegating Louis’s lighting 1st round K.O. in the rematch to the status of “oh, and by the way”.

You are right though. Schmeling was a fine human being, a true Champion with a good heart. The Germans should have more such role models to be proud off and aspire too.

@ 3:25 AM  

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