Max Schmeling was one of the best known boxers of the 1930s. Max was born in Klein-Luckow , a small town in the northern German state of Brandenburg (1905). His father with the same name was a helmsman (boat pilot). His mother was Amanda (nee Fuchs). The couple moved to Hamburg, Germany's principal port. Max as a teenager after World War I became interested in boxing after seeing a movie. He began training as a boxer. He won both amateur and professional light-heavyweight boxing titles (1924). He became a sensation in Germany and moved to Berlin (1926). As he developed and gaimed weight he began fighting in heavier divisions. He won the German heavyweight division (1928). He is best known today for his two matches with famed American boxer Joe Louis (1936 and 38). The fights in America were billed as a fight between America and the NAZIs. Goebbels propaganda machine played up both the national and racial aspects of the fights. Important NAZIs including Hitler himself were often pictured with Schmeling because of his popularity in Germany. Boxing also fit in with the NAZI mindset. Boxing was strongly promoted in the Hitler Youth. Actually, Schmeling was not a NAZI and refused to join the Party. The NAZIs dropped him after he lost the rematch with Louis. Schmeling showed bravery both in and outside the ring. He protected Jews during Kristallnacht (1938). He was drafted during World War II and served in a combat unit.
Max's father with the same name was a helmsman in the German merchant marine. His mother was Amanda (nee Fuchs).
Max was born in Klein-Luckow , a small town in the northern German state of Brandenburg (1905). The couple moved to Hamburg, Germany's principal port. We know nothing about his childhood at this time.
Max Schmeling was one of the best known boxers of the 1930s. Boxing was not at important sport in Germany before World War I. Maxps father had seen a few marches in foreign ports. Max as a teenager after World War I became interested in boxing after seeing a movie showing the American heavyweight championship fight between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. He was facinated and wanted ti try his hand at it. He began training as a boxer in the Rhineland where the sport had begun to develop. He entered anateur tournaments. He caught the eye of Arthur Bülow, the editor of Boxsport magazine. He won both amateur and professional light-heavyweight boxing titles (1924). He became a sensation in Germany and moved to Berlin (1926). As he developed and gaimed weight he began fighting in heavier divisions. He won the German heavyweight division (1928).
Schmeling married Anny Ondra, a movie star (1933). Ondra was born in Tarnow, at the timepart of Austria-Hungary. It is now in Poland. She ws raised in Prague. It was a happy marriage. She continued to work in the movies after they were married. Her last film was made after the War (1951). Ondra died as a result of a stroke (1987).
Schmeling before the NAZI take over developed a close relationship with a Jewish-American manager--Joe Jacobs. He came up with all kinds of ideas to promote Schmeling. Christmas is a special time in Germany. So Jacobs came up with the idea of an event in a Berlin's working class neighborhood (1929). There Schmeling and Jacobs attempted to fulfill the holiday wishes of children who came to meet the fighter. Schmeling described the event in his menoirs, "What moved me most was the modesty of their requests: usually a few crayons, a top, a pencil case, or a bathing suit ... I was especially touched by a five-year-old girl... whose wish -- that her father stop drinking -- we couldn't fill. But the idea was a great success, and Joe Jacobs came up to me afterwards and asked, 'How did we do that?' For once, he took the giant cigar out of his mouth." [Schmeling] Schmeling despite Goebbels propaganda hoopla and the moniker, 'Hitler's showhorse' was not a NAZI and refused to join the Party. He also refused to give up Jacobs, even though the NAZIs put a lot of pressure on him to do so. Jacobos was a public relations dynamo who helped Schmeling get all important fights in America. Jacobs infuruated the NAZIs when he was more or less required to give a NAZI salute in the ring after a Hamburg match (1935). The site of a Jew giving the NAZI salute with a cigar in his mouth was widely seen as a calculated insult. The German Minister of Sports called Schmeling and demanded that the fighter spend more time in Germany, an pointedly with 'German associates'. Schmeling knew that Jacobs with his American contacts could arrange fights with big purses leasing to the heavy weight crown. He asked for a personal meeting with Hitler. Hitler did meet with him, but did not raise the Jacobs issue and mostly chatted with Schmeling's wife, a well-known actress. Schmeling as a result simply ignored the Sports Minister. Had Jacobs been German, the NAZIs would have put a quick stop to the association, but as he was an American, it proved more difficult. And Jacobs stopped traveling to Germany. Schmeling told reporters that Jacobs had lelped him become the world heavyweight champion.
Schmeling is best known today for his two matches with famed American boxer Joe Louis (1936 and 38). The fights in America were billed as a fight between America and the NAZIs. Goebbels Schmeling propaganda machine played up both the national and racial aspects of the fights. Important NAZIs were often pictured with because of his popularity in Germany. Boxing also fit in with the NAZI mindset. Boxing was strongly promoted in the Hitler Youth. Schmeling and Joe Louis fought for their first boxing match in New York (June 19, 1936). Louis was heavily favored and did not train strenously for the match. Schmeling did and was in much better condition. As a result, he knocked Louis our in round 12. Schmeling returned home on the Hindenburg a national hero (June 23). Goebbels turned the event into a major propaganda victory demonstrating Aryan racial superiority. Schmeling was often photographed with prominent NAZIS, including Hitler himself, but never more than after knocking out Louis.
German officials got Schmeling to help them convince the U.S. Olympic Committee not to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games. Schmeling after the War described himself as being politically naive which seems to have been the case. He was a boxer and uninterested in politics. The NAZIs sought him out not the reverse. And he refused to join the Party. The Munich Olympics were a triumph for the NAZIs--except for the spectacular performance of Afro-Amerucan atheletes like Jesse Owens.
Joe Louis after beuing knocked out by Schmelling was anxious for a chance to regain the world title and redeem himself. This time for the rematch he trained and trained hard. Schmelling was the older man and did not train like he did for the first fight. Ironically, American authorities had suspended Jacobs and he was not in Schmeling's corner. Louis demolished Schmeling in only 124 seconds of the first round June 22, 1938). Schmeling was actually hospitalized before he could return home. Once there the NAZIs who once sought him out, now shunned him, including Goebbels propaganda machine. German sports fans quickly forgot him.
Schmeling showed bravery both in and outside the ring. He protected Jewish teenagers during Kristallnacht (1938).
Schmeling who no longer had any cover of friends in high places, took a serious risk. He hid the two teenage sons of a Jewish friend in his Berlin hotel room. The boxer told the hotel staff that he was sick and did not want any visitors, even the cleaning staff. After the violence on the street and the roundups subsided, he helped smuggle the boys out of Germany. Henri Lewin, who went on to become a Las Vegas hotelier, wrote later that Schmeling saved his life. Schmeling did not even metion the incident in his autobiography.
Both Schmelling and Louis were in the army during World War II, but there experiences were very different. Many prominant Germans got special treatmeht during the War. Schmeling did not. He was drafted and saw front-line combat as a paratrooper who after Crete (1941) were usedca an elite infantry force. Louis also served in the U.S. Army, but in a non-combat role to help with troop morale.
Schmeling survived the War. British occupation authorities cleared him of any complicity in NAZI attrocities and even membership in the Party. Schmeling and his wife. like other Germans, did their best to scrape by in the difficult conditions following the War. Schmeling tried farming, he even tried to fight a few boxing matches. For a time he wiorked as boxing referee. The turn for Schmelling came through a former New York boxing commissioner who became a Coca Cola executive. Coke at the time was actively expanding its international reach. The executive remembered Schmeling as a non-Nazi who was popular with the German people. He offered him the Coke franchise in Germany. This proved to be a very prosperous undertaking as the German economy recovered. A sign of Schmeling's character that he did nit hold his defeat against Louis fell on hard times after the War and had huge IRS bills . He visited Louis in Chicago and assistee him financially. The two were never close friends, but they respected each other and Schmeling was generous with Louis.
Schmeling, Max. Max Schmeling: An Autobiography.