On this Day in 1938, Joe Louis and Max Schmeling Went to WarBreaking News
tags: sports, Nazism, Boxing, Joe Louis
After the first fight, Schmeling was generally well-received by Americans but on the eve of the rematch a lot had changed around the world and the anti-Semitic ideologies being broadcast from Hitler and his Third Reich were making many nervous and although it’s not what he wanted, Schmeling had become a symbol of Nazi Germany.
The ‘Black Uhlan of the Rhine,’ as he was nicknamed, was forced into an impossible position and was forced to walk the line between Hitler’s pride and maintaining the relationship he’d built with the American public. Although he claimed his support for Adolf after the first fight, he wasn’t a member of the Nazi party and had never agreed with their claims of racial superiority.
Schmeling’s manager, a Jewish-American named Joe Jacobs caused tension between himself and the Third Reich but Schmeling would always stick by him, despite Hitler’s distaste.
When the bell finally rang for the rematch, Joe Louis blitzed Schmeling in just 2 minutes and 4 seconds, making amends on his defeat in devastating fashion. “Now - I feels like the champ” claimed the victor after the bout.
While Louis solidified his status as a bona fide American hero, the story of Schmeling was quite different. He returned to his homeland to find his fame had plummeted and he was quickly disowned by the Nazi Party and Hitler, who were embarrassed that their Aryan symbol had been dispatched so brutally - not that Schmeling was particularly upset about being disassociated with the regime.
“Looking back, I'm almost happy I lost that fight. 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” he would later say.
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