I read a FYHC about Joe Louis that told blatant lies about Schmeling, so this is more a riposte than an all-out gushing crush. The submission said:
Best known for his defeat of Max Schmeling, who was a prize fighter and national Hero of Germany and Adolf Hitler’s personal acquaintance, and Nazi.
Max Schmeling was a German boxer in a time when it was a bad to be a German anything - the 1930’s. He was a heavyweight champion back in the golden age of boxing - it is hard to describe how famous he would have been. Yes, he met Hitler, of course he did, David Beckham met Tony Blair - that doesn’t make him a supporter of the Iraq War. Was he a Nazi? Not in the slightest, he hated what they were and what they had done to Germany.
Schmeling risked his life to save two Jewish children in 1938 - he hid them in his own apartment. How many people did the same? To risk life, health and wealth for two strangers in strange times… In my opinion that is true bravery.
Of bravery - he fought in the war, despite his position meaning he didn’t have to. He was wounded during the battle of Crete and spent the rest of the war touring POW camps, entertaining Allied troops and actively campaigning for better conditions.
Of his loss to Louis, he said this:
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.
He wanted nothing to with the Nazis - he’d rather his career take a nosedive than give them an opportunity to use him as propaganda.
So… That’s the ‘Nazi’ jibe dealt with - but what of Louis?
Schmeling struck up a friendship with Louis.After the war, Schmeling made a decent amount of money working for Coca-cola, Louis was not so fortunate. Like many fighters, Louis was robbed by essentially everyone and was left broke - Schmeling would help him financially in his later years, and on his death paid for Louis’ military funeral.
He spent over fifty years married to the utter sweetheart that was Anny Ondra [here she is with Alfred Hitchcock at the advent of the talking-pickcha]. I know it’s easy to label every poor soul a Nazi if they were around at the right time - but Schmeling was an utter gentleman - and it’s a terrible thing to dirty his name so!
[Shockingly, I spend more of my time tearing historical figures apart than patching them up…]