Max Schmeling, the German heavyweight champion, wrongly associated with Hitler’s regime during his legendary fights with Joe Louis, died in Germany at the age of 99.
His title and image were used as a propaganda tool by Adolf Hitler to demonstrate Aryan supremacy. But by all accounts, Schmeling conducted himself as a gentleman and sportsman. In fact, many years after the war it was revealed that he had risked his life by hiding two Jewish brothers during the pogrom known as ”Kristallnacht”, on November 1938.
Towards the end of the Second War World, Schmeling served in a parachute body to which he had been personally assigned by Hitler, in reprisal for his refusal to become a member of the Nazi party.
In 2003 the International Foundation Raoul Wallenberg gave him an award, and in response I had the honor of receiving a letter in which he expressed his appreciation.
During his lifetime he treasured camaraderie and friendship and, somehow, each of his ring opponents became his friend. He regularly and quietly gave the down-and-out Joe Louis gifts of money, and the friendship continued after death: Schmeling paid for the funeral.