The Berlin Boxing Club by Robert Sharenow (CBR3 #46)

Another ebook chosen because of availability. I’ve been seeing it at work but it was appealing to bring a few things on my Nook to the cabin for the Christmas holiday, in addition to the 6 regular books I brought. Good thing, too. I read all or parts of about 8 books during that 4 day time span.

Karl Stern is a teenager in Germany during the mid-1930s. He is Jewish, but you wouldn’t know it to look at him, or his mother. His father and sister Hildy are a different story. With the recent rise of the Nazi party, Karl has been keeping a low profile at school but can’t quite avoid a trio of vicious boys who he calls the Wolf Pack. His father’s art gallery business has been suffering too, especially since many of the artist he champions have been outlawed. At a last show opening, a ray of hope appears in the form of boxer and national hero Max Schmeling. Max buys a painting and offers Karl boxing lessons in exchange for a second. Karl starts daily training, and spends night drawing comics for himself and for his sister. Over the next two years, Karl continues to train and his body and mind develop in surprising ways. As Karl improves himself, conditions for Jews in Germany continue to disintegrate in the ways that we’ll all familiar with.

Author Sharenow clearly brought a lot of research to bear in writing this book. Max Schmeling was a real boxer, help up by Hitler and the Nazis as a true Aryan hero, especially when he beat Joe Louis despite being a clear underdog. Sharenow also gives great detail of the implementation of Nazi restrictions on Jews, including the Nuremberg Laws’ sweeping changes and the terrifying destruction of Kristallnacht.

I didn’t know much about boxing before reading this book, but I though Sharenow did a good job of including enough for a novice like me, since Karl is learning it all too, but his training and fighting still feature enough action for a more learned boxing aficionado. He also tells an engrossing story of a German boy whose national pride is dismissed as unworthy. I also liked that this story takes place from 1935 to 1938, a time of the Third Reich less represented in young adult fiction. It’s important to think about how the Nazi party reached the height of their power and not just what happened once they got there.

(Library book)


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