The Berlin Box­ing Club

  • Review
By – November 7, 2011
The Berlin Box­ing Club begins dur­ing Hitler’s rise to pow­er. It is the sto­ry of what it was like for one indi­vid­ual Jew­ish high school stu­dent, Karl Stern, at the onset of Nazism. The Sterns are not reli­gious and Karl doesn’t look stereo­typ­i­cal­ly Jew­ish like some mem­bers of his fam­i­ly. Nonethe­less, Karl is bul­lied, beat­en, and humil­i­at­ed in school by stu­dents and then pub­licly by the school admin­is­tra­tion because of his reli­gion. He is giv­en an amaz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty to learn how to fight when, instead of pay­ing Karl’s intel­lec­tu­al art-deal­ing father in cash for a paint­ing, the box­ing hero Max Schmel­ing offers to give Karl box­ing lessons. The Sterns need the mon­ey but Karl’s father agrees. This sto­ry, told in the first per­son by Karl, includes his diary sketch­es, help­ing the read­er feel clos­er to the pro­tag­o­nist. Through the sketch­es, the read­er sees Karl flip-flop from kind­ly old­er broth­er enter­tain­ing his younger sis­ter with car­toons, to a mature box­ing fan. Train­ing and phys­i­cal­ly chang­ing to pre­pare to fight while soci­ety turns against him is cathar­tic but also dan­ger­ous as Ger­mans exclude Jews from schools, ath­let­ics and busi­ness. Karl’s world comes crash­ing down around him. His fam­i­ly is evict­ed and ter­ror­ized by Kristal­nacht. In the end, Karl’s box­ing world con­nec­tions help his fam­i­ly. This heavy-duty book weaves in the top­ics of Ger­man expres­sion­is­tic art, depres­sion, homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, and bul­ly­ing. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 10 – 15.

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