“The Berlin Boxing Club” | 60second Book Review

What teenage boy wouldn’t say yes to boxing
lessons with a world-famous boxer? Unfortunately for the protagonist in this week’s Pick, these
lessons aren’t just a pleasant diversion; they turn out to be the difference between
life and death. Karl Stern never thought of himself as Jewish.
He’s never attended synagogue, and he doesn’t look like a Jew. But in Berlin during Hitler’s
rise to power, 14-year-old Karl can’t help but be singled out by the Nazi youth in his
school. He takes a bad beating right at the beginning of this story—and it won’t be
his first. Karl isn’t much of an athlete; he prefers
to spend his time cartooning. But after the attack, he’s happy to be singled out by boxing
legend Max Schmeling. Though Karl initially learns how to box so he can defend himself,
the sport soon turns into something more—a discipline, an outlet for his rage, and definitely
a way to become someone special. Karl dreams of winning a boxing title…but all too soon
the only thing he’s fighting for is his life. There are lots of Holocaust books out there,
of course, but I found this new angle on the Holocaust—and especially the many metaphors
about what’s worth fighting for—really effective. Karl’s story is both tragic and triumphant,
and chronicles a period in history that we must never forget.

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