The Berlin Boxing Club is an eye opening story that takes place in Germany during the birth of the holocaust, scene through the eyes of a teenage boy named Karl. Like many Germans, Karl is pale skinned and blonde haired, but what most people don’t know is that he has Jewish roots. For Karl, being Jewish is only a curse, especially when he has never been to a synagogue and does not think of himself as being religious. When a small group of kids at school uncover his secret and Karl is beat up, he knows something has to be done. Later on, Karl finds his luck when he is given the opportunity of a lifetime to learn boxing from Germany’s champ Max Schmeling. As the story progresses, Karl finds himself trapped in the middle of a conflict when Max is forced to associate with the Nazis and Karl struggles to keep his identity a secret from the boxing community. To add on to that, Karl must be much more than a kid who can throw a punch…He must take up the roll as family protector.
Robert Sharenow did an excellent job of depicting both Karl and Max as two faced characters trying to hide their true identities and beliefs. Though Sharenow did not foreshadow any events, it was easy to predict that Karl would eventually face his worst enemy in the ring. What I really enjoyed was that Sharenow incorporated dialect which helped the readers get a sense of German culture. In the end what caught me really off guard, was the suspense that the readers were left in, wondering if all of the main characters would survive the growing tensions of war.
I would suggest that any teenager interested in seeing the holocaust in a whole new point of view read this book. Many teenagers will be also be able to relate to the character’s struggle to fit in, which can be a lot like middle school for many. Overall, the reader will learn what showing bravery and love during the trials of life is all about, and readers will enjoy watching characters mount courage to overcome the difficulties and struggles thrown in their way.