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Johann Trollmann and Resistance to the Nazis

Buy Johann Trollmann and Romani Resistance to the Nazis here.  

Polish and Spanish translations are available through Dialog Pheniben (contact for a copy) and by Punto de Vista Editores (here).

In 1933 Johann Trollmann won Germany’s light-heavyweight boxing title. The Nazis, who took a strong interest in boxing, would not accept him as the winner because he was Sinto, or Gypsy. Trollmann, unlike many athletes in the face of racial prejudices at the time, used his visibility in the ring for shocking and aggressive protest, turning fights into politically charged performance art.  He went on to serve on the front lines of war, fighting for Germany even as many of his own family were deported to concentration camps. He too died in a camp. In post-war Germany, his family became activists and fought for the return of his champion title and his dignity.

This is more than the story of Trollmann’s dramatic life. The book explores how other top boxers and athletes dealt with race politics at the time. The 1936 Olympics and characters like Joe Louis, Max Baer and Max Schmeling, Jesse Owens, Helene Meyer (the one Jew who represented Germany at the Olympics) and boxing fans such as Adolph Hitler are all a part of the tale.

Roma were victims but also soldiers, activists and underground resistors. Nirenberg gives an account of how Roma and Sinti have in recent years struggled for more memory of Gypsy losses and heroism. From Denmark to Algeria and from India to Texas, from underground fight nights to Madison Square Garden and from secret partisan meetings to concentration camp uprisings, this is a hard-hitting look at a forgotten history.

Jud is available to discuss the book via conference/video call with book clubs and student groups. See an interview about the book here.

“It is an interesting, poignant and harrowing story… Important history that I had never known before. [Nirenberg’s] points on boxing are astute and well-articulated…makes a deep impression.”

-Daniel Kravetz, boxing reporter

” Johann Trollmann and Romani Resistance to the Nazis by Jud Nirenberg  is an important book…a gripping account of the Gypsy persecution during the Holocaust.  Lacking an influential and well placed diaspora and important institutional support, the Gypsy story has been ignored or consigned to footnotes. 

“Nirenberg’s book will take its place as a major contribution to this belated awakening.  The book reaches back long before Trollmann to sketch the history of the Gypsy migration into Europe and the centuries of persecution of this the largest unsettled minority in Europe.  As Nirenberg forcefully points out even today the European Gypsies have an uncertain existence, still discriminated against, humiliated and misunderstood.  Only fitfully have Europeans now come to recognize their debts to the past and their responsibilities for the future.    Nirenberg has gripping, fluent style and his book is strongly recommended.”

Prof. Ernest Latham, Ph.D., historian
instructor (retired) US Dept. of State Foreign Service Institute
See the Romani Early Years Network review.
Also see reviews in the the Dublin Review of Books or in the Midwest Book Review.
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