Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin


Johann Trollmann (3rd fighter from the right) before he was banned from the club in June 1933.

Johann Trollmann (3rd fighter from the right) before he was banned from the club in June 1933.

Yesterday, on August 15th at 9.15PM the open-air cinema at the Kunstquartier Bethanien am Mariannenplatz presented a film about one of the most famous and most tragic characters in Kreuzberg´s history: Johann “Rukeli” Trollmann.

Trollmann, a German boxer of Sinti heritage born in 1907 in Stuttgart, became famous in 1933 after his fight at Kreuzberg Bockbrauerei in Fidicinstrasse on June 6th, 1933.

The fight against Adolf Witt was left undecided despite Trollmann´s clear leading by points. The “no decision” was announced to spare the “Aryan” Witt the shame of losing against a “Gypsy” but the immediate and very angry reaction of the audience forced the Nazi officials to acknowledge Trollmann´s victory.

However, only six days later he was again stripped of the title and a new fight with another opponent was scheduled. On July 21st, 1933 Johann Trollmann had to enter the ring to face Gustav Eder, known as “Iron Gustav”, chosen by the Nazis to “defend the honour of their race”. Their fight and both boxers were used by the regime to teach a lesson about the new “racial balance” and to set an example.

What followed was a sad and farcical spectacle: “Rukeli” Trollmann arrived in Fidicinstrasse with peroxided hair and skin covered in flour. A mockery of the new “Aryan race”. Before the fight began he was forewarned not to use his famous “dancing style” (Trollmann´s great advantage was his ability to move very gracefully and swiftly during a fight). He was supposed to “fight like a German”: stand still and try to hit.

Which he did. Five long rounds he managed to counter and to avoid the blows of the Iron Gustav until unable to fight the usual way he collapsed exhausted and lost.

Later on, despite Trollmann´s attempts to prove his patriotism and great fighting spirit (persecuted as a Sinti he allowed the regime to have him sterilised and sent to the Eastern Front), he died under very dramatic circumstances in a concentration camp Neuengamme in Wittenberge. He was murdered, battered to death with a shovel by a camp Kapo (a civil guard, usually a prisoner himself) who lost a boxing fight against Rukeli.

His memory was honoured, among others, by the opening of Johann-Trollmann-Boxcamp at the former primary school in Bergmannstrasse 29 in Kreuzberg.

GIBSY, the film about Trollmann and his Kreuzberg fights (click on the link to see the preview and interviews with the actors) screened last night at Mariannenplatz was shown in the presence of his daughter, Rita Vowe.


You can read more about Johann Rukeli Trollmann in the following Spiegel Online article by Siobhan Dowling.

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