ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Mysterious Life of Johann "Rukeli" Trollmann: Boxer, Gypsy, Unsung Hero

Updated on January 30, 2018
katleigh profile image

Katleigh is a college student with a love for dystopian novels, political poetry, and words that are too big to use in normal conversation.

A picture of Johann Trollmann in 1928, years before he was interred at the Neuengamme concentration camp.
A picture of Johann Trollmann in 1928, years before he was interred at the Neuengamme concentration camp. | Source

Who was Johann "Rukeli" Trollmann?

Johann Trollmann was a famous German boxer of Sinti heritage whose career ended due to the Nazi regime. He won the middleweight championship that was later revoked because of his ethnicity. Much of his personal life is shrouded in mystery as an attempt to keep himself and his family safe from the widespread discrimination being faced during Nazi-occupied Germany.

Trollmann, also known as Rukeli, which in Romani translates to "little tree" or "little oak tree," lived a mysterious and tragic life that ended prematurely. His presence remains a national legend and fighting style has influenced many modern boxers - even as it was denounced at the time. Rukeli's life ended, like so many others, at a concentration camp, when a kapo beat him to death with a shovel after winning his last boxing fight against a camp official. His memory remains as one of the many lives lost at the hands of the Nazis.

Johann Trollmann vs. Gustav Eder

Rukeli's most famous fight was against Gustav Eder, also known "Iron Gustav." He was set to fight a tough competitor, but this particular match was more than just another prize fight for both men.

The Nazi-favored Gustav was set to win as an example for the Aryan race. Rukeli had faced discrimination in previous matches due to his aforementioned "dancing style," and was warned to fight like a true German or face serious consequences. He knew he was set to lose, so he came up with a plan to make an example for himself and his people.

Trollmann showed up to the match with peroxide blonde hair and a face covered in flour - one fit to mock the absurdity of the so-called Aryan race. He stood in the ring, fighting the way he was instructed, and took blows for six rounds until he finally collapsed from exhaustion. But it wasn't the proud, resilient Sinti boxer who had lost that fight to Rukeli or his fans. A cheap imitation showed up in the ring, and it was the cheap imitation that lost the fight. Rukeli was not showing how well he could fight, how strong he was a Romani man or as an example of the strength of his people. Instead, knowing he took a political action and made a mockery of this German fighting style and with that style he lost.

But it wasn't the proud, resilient Sinti boxer who had lost that fight to Rukeli or his fans. A cheap imitation showed up in the ring, and it was the cheap imitation that lost the fight.

Life During Neuengamme Concentration Camp

Like many people of Romani descent, Rukeli was sent to a concentration camp, where he was assigned prisoner number 9841.

Aware of his celebrity status, Rukeli attempted to keep a low profile during his internment at Neuengamme, both for himself and his family. Yet, his good looks and status followed him wherever he went. His celebrity status caused him a host of problems status, especially when he was sentenced to a work camp. A German official recognized him and recruited him to train some of his soldiers, to which Trollmann reluctantly complied. Working hard labor during the day and training others during the night, Rukeli's health quickly declined.

After undergoing forced sterilization and the atrocities of war, Trollmann had one final match. He faced a Kapo prisoner in a boxing match - and won - despite illness, malnutrition, and work weariness. He was later killed by the same prisoner, beaten to death with a shovel after a double-shift of manual labor.

A memorial plague dedicated to Rukeli and his contribution to the Romani resistance during Nazi occupation.
A memorial plague dedicated to Rukeli and his contribution to the Romani resistance during Nazi occupation.

Trollman's Boxing Style

Johann Trollmann received much negative feedback from his traditional German opponents regarding his unique fighting style which earned him the nickname "the Gypsy in the ring." His swift, graceful movements reminded many of his fans of a dancer, and allowed him to escape blows and return them faster than his opponents.

He openly opposed the German way of fighting, which he saw as simply standing in place and allowing yourself to be hit instead of avoiding the blow altogether. This might be a reflection in Trollmann's own life, as he always took a proactive approach and never allowed himself to stay in the line of fire too long.

A memorial for Johann Trollmann, entitled "9841," designed to show the disadvantages he faced as a Sinti both in and out of the ring.
A memorial for Johann Trollmann, entitled "9841," designed to show the disadvantages he faced as a Sinti both in and out of the ring. | Source

Remembering Johann Trollmann's Life

Rukeli is remembered as both a professional boxer whose career ended prematurely and a Romani man who fought back. His legacy was memorialized many ways, like in the statue "9841" (shown above) that showcases the unfairness he faced in the ring. The statue is a boxing ring, one side dipped into the ground. This would make it difficult for one of the boxers - in this case Trollmann - to have a fair fight as he starts out disadvantaged. It is named 9841 as it was the number assigned to him at the concentration camp.

Have you heard of Johann Trollmann before this article?

See results
A German docu-drama of Johann Trollmann's life, entitled "Gibsy."
A German docu-drama of Johann Trollmann's life, entitled "Gibsy." | Source

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)