Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review of "How Hockey Saved a Jew"

While looking for a hockey book to read, I found this one completely by accildent.  The story is so inpsiring that I am glad I found it.  Hopefully you will enjoy this review of the story of a Jewish athlete who was able to represent his native country despite the political climate of the time.

“How Hockey Saved a Jew From the Holocaust: The Rudi Ball Story” by J. Wayne Frye

Ice hockey, Olympics, history, politics, race

February 17, 2012

104 pages

3 1/2 of 5 stars (good)

Sometimes one will stumble across interesting books or stories when he or she is not looking for one.  That happened to me when I saw this book as a recommendation for a hockey book.   While hockey has been played in the Winter Olympics since they began in 1924, the story of the German hockey team in 1936 was a well kept secret until J. Wayne Frye began researching and discovered a truly inspiring story.

Rudi Ball was one of three hockey playing brothers who learned to play in Berlin while growing up under harsh economic conditions.  Then the rise of Adolf Hitler began and the blame grew on the Jewish population in Germany for the economic woes.  As has been told in history books, this led to persecution and mass executions of millions of Jewish people in the country.  

The Ball family was not immune to this, not at first.  As Jews were becoming more isolated, Rudi’s hockey skills increased to the point that he was considered one of the country’s finest players.  When it was time for the 1936 Winter Olympic team to be named, Rudi was on the team despite the edict from Hitler that no Jews were to be allowed on any German team.  This “exception” was done because Rudi was the best player and by showing the world that a Jew can play for Germany, they were being treated the same as others.

Without giving away the outcome or the climax of the story that happened during those Olympics held in Germany, it is safe to say that this story is one that will inspire any reader of this book.  It doesn’t matter if the reader wants to read the book for the hockey or the history.

Both of these topics are covered in the same manner.  There is not a lot of detail about either the hockey strategy or game-by-game descriptions.  However, there is enough to show the reader that Rudi Ball was certainly one of the most talented players in Europe at that time, with excellent skating and stick handling abilities.   As for the history of Germany at that time, the text is much the same.  It is informative, but not detailed as the economic woes and subsequent rise of power for Hitler are interwoven with the story of Rudi’s rising hockey career.

This is a good quick read that will make the reader sit up and take notice on what one individual can do in the face of adversity that is greater than simply his athletic skills.  The story of Rudi Ball is one that anyone can enjoy for a good quick read.  

Did I skim?

Did I learn something new?
Yes.  Of course, having never heard of Rudi Ball, his story was something new. Also, I did not realize the Winter Olympics were also held in Germany in 1936, and just like the Summer Games, but on a smaller scale, that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party also wanted to showcase Germany and show the world the superiority of the Aryan race in these games as well.  

Pace of the book: 
Good.  It moved along well and was a fairly quick read.

Bringing a mostly unknown story like this to print and sharing it with the world is certainly the most positive aspect of this book.  No matter the outcome of the hockey games, just the fact that the Ball family was able to be spared the fate of so many other Jewish people is uplifting.

The book as a whole did have some editing issues such as typos (I found two) and formatting.  I also would have liked to read more about Rudi’s life after hockey.  It was limited to a short, epilogue chapter.  I felt that much more could have been written there, especially how his family fared after his hockey career.

Do I recommend? 
Yes.  While the story is a compact version, it is a good read for anyone who enjoys an uplifting story.  The hockey talk is basic so that non-sports fan can still understand that part of the book but enough that a fan of the game will enjoy it as well.   

Book Format Read:
EBook (Kindle)

Buying Links:


  1. A great example of how history and sports meet. This is actually something sporty I'd actually read! I've always been horrified/intrigued by the holocaust.

  2. It is inexpensive of if you have an Amazon Prime membership it can be borrowed for free. I think you would enjoy it as it isn't too sporty for you. Some hockey talk but easy to understand.

    Thanks for stopping by!