Holocaust Memorial Day: European Football commemorates its victims28 January 2013

This weekend the world marked the 68th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp as part of Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) on the 27th January. It was also a day in which football joined the remembrance of the victims of Nazism at matches and through other organised events.

Germany – “Nie Wieder!”

In Germany, clubs from the Bundesliga to amateur level organised activities in a message against anti-Semitism, whilst remembering footballers, coaches and administrators of the game who fell victims to the Nazi’s. These include Julius Hirsch, a Jewish German international killed during the Holocaust, and Gottfried Fuchs, a German Jewish footballer forced to emigrate to Canada after being persecuted .

FC Bayern Munich hosted a tour themed as ‘Bayern Munich and National Socialism’ and a lecture with the author Dietrich-Marmeling on his book ‘FC Bayern Munich and its Jews’. The movie ‘Kick it like Kurt’, a prize-winning documentary on the club’s Jewish ex-president was also shown on the day.

Borussia Dortmund paid homage to the club’s former chairman of the handball section Franz Hippler, in the club museum. Hippler, a member of the German resistance against the Nazis, was arrested on February 1945 by the Gestapo and later murdered.

FC Schalke 04 unveiled a plaque with the names of nine Jewish members and supporters of the club killed during the Second World War.

All activities ran under the umbrella of the Nie Wieder (Never Again) campaign which in 2004, the German Football League (DFL) and the German Football Association (DFB) decided to include in the country’s annual football calendar.

Apart from these activities organised by clubs, fan projects from different parts of Germany also held events along with their football clubs and supporters.

Fanprojekt Darmstadt, an anti-fascist fan initiative, hosted a city guide along Darmstadt, remembering its history by pointing out the Nazi crimes that took place there. “Learning from history, means to determinedly take action and put up resistance against anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia in the stadium and everyday life”, explained a representative of the project.

In Hamburg the Fanladen St. Pauli organised a joint march to the stadium, where the news editor of tagesschau.de spoke about recent developments of neo-Nazi groups in Germany. The event ended with the laying of a wreath in the stadium’s memorial plague.

In Augsburg, the city’s football club fan project visited a former concentration camp in Haunstetten.

On the 31st January Münster’s FANport will host the journalist Werner Skrentny, who wrote a biography of Julius Hirsch.

England

England players and national coach feature in a Holocaust Education Trust (HET) DVD that has been distributed across the country’s secondary schools. The documentary highlights the impact on the England international players when they visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, a former concentration camp, shortly before the kick-off of the Euro 2012 finals.

West Ham United joint-Chairman, David Gold, and staff from the club’s Community Sports Trust, represented the club at a Newham Town Hall civic event. The weekend before, the club had commemorated the day at a home match against Queens Park Rangers, with a traditional candle lighting before the kick-off. Both initiatives marked the club’s commitment to promote tolerance and inclusion.

Italy

Earlier this month Inter Milan paid homage to the club’s former coach Arpad Weisz in a match. Weisz was a Hungarian Jew persecuted during the 40’s by anti-Semitic Italian laws and whose family were murdered in Auschwitz.

The life of the man who shaped Italian football in the 30’s will also be remembered during a lecture, on January 31, on the Faculty of Economics of the Piemonte Orientale a Novara University.

A play on the life of Matthias Sindelar, an Austrian footballer who rebelled against the Third Reich, will be staged in Italian schools to mark the day.

Poland

FARE’s Polish partner NEVER AGAIN joined the Social-Cultural Association of Jews in Poland for a commemoration ceremony at the Umschlagplatz, an historic site from which the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto where deported to the death camp in Treblinka, followed by a lecture and a classical music concert. Other events in Warsaw were also held, such as the reading of names of the Holocaust victims and a special tram ride to commemorate the Warsaw Ghetto where NEVER AGAIN representatives were present.

Other Activities

An extended number of other activities, non-sported related, took place and will continue to be hosted to mark the day during the next few weeks across Europe.