Wiping out a sporting legacy.

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Although I could not be considered to be an athlete,by any stretch of the imagination, I do enjoy walking and going for swims. Ever since I was a kid I was always very interested in the Olympic games. My home nation ,the Netherlands always tends to do well and it does give a sense of pride of this sporting legacy.

Although the Nazi regime actively encouraged sports, in fact Hitler saw all athletes as potential prime soldiers.

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Well only ‘arian’ athletes , any others like Jewish or Sinti athletes were not worthy to even eat the same food as his dog Blondi.

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Regardless how successful these athletes had been in the past there was no place for them in Germany history, their legacy had to be wiped out.

Gustav Felix Flatow & Alfred Flatow 

These 2 cousins both won gold medals in the 1896 Athens olympics.

Gymnast Gustav Flatow won two gold medals in 1896 at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens—in Team Horizontal Bar and Team Parallel Bars.

Gustav Flatow was 1 of 10 German athletes who competed in the Athens Olympics.

Gustav fled to Holland at the beginning of World War II but was caught and interned in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. He died there just months before the end of World War II ,aged 70.

Alfred Flatow won three gold medals in Athens, Greece, at the first modern Olympiad in 1896. He also won a silver medal.In 1903, he assisted the founding of the Judische Turnerschaft, the historic and pioneering Jewish sports organization in Europe. He was prominently active in German gymnastics until expelled by the Nazis in 1936. Alfred Flatow died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1942, aged 73.

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In 1997 Berlin honoured Alfred and Gustav Flatow by renaming the Reichssportfeldstraße (a lane) near the Olympic Stadium to Flatowallee (Flatow-avenue). There is also the Flatow-Sporthalle (sports hall) at Berlin-Kreuzbergwith a commemorative plaque for both. The Deutsche Post issued a set of four stamps to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympic games. One of this stamps shows the Flatows.

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Lilli Henoch

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Lilli Henoch (October 26, 1899 – September 1942) set World records in the Discus, Shot Put, and 4 X 100 Relay events.

She set her first World record in the Discus on October 1, 1922, in Berlin, with a toss of 24.90 meters. Less than a year later, on July 8, 1923, in Berlin, she bettered the mark with a distance of 26.62 meters.

On August 16, 1925, in Leipzig, Henoch set the World Shot Put Record with a toss of 11.57 meters.

One year later, she ran the first leg on the four-some (Henoch-Poting-Voss- Kohler) that set a new World 4 X 100- Meter Relay record—50.4 seconds—at the German tournaments in Köln (Cologne).

Between 1922 and 1926, Henoch won 10 German national championships in Shot Put, 1922 and 1925; Discus, 1923 and 1924; Long Jump, 1924; and 4 X 100-Meter Relay, 1924 to 1926.

The German government deported Henoch and her mother on September 5, 1942. They were shot and buried in a mass grave in the woods surrounding Riga, Latvia.

Werner Seelenbinder

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Seelenbinder was born in Stettin, Pomerania, and became a wrestler after training as a joiner. He had connections with the young people’s workers’ movement from an early age. Seelenbinder won the light heavyweight class of Greco-Roman wrestling at the 1925 Workers’ Olympiad in Frankfurt. In 1928 and 1929 he won the Spartakiad in Moscow; over 200 German sportsmen were banned from the contest, but Seelenbinder, with his interest in Marxism, took part.His first trip to Moscow had already persuaded him to become a member of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). In 1933 he refused to give the Nazi salute when receiving his medal at the German Wrestling Championship,and was punished with a sixteen-month ban on training and sports events.

German workers’ sports clubs were soon banned by the Nazi party; at this point the KPD approached Seelenbinder, asking him to join one of the legal sports clubs, to train to get as much sporting success as possible, so he would be able to carry messages across Germany and into other countries. As one of the country’s top sportsmen he had more freedom of movement and could travel abroad. As well as preparing for the Olympics, Seelenbinder joined the Uhrig Group, an underground resistance group named after Robert Uhrig, who organized it.

As a committed communist Seelenbinder was appalled by the 1936 Olympic Games that were to be held in Nazi Germany.

Berlin, Eröffnung der XI. Olympischen Spiele

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He had originally planned to boycott it, but friends persuaded him to compete anyway, win, and defy the Nazis by not giving the required Nazi salute, but to use a vulgar gesture instead. This plan was foiled when he lost the first match. He eventually came in fourth in the event.

The Nazis had only allowed Seelenbinder to take part in the Olympics because they thought he would secure them a medal: otherwise, they did not trust him in the slightest. Seelenbinder’s illegal activities as a courier and his participation in the Uhrig Group had caught their attention: he was arrested, along with 65 other members of the group, on 4 February 1942 and after being tortured for eight days, and enduring nine camps and prisons for two and half years, he was sentenced to death by the Volksgerichtshof, he was executed for treason on 24 October 1944 at Brandenburg-Görden Prison – he was beheaded with an axe. The imprisonment left him weighing a mere 60 kilograms (132 pounds), from his previous weight of 90 kilos (198 pounds).

In his farewell letter, he wrote to his father:

The time has now come for me to say goodbye. In the time of my imprisonment I must have gone through every type of torture a man can possibly endure. Ill health and physical and mental agony, I have been spared nothing. I would have liked to have experienced the delights and comforts of life, which I now appreciate twice as much, with you all, with my friends and fellow sportsmen, after the war. The times I had with you were great, and I lived on them during my incarceration, and wished back that wonderful time. Sadly fate has now decided differently, after a long time of suffering. But I know that I have found a place in all your hearts and in the hearts of many sports followers, a place where I will always hold my ground. This knowledge makes me proud and strong and will not let me be weak in my last moments.

 

Johann Wilhelm Trollmann

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Born 27 December  1907 near Hanover, Trollmann’s official German name was Johann but his family and friends knew him as Rukeli, derived from the word for tree in the Romany language. He started training at the tender age of eight and was soon competing with the Heros Hanover boxing club.

On 9 June 1933, Rukeli boxed against Adolf Witt for the German light-heavyweight title, which had been vacated by the Jewish holder Erich Seelig who had fled Germany in fear of his life. Rukeli was on course to win when the Nazi chairman of the boxing authority intervened, ordering the judges to call a ‘no decision’ and not award the title. This decision caused such an uproar among the audience that Rukeli had to be hastily crowned champion after all, but only a few days later he was stripped of the title again by the German boxing authorities because of ‘bad boxing’.

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A new fight was scheduled for 21 July, and Rukeli was ordered to fight in the ‘German style’ and ‘not to dance like a Gypsy’. He knew he was meant to lose this fight because he was a Sinto. Rukeli entered the ring with his face and body powdered white with flour and his hair dyed blonde: a caricature of an Aryan and a courageous act of protest against his discrimination. He just stood still and took the blows of his opponent Gustav Eder until he was knocked out in the fifth round.

This marked the end of his boxing career. He struggled to fend for himself, was sent to Hannover-Ahlen labour camp twice and went into hiding for a time to avoid further persecution. In 1938, in order to avoid deportation to a concentration camp, he agreed to be sterilised under the ‘diagnosis’ of ‘congenital feeble-mindedness’. He divorced his non-Sinti wife in order to protect her and his little daughter Rita. Following the outbreak of war in 1939, he was drafted into the German army.

In 1942, he was dishonourably discharged from the Wehrmacht for racial reasons, along with all Sinti and Roma, and soon after arrested by the Gestapo, severely tortured and transported to Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg. The camp commandant recognised him as the former boxing star and ordered him to train the camp’s SS men at night following his punishing 12-hour work shifts. Because of his deteriorating health, fellow prisoners managed to get him transferred to Wittenberge, one of Neuengamme’s satellite camps. But here, too, he was recognised as the former boxer, and was made to fight fellow prisoners for ‘entertainment’. One of his opponents was Emil Cornelius, a feared kapo. Trollmann won against him, but in a brutal act of revenge Cornelius beat him to death with a shovel in March 1944.

Otto Herschmann

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Dr. Herschmann is one of only three athletes to have won Olympic medals in different sports. He won a silver medal swimming the 100-Meter Freestyle in 1896 at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens and a bronze medal in Team Sabre (fencing) at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm.

Coincidentally, Herschmann also served as president of the Austrian Olympic Committee during the 1912 Games, and as such was the only president of a National Olympic Committee to win an Olympic medal while in office.

Dr. Herschmann was arrested in Vienna by the Nazis and deported on January 14th, 1942 to the Sobibor concentration camp. He died there later that year.

 

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