Football in Time of Horror—The Football Competition in Westerbork


This must be one of the most amazing events I came across, but amidst all the killing, torture, deportations and other horrors in Camp Westerbork, they actually found time to set up a football competition.

Initiated in the Spring of 1943, the competition had several teams of Jewish inmates and was a welcome distraction. It gave a sense of hope for survival.

It must also have been a way of taking a bit of revenge on the members of the OD (Ordnungsdeinst) or Capos some of them also played in the tournament.

Some players did survive the Holocaust but the majority of them died in the extermination camps, along with Han Hollander who had been a famous Dutch sports commentator, with the broadcaster AVRO prior to  the war. He died on 9 July 1943, in Sobibor.


Juda de Vries, who had been a celebrated goalkeeper of HFC Haarlem was sent to Westerbork in 1942. For a short time, he entered the competition, he was transported to Sobibor in May 1943 where he was killed.


Although the competition was short-lived it had given them that feeling of normal life again, and however short-lived it was—it must have felt magical.



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