Sjaak Swart-The football legend that nearly didn’t happen.


For the size of the country it is astonishing how many football greats come from the Netherlands.

Names like Johann Cruijff,Johan Nesskens,Ruud Gullit,Marco van Basten and Arjen Robben to name but a few, but the name Sjaak Swart certainly belongs in that list. Sjaak (Sjakie) Swart was pivotal to the successes of Ajax in  1971 to 1973  the 2 consecutive years when they won the European Cup.

For his 31 caps for the Dutch National team he scored 10 goals.

However the legendary midfielder nearly never kicked a ball, leave alone score goals and win cups.


Born in in the small fishing village of Muiderberg some 20 kilometres east of Amsterdam in 1938 as Jesaia Swart , the son of a Jewish Fisherman.

His father and he were forced to disguise themselves as non-Jews during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands from 1940 to 1945, hiding from the prying eyes of both Germans and Dutch collaborators, who rounded up any Jewish men, women and children in the country. Living a life comparable to a nightmare , fearing every knock at the the door Sjaak and his father managed to survive the war and the extermination of nearly 75 per cent of the Jewish population of the Netherlands.

The siblings of Louis Swart,Sjaak’s father, all died Louis would never have anymore children because as part of escaping the Nazis he had himself sterilized.

Not much is known about Sjaak’s mother ,all that I discovered it that she lived long enough to hand Sjaak his first Ajax jersey,she died of cancer in 1948. The gift of that jersey by his mother sealed his life long loyalty to the club.

Swart, joined the Ajax academy in 1949.He is still involved in Football today, aged 80.

What I find amazing about this is that although I am a big fan of the men in Orange, the Dutch National team, I never knew that Sjakie Swart was Jewish and had survived the horrors and a most certain death if he had been caught.

It is also an indication that the Holocaust is still in the living memory of so many.


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Eddy Hamel- Player of AFC AJAX,killed in Auschwitz.


AFC Ajax is one of the most well known football clubs in Europe if not the world.Aside from dozens of national trophies it also won 12 international trophies, a feat repeated by only a few other clubs.


Historically, Ajax was popularly seen as having “Jewish roots”. Although not an official Jewish club like the city’s WV-HEDW, Ajax has had a Jewish image since the 1930s when the home stadium was located next to a Jewish neighbourhood of Amsterdam-Oost and opponents saw many supporters walking through the Nieuwmarkt/Waterloopleinbuurt (de Jodenhoek—the “Jews’ corner”) to get to the stadium.

Die-hard Ajax supporters call themselves “Joden” — Dutch for “Jews” — a nickname that reflects both the team’s and the city’s Jewish heritage. This nickname for Ajax fans dates back to before World War II, when Amsterdam was home to most of the Netherlands’ 140,000 Jews.

The club  has an academy where it draws most of its players from but it has also always attracted foreign players. Eddy Hamel was no exception.

Hamel was the first Jewish player for Ajax. Born in New York City, New York, he moved to Amsterdam in his teenage years. As a right winger, Hamel became a first team regular for Ajax. He was the first player with a Jewish background who made it to the first team, and to date only three others have followed in his footsteps – Johnny Roeg, Bennie Muller and Daniël de Ridder. Hamel was a fan favourite and was cited by pre-World War II club legend Wim Anderiesen as part of the strongest line-up he ever played with.He was Ajax’ right winger from 1922 to 1930.  He scored eight goals in 125 league games.

After his retirement as a player, he managed RKV Volendam, in 1935 they became champion and he also managed  Alcmaria Victrix for three years and continued to play in an Ajax veteran squad.


Hamel was also to become the club’s only war victim who played for the first team of Ajax. In 1941 all Jewish players were dishonorably discharged from their clubs as decreed by the Nazi’s.He possessed a United States passport, which he could not produce when Nazi Germany invaded.

In October 1942 Eddy Hamel and his family were arrested and deported to Westerbork to the “English Baracks” where he meets and befriends Leon Greenman.

He was murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp on 30 April 1943. In the TV document Auschwitz: The Forgotten Evidence, fellow inmate and friend  Leon Greenman said he was in front of Eddy when he told him he had an abscess in his mouth, while in a regular medical selection queue, while Leon passed that selection Eddy was sent to the gas chambers because of his abscess.