A sports challenge during WWII

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The Dutch take their sports serious, despite what happens in the world. It is part of the Dutch psyche to not give up,keep going regardless(although looking at the performance of the Dutch National football team, you might be forgiven for thinking differently)

Despite being occupied by the Germans the Dutch felt compelled to organize the skating marathon called “De elfsteden tocht” (Eleven cities tour)

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A skating tour, almost 200 KM (120 mi) long, which is held both as a speed skating competition (with 300 contestants) and a leisure tour (up to 16,000 skaters). It is held in the province of Friesland in the north of the Netherlands, leading past all eleven historical cities of the province.

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The tour is held  only when the natural ice along the entire course is at least 15 centimetres (6 in) thick.When the ice is suitable, the tour is announced and starts within 48 hours. In 1941 and 1942 it was felt the Marathon skating event had to be held because of the harsh winters which made the ice perfect.The Germans did allow it but did put severe restrictions in place.

In the early morning hours of 6 February 1941, 1900 people fastened on their skates. The race of all races was about to begin: the Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Speed Skating Tour). The weather was mild (0.0 °C/32 °F)and the ice looked inviting. But there were also some concerns. An imposed blackout meant a large part of the race would have to be skated in the dark, making it very difficult for many participants. The Frisian skater Auke Adema finished first.

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On 22 January 1942, after a long spell of frost, the Elfstedentocht was held again. As many as 4,800 skaters signed up.

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The atmosphere was very special. Being together in Friesland, free from the Germans with their rules and bans, gave the participants a feeling of solidarity. The Germans could barely comprehend the nation’s fervour for this skating marathon. Given they had little control over the crowded event, they chose not to interfere. In 1942, Sietze de Groot of Weidum won the race. He skated the 200 kilometres in a record time of 8 hours and 44 minutes. The temperature was significantly lower in 1942 (-11.7 °C/10.94°F)

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Ironically during this grueling sporting event  the contestants felt humanity again, a sense of freedom despite occupation.

Like all the others since 1912 the names of Auke Adema and Sietze de Groot’s names were engraved on the coveted silver trophy cup that is passed from winner to winner, which is still the custom today.

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The last time this race was held was on 4 January 1997. Although in 2012 the conditions were ideal, at the last minute it was decided not to go ahead with the race.

An “alternative Elfstedentocht” has been held every year in January since 1989 on the Weissensee in Carinthia, Austria.

 

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1936 Winter Olympics-The forgotten Olympics

 

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The 1936 Winter Olympics, officially known as the IV Olympic Winter Games , were a winter multi-sport event which was celebrated in 1936 in the market town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Bavaria, Germany. Germany also hosted the Summer Olympics the same year in Berlin. 1936 is the last year in which the Summer and Winter Games were both held in the same country (the cancelled 1940 games would have been held in Japan, with that country likewise hosting the Winter and Summer games).

Like the 1936 Summer Games the February Winter Games were highly political.

The 1936 Winter Olympics were organized on behalf of the German League of the Reich for Physical Exercise (DRL) by Karl Ritter von Halt. Von Halt had been named President of the Committee for the organization of the Fourth Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen by Reichssportführer Hans von Tschammer und Osten.

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Nine months before the games were scheduled to begin, discrimination against the Jewish population had become so widespread that the head of the organizing committee, Karl Ritter von Halt, became alarmed and voiced his concerns in a letter to the Interior Ministry in Berlin. Halt emphasized that he didn’t want to be misunderstood — “I am not expressing my concerns in order to help the Jews” — but wrote that “if the propaganda is continued in this form, the population of Garmisch-Partenkirchen will be so inflamed that it will indiscriminately attack and injure anyone who even looks Jewish.”

The Jew-baiting in the Alpine idyll did not go unnoticed abroad. An English reporter who had traveled to the Werdenfelser Land region in advance of the games photographed the Partenkirchen Ski Club’s clubhouse, where a sign reading “No Jews Allowed Here!” was posted on the wall. The image circled the globe.

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A boycott movement had already been formed in the United States. Organizing committee chief Karl Ritter von Halt was worried that the entire German Olympic project could fail. “If the slightest disturbance occurs in Garmisch-Partenkirchen — this is something which we are all well aware of — it will be not be possible to hold the Olympic Games in Berlin, because all other nations will then withdraw from the event.”

When IOC president Henri de Baillet-Latourwas traveling to Garmisch to see the Games, he was astonished to see roadsigns en route declaring )Dogs and Jews not allowed).

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Baillet-Latour requested an audience with Der Führer and demanded that the signs be taken down. Hitler replied that he thought it usual, when a guest entered a person’s home, that the guest followed the wishes of the host. Baillet-Latour responded that when the flag of Olympia flies over the area, he became the host and Hitler was only the invited guest. Hitler acquiesced and had the signs removed.

But the Games were still highly political, though not  as much as the  Berlin Summer games few months later.

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At the opening ceremony, OCOG President ,Karl Ritter von Halt, stated”We Germans want to show the world that, faithful to the order of our Führer and federal Chancellor , we can put on an Olympic Games that will be a true festival of peace and sincere understanding among peoples”. Perhaps, but the German team included only one Jewish athlete.,Rudi Ball, who was a member of the German ice hockey team.

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In 1936, because he was Jewish, Ball (the 25-year-old captain) was initially overlooked for selection in the German ice hockey team. His good friend and teammate, Gustav Jaenecke, refused to play unless Ball was included. Ball also believed a deal could be struck to save his family in Germany if he returned to play in the games.The German selectors also realized that without Ball and Jaenecke the team would not stand a chance of winning. Another factor was that the Nazi party could not overlook the fact that Ball was without doubt one of the leading athletes in his sport. With much controversy Ball was included in the German team to play at the 1936 Olympic games. One report of the time proposed that Ball was playing against his will.The deal for Ball’s family to leave Germany was also agreed. After Ball was injured, the Germans took 5th place in the Olympic tournament. Ball played four matches and scored two goals.

The 1936 Olympic Winter Games were notable for the introduction of Alpine skiing events.

image-51314-galleryv9-quwu-51314Great Britain upset 1932 gold medalists Canada in ice hockey when Edgar Brenchley scored the winning goal within the last ninety seconds.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The murder of the Dutch Gold Medal olympians

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I am a great sports fan and even though I don’t support a particular team(bar the Dutch soccer team), I do watch all the major sporting events.

The Olympic games ,both summer and winter, are events I really enjoy watching, perhaps it’s because the Dutch generally do well in them. They are 13th in the all time standings for the summer Olympics and even higher for the winter games, which is not bad for a small country.

The Netherlands only hosted the summer games once, which was in 1928.In Amsterdam.

That year the Dutch won 19 medals, 6 Gold,9 Silver and 4 Bronze in individual and team sports.

Especially the Women’s gymnastic team did well. In the event of the ‘Women’s team all round’ the  Gold medal was won.

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Although most of these 12 young women were in their teen or early twenties,4 of them would not live to see the age of 40. This was not because of some rare disease or because of an accident.This was all because of hate.

These women were Jewish and, 4 of them died in concentration camps.Only 1 of these five survived.

Elka de Levie (November 21, 1905 – December 29, 1979),was the only Jewish team member to survive the Holocaust;

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her team mates Anna Dresden-Polak, Jud Simons and Helena Nordheim were gassed in Sobibor, while Estella Agsteribbe was gassed in Auschwitz.

Not only were these women killed,their husbands and children suffered a similar fate.

On October 31, 1929 she married Andries Abraham Boas, with whom she had two daughters, but the couple were divorced on April 20, 1943. She and both her daughters survived the Second World War by going into hiding. Elka de Levie died in anonymity in Amsterdam on December 29, 1979

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Estella “Stella” Agsteribbe (April 6, 1909 – September 17, 1943) was deported during World War II. She was murderedtogether with her husband Samuel Blits, their six-year-old daughter Nanny and their two-year-old son Alfred in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

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Judikje “Jud” Simons (20 August 1904 – 20 March 1943) She was born in The Hague and died in Sobibor extermination camp. She was deported and murdered together with her husband Bernard and their five-year-old daughter Sonja and their three-year-old son Leon

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Helena “Lea” Nordheim (August 1, 1903 – July 2, 1943) Nordheim was born in Amsterdam and died in the Sobibor extermination camp. She was sent to Westerbork concentration camp in June 1943. Shortly after, Nordheim was deported to Sobibór where she was murdered, together with her husband Abraham and their ten-year-old daughter Rebbecca.

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Anna “Ans” Dresden-Polak (née Anna Polak) (24 November 1906 – 23 July 1943) She was born in Amsterdam, and died in Sobibor extermination camp. From Westerbork concentration camp she was deported to Sobibór where she was murdered on 23 July 1943,together with her six-year-old daughter Eva. Her husband Barend Dresden was killed a few months later in 1944 in Auschwitz concentration camp.

Their coach Gerrit Kleerekoper who was also Jewish was also killed by the Nazis

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Gerrit Kleerekoper (15 February 1897 – 2 July 1943) was a Jewish – Dutch gymnastics coach. He was married with two children and worked as a diamond cutter.

He led the Dutch women gymnastics team to win the gold medal at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Kleerekoper’s team scored 316.75 points, defeating Italy and the United Kingdom.

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On 2 July 1943 Gerrit Kleerekoper, along with his wife Kaatje and their fourteen-year-old daughter Elisabeth, were murdered by the Nazis at the Sobibór extermination camp in German-occupied Poland. Their twenty-one-year-old son Leendert died of exhaustion in Auschwitz in July 1944.

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Pierre  Versteegh who was a Dutch horse rider who competed in the 1928 Summer Olympics and in the 1936 Summer Olympics.In the 1928 Summer Olympics he won the bronze medal in the team dressage with his horse His Excellence after finishing ninth in the individual dressage.Eight years later he finished fifth with the Dutch team in the team dressage and placed eighth in the individual dressage.

He was executed  by firing squad on May the 3rd 1942 in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He had been an officer in the Dutch army but after the Germans invaded the Netherlands, he resigned his post as Lieutenant-Colonel because his wife was Jewish. He then  joined the resistance.

 

1936 Summer Olympics Berlin-Sports or Politics?

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I am amazed that people are still surprised at the actions of the IOC, This year it was widely expected that Russia would be banned from the Rio Olympics due to doping scandal surrounding their athletes and the cover up of the Russian Olympic Committee.

The only thing the IOC is interested in is the IOC, this has been proven throughout history. Just think back to the 1972 Munich Olympic games where 11 Jewish athletes and officials were massacred. rather than stopping the games the IOC left it go on as if nothing happened.

It was clearest of all during the 1936 Olympic games that the IOC is nothing but a political entity.

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The 1936 Summer Olympic games in Berlin still serves as the template for the modern games.

The Summer Olympic Games serve as a grand podium for the belief that a nation’s best athletes can bolster its sense of pride and honor for another four years—setting the stage for real-world superheroes who defy the odds and challenge the capabilities of the human body. It’s a tradition the globe is unlikely to kick.

But 80 years ago, when the Summer Olympics opened on Aug. 1, 1936, in Berlin, that creed nearly crumbled. That year, it became increasingly clear that Germany only wanted to see its superheroes in one light: the stars of the Aryan race, superior for their genetic makeup rather than their athleticism. It provided Hitler with a showcase,It was a propaganda bonanza for him.

United States Olympic Committee president Avery Brundage became a main supporter of the Games being held in Germany, arguing that “politics has no place in sport”, despite having initial doubts. Later Brundage requested that a system be established to examine female athletes for what Time magazine called “sex ambiguities” after observing the performance of Czechoslovak runner and jumper Zdenka Koubkova and English shotputter and javelin thrower Mary Edith Louise Weston. (Both individuals later had sex change surgery and legally changed their names to Zdenek Koubek and Mark Weston.).

Despite not coming from a fascist country, French Olympians gave what appeared to be the Roman salute at the opening ceremony, although some have later claimed that they were just performing the Olympic salute, which was in fact a very similar action.

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Although Haiti only attended the opening ceremony, an interesting vexillological fact was noticed: its flag and the flag of Liechtenstein were coincidentally identical, and this was not discovered until then. The following year, a crown was added to Liechtenstein’s to distinguish one flag from the other.

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American sprinters Sam Stoller and Marty Glickman, the only two Jews on the U.S. Olympic team, were pulled from the 4 × 100 relay team on the day of the competition, leading to speculation that U.S. Olympic committee leader Brundage did not want to add to Hitler’s embarrassment by having two Jews win gold medals.

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The German Olympic committee, in accordance with Nazi directives, virtually barred Germans who were Jewish or Roma or had such an ancestry from participating in the Games . This decision meant exclusion for many of the country’s top athletes such as shotputter and discus thrower Lilli Henoch, who was a four-time world record holder and 10-time German national champion,[and Gretel Bergmann who was suspended from the German team just days after she set a record of 1.60 meters in the high jump.The only Jewish athlete to compete for Germany was Helene Mayer , a member of the fencing team. She was a ‘token Jew’ to show the world that Germany was an ‘inclusive’ society.

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During the Games, Hauptmann Wolfgang Fürstner, the commandant of the Olympic Village in Wustermark, was abruptly replaced by Oberstleutnant Werner von Gilsa, commander of the Berlin Guard-Regiment.

The official reason given by the Nazis was because Fürstner had not acted “with the necessary energy” after 370,000 visitors had passed through the village – between 1 May to 15 June – causing significant damage to the site. However this reason was just a pretext to disparaging the half-Jewish officer and expediting his removal Fürstner committed suicide shortly after the conclusion of the Berlin Olympics because he learned the Nuremberg Laws classified him as a Jew. As such, the career officer was to be expelled from the Wehrmacht.

Individual Jewish athletes from a number of countries chose to boycott the Berlin Olympics, including South African Sid Kiel, and Americans Milton Green and Norman Cahners. In the United States, the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee supported a boycott.

Some athletes and Olympics organizers in the United States and Europe considered pulling out of the Olympics altogether to compete elsewhere. The debate on whether to pull out on the American end was particularly heated, as the boycott began with the U.S. team. Avery Brundage, then the president of the American Olympic Committee, opposed a boycott, arguing that “the Olympic Games belong to the athletes and not to the politicians.

Some academics, including Burstin, now believe that Brundage was complicit in the Nazi’s anti-Semitism in the Olympics, and that he even attempted to paint American Jews as unpatriotic and misguided for supporting a boycott. Meanwhile, the Nazis, seeing the negative reaction to what was supposed to be a great moment for Germany, temporarily took down anti-Jewish propaganda and did what they could to clean up Germany’s image prior to the games. In the end, the U.S. would send several Jewish athletes to the games, and many journalists covered the games with a degree of positivity, with TIME reporting in 1936 that most newspapers focused on “the ceremonious procession” of the Olympics’ first modern Torch Relay rather than “other doings in Berlin.”

Though Hitler’s attempt to see Aryan athletes triumph was not a complete success—most famously due to the medal sweep brought by U.S. track star Jesse Owens. Jesse Owens won four gold medals in the sprint and long jump events. His German competitor Luz Long offered Owens advice after he almost failed to qualify in the long jump and was posthumously awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal for sportsmanshipGerman athletes did walk away with the most Olympic medals.

Germany had a prosperous year in the equestrian events, winning individual and team gold in all three disciplines, as well as individual silver in dressage. In the cycling match sprint finals, the German Toni Merkens fouled Arie van Vliet of the Netherlands. Instead of being disqualified, he was fined 100 marks and kept his gold. German gymnasts Konrad Frey and Alfred Schwarzmannboth won three gold medals.

 Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Germany (host nation) 33 26 30 89
2 United States 24 20 12 56
3 Hungary 10 1 5 16
4 Italy 8 9 5 22
5 Finland 7 6 6 19
France 7 6 6 19
7 Sweden 6 5 9 20
8 Japan 6 4 8 18
9 Netherlands 6 4 7 17
10 Great Britain 4 7 3 14

Some thought the games showed Germany had successfully crawled out of the economic ditch it had fallen into post-WWI, and had ultimately acted as a great host.

Many Jewish athletes who either competed in the Olympics prior to 1936 or the 1936 Olympics itself would die in concentration camps during the Holocaust. Among them were Ilja Szraibman, a Polish swimmer and Roman Kantor, a Polish fencer, both of whom competed in 1936 and later died in Majdanek.

Notably, Alfred Nakache, a French swimmer who competed in the 1936 games, would also compete in the 1948 Olympic Games in London after surviving Auschwitz.

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Even after Germany had annexed Austria and occupied Czechoslovakia, the IOC still scheduled the Winter Olympics to be held in Garmisch Partenkirchen in Bavaria.It was eventually held in St Moritz,Switzerland.

I have to be honest , I do enjoy the spectacle which is the Olympic Games. But I am under no illusion that it is politics with the veneer of sports.