Happy Birthday Eddy Hamel—American Soccer Player Murdered in Auschwitz

I have done a piece on Eddy Hamel before, but for two reasons I wanted to do a post again about him. Firstly it is his 120th birthday today, secondly, we are only a few weeks away from the FIFA World Cup, the biggest tournament of the sport he loved so much.

He was born in New York City. He was Jewish, as were his parents who were immigrants from the Netherlands. He moved to Amsterdam in his teenage years. In 1928 he married Johanna Wijnberg, and in 1938 they had twin boys, Paul and Robert.

Eddy Hamel was the first Jewish player, and also the first American, to play for Ajax in Amsterdam. Prior to Ajax he played for Amsterdamsche FC (AFC). His first acquaintance with Ajax was a special one. The training fields of AFC and Ajax were next to each other and Hamel had broken a window of an Ajax changing room while in a rowdy mood. The groundskeeper did not take it kindly and gave the boy an earful. In 1922 Hamel became the first Jewish player at Ajax and the first American at one of Europe’s most famous football clubs. The Ajax supporters—at the time also largely with a Jewish background—quickly embraced him.

Ajax’s players in 1926 pose for a team photo. Eddy Hamel is kneeling, front left.

Hamel became a first-team regular for Ajax. To date, only four other Jewish soccer players have followed in his footsteps – Johnny Roeg, Bennie Muller, Sjaak Swart, 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 had his fan club in the 1920s, which would line up on his side of the field at the beginning of every game, and then switch sides to be on his side of the field in the second half. After his retirement as a player, Hamel managed Alcmaria Victrix for three years and continued to play in an Ajax veteran squad.

Hamel, his wife and their sons lived across town at the time, in a second-floor flat at 145 Rijnstraat, not far from where 13-year-old Anne Frank and her family lived. In apparent defiance of the Nazis’ rules, Hamel continued to play for his old club’s alumni team, Lucky Ajax, during the German occupation.

On Oct. 27, 1942, Hamel was stopped by two officers from the Jewish Affairs division of the Amsterdam Police Department, which had turned compliant with the Nazis. The arrest report, written in German, states that Hamel told his captors he was born in New York. He gave “coach” as his profession. As for the reason for his arrest: He’d been caught in public sich ohne judenstern—without his Jewish star. Despite his American citizenship, Hamel was detained by the Nazis because he was a Jew.

Eddy and his family had to report to Westerbork. They ended up in the so-called ‘English Barrack’. Here were British and American citizens who were eligible for exchange. But that status turned out to offer no protection either. Leon Greenman, who was in the same barracks, spent the last few months with Eddy. Both their families were deported to Auschwitz in January 1943, where the women and children were immediately murdered. Both men were to work.

Eddy spent four months doing hard labour at Birkenau. After he was found to have a swollen mouth abscess during a Nazi inspection, the Nazis sent him to the gas chambers in Auschwitz concentration camp on April 30, 1943, where they murdered him.

I don’t know if this was the case but I think it is safe to assume that Eddy would have watched matches of the young talent at Ajax. I have no doubt that he would have enjoyed the talent of Rinus Michels, who played for the youth team in Ajax in 1940/1941. Rinus Michels went on to become the most successful manager of the Dutch national team, with whom he won the European title in 1988.

Ajax 4 with Rinus Michels kneeling in front with ball. Netherlands, Amsterdam, 1940-1941 season.




Han Hollander-Sports Journalist, murdered in Sobibor.

Sport is very important in the Netherlands, the Dutch are passionate about many sporting events. For a small country it does quite well in many of the sporting disciplines. Equally important are the people reporting or covering sports, especially on radio.

Hartog “Han” Hollander was the first Dutch radio sports journalist. He was Jewish, but he changed his name to Han to make it sound more Dutch.

On March 11, 1928, a football match was broadcast live on the radio for the first time. The match between the Netherlands and Belgium is defeated by Han Hollander. Who is this man who can speak so compellingly about sports?

Sports reporting on the radio is a Dutch invention. For the first time in history, a football game was broadcast live on the radio on March 11, 1928. The match was played between the Netherlands and Belgium, broadcast by the AVRO. Han Hollander reported. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.

In 1936 he was allowed to report and cover the Olympic Games in Berlin, which he did again with great enthusiasm. Because of his positive contribution to the Olympic spectacle, he received a certificate signed by Hitler personally.

When the war broke out on May 10, 1940, his career was suddenly over. The German occupier did not take the first steps in anti-Jewish legislation until January 1941, but Willem Vogt, the co founder and director of AVRO, fired Hollander because of his Jewish origin on May 16,1940. His once good friend broke off contact with him. Years later, Vogt lamented that he was only taking these measures so as not to offend the Germans.

Unfortunately, during the war, Hollander did not see the need to go into hiding. He said he was relying on the certificate of the 1936 Olympic Games signed by Hitler. Hollander was deported to Westerbork, from where, after a careless remark from his wife, he was sent with his wife were sent to Sobibor , where they were murdered on July 9,1943.

Their daughter was murdered in Auschwitz on February 28,1943.



Han Hollander: sportverslaggever




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Neuengamme concentration camp and the impact on Dutch sports and culture.


The SS established the Neuengamme concentration camp on December 13, 1938.It would become the biggest concentration camp in Northwest Germany.In excess of 100,000 inmates would come through Neuengamme and its sub camps.

The death toll would be 42,900.14,000 in the main camp, 12,800 in the sub camps, and 16,100 during the death marches. These numbers are just hard to envisage.

To put it in context the death toll would be the equivalent of the full population of Hoddesdon in the UK, or Draper city in Utah, USA, or Drogheda in the Republic of Ireland.


The death toll had also an impact on sports and culture. I have mentioned Dutch sports and culture because it is nearest to me but undoubtedly it would have had an impact across Europe.

Coen Hissink:


Coen Hissink  was a Dutch film actor of mainly the silent era. He appeared in 25 films between 1914 and 1942. He was also an author. In 1928, he wrote a volume of short stories relating to decadence, homosexuality, prostitution and cocaine. To get the inspiration for the stories , he visited a gay club in Berlin where he snorted cocaine in a bathroom. The book about his experiences was titled Cocaïne: Berlijnsch zeden beeld (Cocaine: Berlin’s vice image).


Any Dutch artist who wanted their works published in the Netherlands had to becomE a member of the” Reichs Kulturkammer” (Reich Chamber of Culture).Hissink refused to do so  and  joined the Resistance instead. In 1941, he was arrested  by the Nazis and sent to  Neuengamme where  he was killed on December 17,1942, age 34.

Jan Campert:


Jan  Campert  was a journalist, theater critic and writer who resided in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. During the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II He was arrested for helping  Jews. He was also sent to   Neuengamme , where he died on January 12, 1943.

He is most notably known for his poem “Het lied der  achttien dooden”(the songthe eighteen dead) describing the execution of 18 resistance workers (by the German occupier.

Below the English translation of the poem

The Song of the Eighteen Dead

A cell is but six feet long
and hardly six feet wide,
yet smaller is the patch of ground,
that I now do not yet know,
but where I nameless come to lie,
my comrades all and one,
we eighteen were in number then,
none shall the evening see come.

O loveliness of light and land,
of Holland’s so free coast,
once by the enemy overrun
could I no moment more rest.
What can a man of honor and trust
do in a time like this?
He kisses his child, he kisses his wife
and fights the noble fight.

I knew the task that I began,
a task with hardships laden,
the heart that couldn’t let it be
but shied not away from danger;
it knows how once in this land
freedom was everywhere cherished,
before the cursed transgressor’s hand
had willed it otherwise.

Before the oath can brag and break
existed this wretched place
that the lands of Holland did invade
and for ransom her ground has held;
Before the appeal to honor is made
and such Germanic comfort
our people forced under their control
and looted as a thief.

The Catcher of Rats who lives in Berlin
sounds now his melody,—
as true as I shortly dead shall be
my dearest no longer see
and no longer shall the bread be broke
and share a bed with her—
reject all he offers now and ever
that sly trapper of birds.

For all who these words thinks to read
my comrades in great need
and those who stand by them through all
in their adversity tall,
just as we have thought and thought
on our own land and people—
a day does shine after every night,
as every cloud must pass.

I see how the first morning light
through the high window falls.
My God, make my dying light—
and so I have failed
just as each of us can fail,
pour me then Your grace,
that I may like a man then go
if I a squadron must face.

Rein Boomsma:


Rein Boomsma had been  a Dutch football player between 1894–1907. He was a striker for both club,Sparta and the Dutch National team.


From  1936 to 1939 he was a Colonel. Before the invasion during the mobilisation period in 1939, he was commander of Fortress Holland.  After the invasion, he became the commander of the Ordedienst for “Gewest Veluwe” an underground army.

The main objective of this underground army was to maintain contact with the exiled Dutch government in London via coded radio transmissions.

Rein was arrested and imprisoned 3 times for his activities in the underground army. The last time proved to be fatal. He died in Neuengamme on 27 May 1943.

Hans van Walsem:


Hans van Walsem ) was a Dutch rower. He competed in the men’s coxed pair event, as the coxswain , at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.


The team qualified for the semi finals but unfortunately did not get any medals.

During the war he was a lecturer of chemistry in the Leiden university. He helped establish a small resistance newspaper called  “Ik zal handhaven” meaning I will maintain, which is the motto on the Dutch coat of arms.

The newspaper contained practical instructions on resistance activities. The German authorities arrested Hans and branded him as a fanatic member of the resistance, He was sent to Neuengamme where he died of tuberculosis on January 2. 1943.

Not only were these men heroic in their cultural and sporting endeavors, they were also heroic in standing up to evil and paid the ultimate price for it.


I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2, however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thank you. To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the PayPal link. Many thanks.