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"This is our moral duty": Frankfurt does not forget its Jewish foundation Israel today


Before the top-flight match against Bayern Munich and on the occasion of International Holocaust Day, the Frankfurt players will tour the Dachau concentration camp and learn about the club's historical connection.

A look at the top of the German league table, which shows that Eintracht Frankfurt is on fire after the eternal champion Bayern Munich, betrays the importance of the game between them tomorrow, but for the heads of the club from Frankfurt, the visit to the Bavarian capital will have additional importance beyond the sporting aspect.

"The group will visit the Dachau concentration camp," says Matthias Thoma, director of the Eintracht Museum, "where we will bow our heads to the Jewish victims of Nazism, and honor the memory of the Jewish club members who were persecuted for their Jewishness. This is our moral duty."

Thanks to Thoma's work, the words about moral duty sound much more than lip service.

While others are content with ceremonies, such as the one that will be held in Dachau on the occasion of International Holocaust Day, Toma works on commemorating the victims of the greatest crime that humanity has known throughout the year.

His big project "50 Frankfurters" revealed to everyone 50 Jewish figures without whom Eintracht would not have become an elite club, and perhaps would not have arisen at all.

Among them were footballers and managers, sponsors and journalists - all valued key people who almost instantly became disenfranchised victims, deported or murdered by the Nazis.

No less serious, even after the holocaust they were forgotten, because the Germans after the war preferred not to deal with the horror that they and their ancestors inflicted on the Jews.

Frankfurt fans, photo: Getty Images

"In the period before World War II, we were called the 'Jewish Club' - this was of course an exaggeration, but the anti-Semites could not help but notice the high number of Jews who gave their all and their souls to Eintracht," explains Toma.

"It was like that from the very beginning, from the days of Walter Benzeman, the Jew who introduced the people of Frankfurt to the game of soccer and founded the first team in the city, the one that would later become Eintracht. It is interesting that he later moved to Munich, and was one of the founders of Bayern there. Believe it or not, the two teams are fighting this season for the premiership in the Bundesliga There is one founding father, and he was Jewish."

In the impressive display of the Eintracht Museum, an entire page is dedicated to Benzeman, followed by other Jewish personalities, whose names have been erased from the club's history for decades.

Did the Jews also excel on the grass and not only in the organization?

"Certainly. An excellent example is Julius Lehmann, a tough defender who enjoyed immense popularity among the fans. Since 1937, he was no longer allowed to play in the Eintracht uniform. Five years later, Lehmann was sent to an extermination camp and murdered. His brother Max ran the club's youth department. His marriage to Christian Germany protected On him for a while. Nevertheless, in 1945 Max was also sent to Theresien in one of the last shipments, but he survived until liberation.

And there was, according to Toma, another very important area, in which the Jews contributed a lot.

"Sport doesn't exist without sports journalism," he adds with a wink, "and sports journalism in Frankfurt wouldn't exist without the legendary Max Behrens. Fat Max, as he was popularly known, wrote for various newspapers in the city and was recognized as someone capable of producing fascinating reports even from dreary draws. The residents of Frankfurt considered him a 'walking football dictionary', and in 1929 he was awarded the Eintracht ribbon of honor."


The appreciation and love of the members of the team and its fans did not protect Behrens after the Nazis came to power.

In 1936 he was thrown into prison.

Max was released 3 years later, and the authorities hinted that he had a week to get out of Germany, otherwise he would be sent to a concentration camp.

Luckily for him, he managed to purchase one of the last tickets for a ship to America.

"Apparently he was saved," says Toma, "but his health deteriorated greatly in the Nazi prison, and he died a few years after the war from the consequences of that imprisonment. Before his death, he even managed to organize the visits of the West German groups to the USA and in fact opened for them a renewed window into the free world.

Who were other Jews who promoted Eintracht?

"They were so numerous that it is difficult to mention them all. Arthur Kahn was the chairman of the club between 1908 and 1911. Hugo Reyes, one of the owners of a slipper factory, which was the main sponsor of the team, served as the treasurer of the club. Kahn managed to escape to Chile After the rise of Hitler, and later he also helped Reiss escape. It is said about Reiss, that even though his family members were murdered and he himself no longer returned to Germany after the war, he would call his old friends every Sunday to find out what Eintracht's result was in the league."

Toma emphasizes that uncovering the Jewish origins of Eintracht is nothing less than his life's mission.

"The way my people turned around and persecuted the Jews is unforgivable," he sadly concludes.

"At least I will help to do justice to the memory of those who, like me, sympathized with the group and devoted their energy and talent to it. When I visited Yad Vashem, I learned the meaning of the call "Every person has a place", and since then I have been working for the light."

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Source: israelhayom

All sports articles on 2023-01-27

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