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Overcoming Antisemitism through Football – Poland


© Mareen Meyer

Find the article published in German by ÖFB here: https://www.oefb.at/oefb/News/OeFB-bei-europaeischem-Netzwerktreffen-zur-Bekaempfung-von-Antisemitismus-im-Sport/

As part of the EU-funded project NOA (Networks Overcoming Antisemitism), through which a 2-day workshop with club representatives from all over Austria could already be held in December 2022 ( see here ), a Europe-wide workshop was held in March 2023 Network meeting held in Auschwitz, Poland. For four days, representatives of various organizations came together that have focused their work on combating antisemitism in and through sport and have already successfully implemented initial projects with football clubs such as Borussia Dortmund, Feyenoord Rotterdam or Ajax Amsterdam.

Together with experts from Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria and employees of, among others, CEJIA Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe, the Anne Frank House, the World Jewish Congress and the “what matters projects”, the ÖFB also accepted the invitation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial for a Europe-wide solidarity against antisemitic discrimination, hate speech and violence in football.

Strategies were developed in several workshops as to how, on the one hand, sport can be used to commemorate the atrocities of National Socialism and, on the other hand, to counteract a renewed emergence of antisemitism in the present. The focus was always on making both past and present Jewish life visible and promoting.

For this reason, the participants also went on an intensive tour of the former concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in order to investigate the history of persecuted and murdered Jewish athletes.

A special focus was on the former German national team player Julius Hirsch, who was deported to Auschwitz on March 4, 1943, and gassed. On the occasion of the 80th anniversary of his death, a commemoration was held that was intended not only to commemorate his life but also to remember the lives of the many other football players who fell victim to the National Socialist system because of their belief or origin – such as the Austrian Norbert Lopper, 1956 – 1983 club secretary of FK Austria Vienna, who was imprisoned and tortured in Auschwitz for years.

A conscious remembrance of the terrible events and commemoration of the many victims should teach and show where hatred and exclusion can lead. With and through football, the Austrian Football Association wants to counteract violence and discrimination in society and pass on values ​​such as respect, solidarity and fair play.