To coincide with the start of the Rio Olympics this month, London’s Jewish News featured extracts from the chapter on Jewish sportspeople who were murdered by the Nazis. The link is: http://jewishnews.timesofisrael.com/the-tragic-fate-of-jewish-sporting-heroes-in-the-holocaust/
When I started writing ‘Who Betrayed the Jews?’ I drafted a list of chapters which included one about Jewish soldiers who fought for their country in World War One. Many of them were awarded the Iron Cross and erroneously assumed that their military service and their medals would protect them in the Holocaust. The fact that they had proudly risked their lives fighting for their homeland was irrelevant when the Nuremberg Laws were enforced.
Then during the London Olympics in 2012, when I was in the early stages of my four year stint of writing, I remembered a film I had seen some years before. It was called Sunshine and was about a Hungarian Jewish family over 3 generations. One of whom was based on the Hungarian fencer Attila Petschauer, winner of two Olympic medals, who was killed by the fascists by being sprayed with cold water in the winter. He froze to death.
I therefore wondered how many other Jewish Olympians found that their Olympic medals counted for nothing when the Nazis were implementing the policies agreed at Wannsee in January 1942. Not for the first time in writing the book, I was shocked by what I found and the chapter describes the fate of over 30 Jewish Olympic medallists and sportsmen murdered with their spouses and little children. Also included is Johann ‘Rukeli’ Trollmann (1907-1943) a Sinti boxer from Hanover.
I also included Wolfgang Fürstner, the commandant of the notorious 1936 Berlin Olympics. He was awarded the Iron Cross, 1st Class in WW1. Poor Fürstner was found to be a Mischling (half-breed) through a Jewish grandfather. His story conflates the two chapters as he too assumed his military record and his sports administration skills would protect him. However he was the subject of considerable abuse during the Games as posters saying ‘Down with the Jew Fürstner’ appeared around the Olympic village. Two days after the Games ended he shot himself.
These two chapters demonstrate the real betrayal of Jews who had won medals for their country, but were exterminated without a thought when the Nazi juggernaut ploughed on with ‘The Final Solution’.