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When the Jews drove the fence – Tablet magazine

When the Jews drove the fence - Tablet magazine

In 1936, at the Olympic Video games in Berlin, there have been three medal winners on a Jewish background. Hungarian Ilona Elek gained the gold medal. Helene Mayer from Germany gained silver. And Ellen Muller-Preis, an Austrian, gained the bronze medal. All of them stood collectively above the medal platform. It must be noted that each one three ladies have been Jewish and none of them thought-about themselves Jewish. Nevertheless, this denial did not affect the Nazis who regarded them as Jews. The photograph of the ceremony exhibits Mayer, the winner of the silver medal, standing on a podium and giving a greeting to the Nazis.

Mayer's strange gesture created confusion and loads of comments. He was born in 1910 to a Jewish father and Lutheran mom. Though her doctor-father was lively in Jewish organizations, Helene and her two brothers have been raised in a secular house and attended a Christian faculty. Earlier than Hitler's power, Mayer was one in every of Germany's most beloved athletes. He gained the first German foil championship in 1924 when he was 13. By 1930 he had gained six German championships. He gained a gold medal at the age of 17 in AIDS in the 1928s in Amsterdam. In Germany, he gained 18 matches and misplaced solely two. Engaging and energetic, he was a star of the fence and Germany's most dazzling athlete.

Mayer's father died in 1931, and his mother and brother stayed in Germany. When he competed in Germany in 1932 at the Los Angeles Olympics, which led to fifth place, he determined to remain in California as an trade scholar at Scripps School. When Hitler got here to energy, his trade was terminated, as did his membership in the hometown. Returning residence to Germany appeared inconceivable, so he accomplished his research at Scripps and taught German educating at Mills School in Oakland, California, the place he may also continue to fence. Nevertheless, he accepted the invitation to compete in Germany in 1936 at the Berlin Summer time Olympics. This was organized by Avery Brundage, Director of the US Olympic Committee. He assured that Germany gave one German Jewish athlete a silent American demand from the German workforce to boycott the games. (Based on German regulation, Mayer was a confused Jew of Aryan and Aryan blood.) Mayer was the solely German athlete from a Jewish background to win a medal in that yr.

Regardless of the medal he was not celebrated as he returned to Germany. The Nazi government hardly accepted him. The government's propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels urged the German press to not touch upon Mayer's non-Aryan ancestors. After 1936 he by no means competed in the Olympics. He returned to the United States and became a citizen in 1940. He gained the US Ladies's Foil Championship six occasions in 1937-1946. He was additionally a world foil champion in 1937.

Mayer moved again to Germany in 1952 and married an previous good friend. He died of breast cancer in 1953. He was taken to the Fame Hall of Fame historical past of the United States Fencing Association after 1963. In 2000, Sports Illustrated named him the 20th largest fencer in the 20s


American Jews often heard of Jewish American athletes, corresponding to Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg in baseball, Sid Luckman and Benny Friedman in soccer, and Benny Leonard and Barney Ross in boxing. But they practically really feel nothing about the history of European Jewish athletes earlier than the beginning of World Warfare II. Jewish Olympians brought their country of origin a fame and worldwide recognition, and brought glory to themselves and the Jews.

Young Jews have all the time seen participation in sport as a method to integrate and achieve acceptance among non-Jews. a larger society. This involved Jewish university college students in Germany, Austria and Hungary in the late 19th and early 20th century. Solely there, fences and dueling with swords turned the sport of Jewish students. They did so as a result of the fences have been thought-about a path to climb the social ladder. In addition, the duel towards non-Jews was a approach for the Jews to point out their rage and provided a method to defend Jewish glory, particularly during rising anti-Semitism

Even Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, impressed some fences. As a journalist, Herzl wrote articles about the doubling of Jewish and French anti-Semitics in the late 19th century. Herzl himself once provided a duel of Vienna's anti-Semitism. He hadn't bluffed. As a toddler, he was educated to use the sword and fought a duel as part of his initiative in Albania, a German scholar duality. Herzl believed that "half a dozen duplicates would raise the social status of the Jews."

Resulting from anti-Semitism in Europe, Jewish students have been excluded from many universities and sports. In order that they created their own brothers and sports clubs. Their dueling typically happened within the Jewish setting. However once they have been working towards competitors with non-Jews, they gained their fame as a hard duelist. Because of their potential and competitiveness, the number of Jewish fencers turned masters of their country and the Olympics. The competitors for the Olympic fence was a approach for young Jews to precise their patriotism and the love of their nation and the option to show the world that Jews might compete with non-Jews at the highest degree and win. In reality, Jewish athletes have gained more Olympics than genuine sports activities.

The first Jewish fencing winner of the Olympic medal was Siegfried “Fritz” Flesch (1872-1939), fenced in Austria. He gained a bronze medal in 1900 at the Paris Summer time Olympics. He was the first of the 35 medals in the Olympic Fence, 17 of which have been gained by Jewish fencers in 1900-1936.

The subsequent Jewish Olympic medal was gained by Englishman Edgar Seligman (1867-1958). Seligman was born in San Francisco to German mother and father. When his mother and father moved to London, he turned a naturalized British citizen. A skilled artist, he competed in 5 Olympic Video games as a member of the British Fencing Group. He was the only man who gained the British fencing in the three fencing areas of the championship: Epe in 1904 and 1906; membrane 1906 and 1907; and saber in 1923 and 1924. He competed for the first time in Athens in 1906 in the Intercalatized Video games. The British group gained silver. Seligman competed once more at the London Olympics in 1908, the place he and his teammates gained the silver medal in the group's epee competition. Four years later, the captain of Seligman at the British Olympics at the Stockholm Fence. He competed in three occasions and gained one other silver medal in the staff's epee competitors. Though Seligman was still competing in 4 Olympics – 1920, 1924, 1928 and 1932 – he by no means gained one other medal.

The Hungarians have been all the time proud that that they had risen from fencing warriors. The Jew turned a Jewish grasp to satisfy the fantasy of acceptance. The first Hungarian Olympic winners have been Jews who have been profitable in saber fences, which have been Hungarian martial arts. At the 1908 London Olympics, four Hungarian-Jewish fencers – Dezso Foldes, Jeno Fuchs, Oskar Gerde and Lajos Werkner – gained a gold medal in the group championship. Fuchs also gained a gold medal in a single saber competition. He turned the first Hungarian Olympic champion in the fencing. Along with his gold medals, Fuchs (1882-1955) gained 22 individual matches at the 1908 and 1912 Olympics

Edgar Seligman (right) (Photograph courtesy Wingate Sports and Sports Institute)

1908 Olympics, Two French Jews, Alexandre Lippmann and Jean Stern, profitable the gold medal in the group's epee competition. In 1912, the Stockholm Olympics, Foldes, Fuchs, Gerde and Werkner once more gained the group's gold medals for fencing and group saber occasions. Fuchs gained a gold medal in a single saber competitors and Werkner gained a gold medal in a fence competition. Two Belgian Jews, Gaston Salmon and Jacques Ochs, gained the gold medal fence and group epee competitors. Albert Bogen from Austria gained the silver medal during the fence and group championship, Denmark's Ivan Osiier gained the silver medal in a single epee competitors. Otto Herschmann of Austria gained the silver medal in the fence and teammaster competitors.

After the First World Struggle, the fences came to virtually Hungarian Jews. Between 1920 and 1936, Hungarian Jewish fencers gained 11 Olympic medals. The visibility of the Hungarian Jew was as a consequence of several elements. The Austrian and Hungarian Empire had suffered a loss in the warfare. In consequence, Hungary lost almost two-thirds of its territory and more than half of its inhabitants. Earlier than the conflict, the nation was over 18 million. In 1920, the inhabitants of the new Hungary was 8 million. Earlier than the warfare, the Jews have been 911,227. After the conflict, it was 473,000. This new state of affairs inspired the Jews to point out their courage and present their loyalty and patriotism to the new Hungary.

The Hungarians related the fence with the courage, virilization, masculinity and honor of sport. Because the Jews try to offer examples of these qualities, they took fences and duel with swords with unprecedented enthusiasm. The fences came virtually to Hungarian Jews and became a key a part of their efforts to determine and accept the ruling courses in the country. The Jewish fencers' victories at the Olympics gave the Jewish communities delight and act as a way to show their courage and dignity to the Hungarian public. The Jewish-Hungarian press repeatedly introduced the Jewish contribution to Hungary, paying specific attention to the Jewish victories at the Olympics. The Hungarian non-Jewish press also famous Jewish victories and praised Jewish masters as representatives of the bodily agility and power of the kingdom. Many Jewish journalists wrote Hungarian newspapers, in order that they have been almost certainly the most famous of those who praised the Jews.

In 1928, in the Amsterdam Video games, three Hungarian Jews – Janos Garay, Sandor Gombos and Attila Petschauer – gained the gold medal group competition. Petschauer additionally gained a silver medal from a single saber competitors. In 1932, in the games of Lake Placid and Los Angeles, Petschauer and Endre Kabos of Hungary gained the gold medal in the workforce saber competition. Kabos also gained a bronze medal from a single saber competitors. In 1936, at the Berlin Olympics, Kabos gained a gold medal from individual saber and group championships. In these video games, three feminine fencing winners and Kabos, all with Jewish backgrounds, took five out of eight sword medals.

Kabos was absolutely aware of the symbolism of the third kingdom's competitors. Earlier than the video games he wrote an article in the Hungarian Jewish magazine Egyenloseg (Equality), through which he stated that Jewish athletes have a psychological disadvantage. "We are going to go to the point of showing strength and ability in which our Jewish brothers are considered to be the second rams, not the people created by God, even harmful, and they receive treatment according to this painful idea." He concluded by saying that the Hungarian – Jewish Olympics are preventing not just for the Hungarian nation and the satisfaction of Hungary in Berlin, however we, Jewish athletes, must and need to show the image of Jewish power and goodness. "


Five Hungarian Jewish Olympic winners didn’t survive the conflict. Lajos Werkner died in Budapest in November 1943 at the age of 60. Oscar Gerde died in Budapest's ghetto in October 1944. Janos Garay, who gained the gold medal in the 1938s at the Amsterdam Olympics, and the silver medal in the workforce's saber in 1924, have been expelled and murdered in the Mauthausen focus camp.

Hungarian gold medalists Attila Petschauer and Endre Kabos endure comparable fate. Petschauer was born in Hungary in 1904 and was a fencing wall before teenagers. His father named him Attila Hun, who was naturally the identify of Gentile. In 1928 at the Amsterdam Olympics, he gained a silver medal in a person competitors and a gold medal at the Saber event. When the Germans occupied Hungary in 1944, Petschauer was expelled to a labor camp in the Ukrainian city of Davidovka. During the meeting of the prisoners, he was identified by a army one that had been his pal in Hungary. This didn't save her. His former good friend informed the guards to struggle Petschauer. The guards shouted, "You, the Olympic sword winners, let's see if you can climb the trees." It was average and bitter cold, but the guards let him take off and climb the tree. Funny guards informed him to fall like a cock and sprayed him with cold water. Water coated with ice, Petschauer froze to demise. His life and demise have been dramatized in the 1999 film Sunshine, starring Ralph Fiennes.

From Left: Endre Kabos, Attila Petschauer, Helene Mayer (Pictures: Wikipedia)

Endre Kabos (1906-1944) was born in Hungary. He began to hide at a young age after receiving the fencing gear as a birthday current. In the 1930s he had turn into certainly one of the world's largest fencers. In addition to the 4 Olympic gold medals, he gained a number of gold medals as a person and as part of Hungarian groups in European AIDS competitions. During World Struggle II he was interned in a basic labor camp. In June 1944 he was sent to a Jewish labor camp. He additionally taught some German army officers about the use of saber fence. He was later transferred to Budapest, where he transported food and booked prisoners in camps. On November 4, 1944, he was on a bridge that the German soldiers have been getting ready to blow as much as forestall it from utilizing the future Purple Military. He was killed when the ammunition he drove exploded because of a pipe bomb. In 1986, he attended a world Jewish sports hall.

Dezso Foldes (1880-1950) was the only Hungarian-Jewish Olympic champion who survived the warfare. After the 1912 Olympics he left Hungary in the United States. He opened a clinic for the poor in Cleveland, Ohio. He died in Cleveland in 1950.

Hungarian Jewish fencers beloved Hungary. They believed that their victories at the Olympics brought glory and honor to their homeland. In any case, their Olympic Games and achievements didn’t save them. They endure the similar fate as different Jews


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