The date 27 January marks an important date in German history and history in general. On this day in 1945 the Red Army reached Auschwitz and it became clear to everyone what the Germans had done in those camps. What that has to do with football you may ask. Quite a lot.
For decades, German football has been ignorant to its own involvement in the persecution not only of people of Jewish faith; communists, homosexuals and many other groups. In fact, the demand to commemorate former club officials, players and administrators did not begin from the top of German football but from the bottom. It was the fans who initiated it and to this day seem to be more active when it comes to questions about their clubs’ history.
Last weekend most clubs demonstrated that they understood the message. Using the hashtag #WeRemember photographs were taken before kick-off. Sadly, there seems to be an ever growing gulf when it comes to cultures of memory. The best example are Bayern München. Although they posed for a photograph with their opponents, Schalke 04, the team also wore black armbands to remember Walter Fembeck who once served the club as managing director. Fembeck, who originated from Vienna joined the SS after the ‘Anschluss’ of 1938.
At the same time Bayern thus remembered the Holocaust they also honoured a person who has been a member of the SS and therefore an integral part of the Holocaust?! This is a slap in the face of those who work tirelessly to keep memory alive who work hard to condemn hate speech and crime in our times. It is a slap in the face of those luckily still among us to tell of their ordeal in Auschwitz and other death camps.
This is cynical and perverts all efforts made by fans and historians alike in the past to enlighten the history not only of Bayern but almost every club in Germany. This is underlined by the fact that Sky, who hold the television rights for the Bundesliga invite Clemens Tönnies, director of Schalke 04 to discuss their match against Bayern. This is the man who said that Africans should stop making children after dark and instead focus on working and building power stations last summer. He claimed to have been misunderstood but how can racism be misunderstood?
Both cases are insensitive to say the least.