The Jewish Museum in Vienna presents an exhibition on Jewish Identity in the football stadium, which looks at several different clubs from four European countries: Austria (Hakoah, First Vienna and Austria), Germany (Bayern Munich), England (Tottenham) and the Netherlands (Ajax).
The question this little exhibition follows is “What makes a football club, a Jewish club?” The players, the officials, or the fans? The clubs in question provide the answer.
The Austrian clubs have direct ties with the Jewish community, though their origins in different social classes; Hakoah was the club for the radical Zionists while Austria represented the Jewish middle classes which were by and large assimilated. Bayern’s inclusion is justified by Kurt Landauer, the Jewish president of the club under which they first won the German league title in 1932.
While the former two have direct links to the Jewish community in their respective cities, the cases of England and the Netherlands are different. Tottenham, have had a huge Jewish followership, which affected their identity. Ajax Amsterdam supporters simply called themselves “Super Jews”, while most fans of the Dutch club would not know where the state of Israel would be on a map.
The links between football and the Jewish communities in the respective cities are very different but no less very interesting.
It attracts a different clientele to the museum, which is a positive side effect. In times like these, with antisemitism once again spreading, highlighting the links between Jewish roots and influences on the world’s most popular pastime is vital.
One very intriguing piece is the banner reading “Partisan Rothschild” which plays with one of the key figures of the First Vienna FC 1894, Nathaniel von Rothschild. It shows an image of Rothschild printed on a red star. The script reads Partisan — a nod towards Partizan Belgrade, the arch-rival of Red Star. It marks the unifying power of football. Further, the red star, a clear communist sign, with Rothschild’s image superimposed on it, is another contrast. The connecting things are placed above those dividing; it is also a satirical way to play with fan identities’ often martial and exclusive nature in and around football.
The section on the Austrian clubs is naturally the biggest in this fine exhibition, presenting the refereeing whistle of Hugo Meisl as well as a miniature version of the Mitropa Cup which was — perversely abused by having “Heil Hitler” engraved on it. It was used to mark “the Anschluss” in 1938. The Ajax section is dominated by the screening of the film “Super Jews”.
The exhibition is still visible until January 7, at the main site of the Jewish Museum of Vienna. The fee is €15, the catalogue €23.90.
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