German sports body condemns vandalism of Jewish memorial

BERLIN (AP) — The German Olympic Sports Confederation has condemned an act of vandalism against an outdoor exhibition highlighting Jewish sports stars in Bochum.

“This cowardly act is a blow for the whole of German sports,” confederation president Alfons Hörmann said in a statement Thursday.

Plexiglas figurines of track and field athlete Lilli Henoch and gymnasts Alfred and Gustav Felix Flatow were destroyed on Monday night or the early hours of Tuesday morning. The figure of Walther Bensemann, one of the founders of the German soccer federation (DFB), was already damaged in the previous weeks, when the Flatow cousins’ memorial had been targeted with anti-Semitic graffiti.

“We condemn the devious attacks on the important memorials to our sports comrades Lilli Henoch, Alfred and Gustav Felix Flatow, and Walther Bensemann. We also stand in solidarity with our member associations the DFB and Makkabi Germany, and all those who actively promote the values of sport,” Hörmann said.

The traveling exhibition focused on Jewish stars in German sport until 1933 – when the Nazis began persecuting Jews – and beyond, as the Nazis also exploited some of the athletes to avoid a threatened boycott of the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

“The willful destruction of the figures in this important exhibition has stunned us,” said Bochum mayor Thomas Eiskirch, who had opened the exhibition on Oct. 7. “It’s the limit. Bochum was and remains a cosmopolitan and tolerant city in which the culture of remembrance will always have its place.”

The display has been touring German cities since 2015. News agency dpa reported that it was attacked several times in the past, too. Figurines were vandalized three times in one month in Frankfurt in 2017, and two were damaged last month in Wetzlar in the central state of Hesse.

Henoch was a 10-time German Champion in discus, shot put, long jump and sprint relay, and she broke world records in all but the long jump in the 1920s.

The Flatow cousins were both Olympic champions. Both men were killed at the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Bensemann promoted soccer at a time when the sport was still a novelty to most. He established the first football club in southern Germany, and also founded Der Kicker magazine in 1920.

The exhibition was titled “Between Success and Persecution” and was on show in Bochum until Nov. 9 – the date of the 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom against Jews in Germany and Austria.

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Ciarán Fahey on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cfaheyAP

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