German soccer pledges to support Holocaust Memorial Day

BERLIN (AP) — The German soccer federation says it has a “special responsibility” to support Holocaust Memorial Day as its former president Felix Linnemann was directly responsible for sending victims to be murdered at the Auschwitz extermination camp.

The DFB said on Friday that Linnemann, who led the federation from 1925 to 1945, “was directly involved in the registration of Sinti and Roma as the head of the Hannover Criminal Police control center, which was the preliminary stage for their deportations to Auschwitz. Several hundred people are said to have been deported to the extermination camp and killed there on the basis of a direction signed by Linnemann.”

Linnemann, who joined the SS on May 1, 1940, spent six months in a prisoner camp in Lüneburg Heath after the war. He died in 1948.

Many clubs and fan projects, from the Bundesliga to the third division, will remember the atrocities of Nazi Germany with various campaigns and announcements in and around games this weekend as part of the “Never Again” initiative. Monday marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz.

“This year, since more than 20,000 Sinti and Roma murdered in Auschwitz are also being commemorated in addition to the many Jewish victims, we feel a special responsibility,” DFB President Fritz Keller said, referring to Linnemann’s actions.

“This incredible horror, this unprecedented suffering, that was inflicted on people is all the more painful because football, which today stands for understanding and diversity and opposes racism and discrimination, did not oppose it at that time. Quite the opposite: it was complicit,” Keller said.

“That’s why it is our special duty to ensure that these crimes are never forgotten. Especially today, because not everyone in Germany wants to remember them anymore. We owe it not only to the millions of victims, but also to the to the coming generations.”

Keller praised Eintracht Frankfurt for its plan to posthumously remove the title of honorary president for Rudolf Gramlich for his Nazi past when it holds its members’ meeting on Sunday.

“It is an exemplary and important signal, how Eintracht Frankfurt is facing up to this responsibility this weekend,” Keller said.

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More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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

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