Chelsea and Jewish News exhibition remembers athletes murdered in the Holocaust

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Chelsea and Jewish News exhibition remembers athletes murdered in the Holocaust

49 Flames initiative shines the light on Olympic medallists killed by the Nazis, in project which includes powerful contributions from managers Frank Lampard and Emma Hayes

Jack Mendel is the Online Editor at the Jewish News.

Jewish News has teamed up with Chelsea Football Club has to launch an exhibition honouring Jewish Olympic athletes murdered in the Holocaust.

The 49 Flames initiative, composed of portraits illustrated by British-Israeli street artist Solomon Souza, tells the extraordinary stories of 15 sports-men and women who perished during the Shoah.

The Blues’ manager Frank Lampard, who introduced the virtual exhibition in a video made by the club alongside Emma Hayes, the Chelsea Women’s manager, said it “brings back some of the darkest moments of our history, and reminds us that all parts of society, including Sport, were affected”.

The initiative tells the stories of cousins Alfred and Gustav Felix Flatow, German Jewish Gold medallists at the first modern Olympics held in Athens in 1896, who both died of starvation in Theresienstadt.

It recalls the plight of German Jewish track and field athlete Lilli Henoch, who set 4 world records and won 10 German national championships, in four different disciplines. In 1942, Lilli and her mother were deported to Riga where they both perished.

Some of the fifteen athletes featured. Top: Lilli Henoch, Roman Kantor and Salo Landau. Bottom: Gertrude Kleinova, Attila Petschauer and Anna Dresden-Polak and Judikje Simons.

It shines a light on chess player Salo Landau, Roman Kantor a Polish Olympic épée fencer and world champion table tennis player Gertrude Kleinova.

It also features contributions from Holocaust educators, Jewish News editor Richard Ferrer, Israel’s president Reuven Rivlin, human rights activist Natan Sharansky, the government’s antisemitism adviser Lord John Mann, and Holocaust survivor Sir Ben Helfgott, a champion weightlifter who captained the British Olympic team.

Holocaust Memorial Mural by Soloman Souza, featuring three footballers imprisoned by the Nazis (Photo by Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC)

This comes after Chelsea, with the backing of its Israeli-Russian owner Roman Abramovich, launched a campaign in January 2018 called ‘Say No To Antisemitism’.

As part of its initiative to root out racism at the club, it sent a delegation to the March of the Living in Poland, played a fixture against New England Revolution in the US to raise money for causes fighting antisemitism, and agreed to host a conference on tackling Jew-hatred.

In march of this year, a 12-metre mural by Souza was displayed at the club’s home ground, Stamford Bridge, depicting three former footballers who were imprisoned by the Nazis, including Julius Hirsch, the first German Jew to be capped by his country – before he was murdered in Auschwitz, British prisoner of war Ron Jones and Hungarian, Arpad Weisz.

Frank Lampard, Manager of Chelsea, said: “Sports has an enormous power to unite people and by sharing the stories of these athletes, we hope to inspire future generations to always fight against antisemitism, discrimination and racism, wherever they find it.”

Emma Hayes, Manager Chelsea FC Women’s manager backed the project, saying: “This is so important as we know that sport has not been immune to the horrors of the past. This exhibition brings back some of the darkest moments of our history.

“We see the Holocaust through the eyes of male and female athletes from around the world. The stories of Jewish athletes such as Lilli Henoch, Anna Dresden-Polak and Gertrude Kleinova remind us why we as a club and individual sports professionals can never take our freedoms for granted.

Last month, Hayes interviewed Ruth Bourne, a Jewish veteran who worked at Bletchley Park, which was instrumental in deciphering the Nazis’ secret ‘enigma’ code.

Chelsea was among 19 clubs – in addition to the Premier League itself – to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, last week. Only Sheffield United declined to back the move.

Visit the virtual exhibit here:


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