Footballers have remembered Poland’s first national goal-scorer who was later killed in the Holocaust, ahead of the country’s game against Israel in Warsaw.
Josef Klotz, who was Jewish, played for Jutrzenka Krakow and Maccabi Warszawa, and scored the first ever competitive goal for Poland, against Sweden in 1924.
But he was murdered by the Nazis in 1941, as was fellow national team player Leon Sperling and first division footballer Zygmunt Steuermann, who played for the rival club in Krakow and later for Jewish club Hasmonea Lwów.
Yoav and Eitan Dekel, the great nephew and great-great nephew of Jozef Klotz, flew into Warsaw for a moving ceremony on Monday at the headquarters of the Social Cultural society of Polish Jews (TSKZ), touring an exhibition about Polish Jewish football players, with a focus on their relative.
At the event, Yoav and Eitan were presented with a shirt with Klotz’s name on it, as the Polish Football Association said it would remember players killed by the Nazis.
“He wore the red and white of our beautiful country with pride,” said Janusz Basalaj, director of Polish football association, speaking about Klotz. “He was a proud Polish player and we will always remember that. The team he played in was made from all different religions and this was something of great pride for us.”
Israeli manager Avram Grant attended the event in his capacity as chair of the Jewish heritage organisation From The Depths, which works in central and eastern Europe, especially Poland.
Grant said: “Jozef Klotz played for the Polish national team because he was a good football player and later he was murdered because someone said that not everyone is equal, that we are different to each other. This connects the most horrendous past to the football that unites people and brings people together.”
From The Depths founder Jonny Daniels said: “It was an honour to host this important event today, remembering what unites us, brings us together and puts us all on level, equal playing field. We will be working to tell more stories of those whose lives were lost and ensuring that their memory is never forgotten.”
After the commemoration event, Poland continued their strong run in the tournament, as they hammered Israel 4-0, opening up a five-point gap over the visitors at the top of Group G.
Goals from Krzysztof Piatek, Robert Lewandowski from the spot, Kamil Grosicki and substitute Damian Kadzior doubled the Poles’ tally as they had only scored four from their first three matches.