Dutch Soccer Remained Silent During Holocaust

Book Examines Anti-Semitism at Amsterdam's Famed Ajax

Stronger Than Dirt: Fans of the Dutch team Ajax refer to themselves as Jews and wave Stars of David at soccer matches.
Getty Images
Stronger Than Dirt: Fans of the Dutch team Ajax refer to themselves as Jews and wave Stars of David at soccer matches.

By Dan Friedman

Published October 19, 2012, issue of October 26, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Ajax is asked this question by Kuper not only because it is the largest and most successful of the Dutch teams, but also because its fans refer to themselves as “Jews” and shake Stars of David at matches. Supporters of opposition teams, most notably Feyenoord from Rotterdam, perform anti-Ajax songs, often with an anti-Semitic bent: Most chillingly, Feyenoord fans hiss to mimic the gas coming into the death chambers. But Ajax, situated near the now largely de-Judaized Jewish quarter, remains officially silent about its current and historical Jewish connections and its actions during the occupation.

Dutch Boys: Ajax won its 31st National League title this year.
Getty Images
Dutch Boys: Ajax won its 31st National League title this year.

What Kuper finds in his investigation is a mixture of shame and officially encouraged ignorance of both the club’s Jewishness and its acquiescence to the Nazification of Dutch society during the occupation. Although Kuper doesn’t limit his scope to Ajax or even the Netherlands, it is that country’s particular form of social arrangement that fascinates him. Seemingly, belonging to a club — often a soccer club — was a primary form of affiliation. Though it could reflect other loyalties (religion, class, location), club membership could also supersede them. This made the German edicts precluding Jewish membership so invidious, and the clubs’ reaction to those rules the most telling.

As the war in Europe raged on, soccer continued. On June 22, 1941, the day Germany invaded the Soviet Union, a self-evidently crucial moment in the war, 90,000 people watched the German league final in Berlin. Kuper asks with exasperation, “What were they thinking of?” In a fascinating trawl through as many official minutes of wartime club meetings as he could find (Ajax did not give him access), Kuper is able to show how the laws of the occupation were refracted through club bylaws.

Sparta Rotterdam does not seem to have thrown away a scrap of paper, and Kuper shows us how “collaborators, Jews, and everyday folk muddling along — add up to a microcosm of the Dutch war.” Kuper travels to the backwater of Gorcum, where he discovers that the club Unitas ended up resisting the Nazis because they were in contravention of club bylaws. And he shows how the numerous Jewish players, supporters and officials, as well as their Jewish survivor physiotherapist, Salo Muller, are all sidelined from the official history because it’s easier to pretend that the Jewish involvement with Ajax is a myth and that the club’s actions in the war were goed than to tell the complex story of a conflict.

Overseas the power of a simple narrative is apparent. The Jewish involvement in Ajax is known in Israel: The sister of Ajax’s greatest player, Johann Cruijff, married a Jewish man, and Cruijff visited Israel with great fanfare and mutual love.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.