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!
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • 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.