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!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • 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.