Taking a stand, taking action – Women resisting against National Socialism

On 27 January 1945, the concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated. This is now the 19th year in which Germany's football leagues have marked the matchdays around 27 January by holding the "Remembrance Day in German Football" and commemorating the people who were persecuted, deported and murdered. This year, the initiative is spread across Matchdays 18 and 19 of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 seasons (27-29 January and 3-5 February).

"!Never again" Auschwitz – this is the mission and the urgent request that the surviving witnesses are handing down to the generations to come. As a football and sporting community, we shall live up to this responsibility.

This year, the focus of the initiative is on the resistance shown by women. In this context, we principally think of concentration camp survivor Esther Bejarano, who accompanied and inspired the "!Never Again" initiative for many years. We see her words as an obligation: "You are not guilty of this era. But you are guilty if you don't want to know anything about this era. You need to know about everything that happened then. And why it happened." In July 2021, Esther Bejarano passed away aged 96.

Women resisting against National Socialism

The National Socialist crimes were possible because there were active perpetrators and supporters, but also too many people who looked the other way. That made the commitment shown by the people who helped the victims of persecution and resisted, among them many women, all the more significant. However, many of them were themselves persecuted and murdered by the National Socialists. To ensure their names are not forgotten, the women in the resistance shall be the focal point of the 19th "Remembrance Day in German Football".

Special role models

Resistance could occur in all areas of society, including sports. As such, the theme of the initiative this year is also aimed at clubs and fan scenes, in order to search for biographies of women involved in resistance during the Nazi era who had a sporting or local connection and to tell their stories.

One such example is that of Margit Zinke (1914-1945), who played field hockey for Hamburger SV as a teenager and then, together with her husband Paul, resisted the Nazi dictatorship as a young adult by openly taking a stand against it and supporting groups critical of the regime, among other things. The Zinkes, along with 69 other men and women, were murdered in Neuengamme concentration camp in April 1945, just days before it was liberated.

Or the story of the siblings Helga (1920-1942) and Ursula Beyer (1918-2013), who were active in the German-Jewish Hiking Association and smuggled anti-Nazi leaflets from Czechoslovakia to Germany. Ursula survived, but Helga was murdered in Ravensbrück concentration camp in 1942.

Martha Wertheimer (1890-1942), meanwhile, was a writer, activist, fencer and the person responsible for club news at Eintracht Frankfurt in the 1920s. During the National Socialist era, she organised for children to be evacuated overseas and was involved in Jewish welfare work. After her deportation in June 1942, she vanished without a trace; she was probably murdered in the Sobibor extermination camp.

The challenges we face in the present

In many parts of the world today, women continue to stand up against authoritarian regimes and fight for human rights, self-determination and a life free of violence. It is important to draw attention to this. Even in democratic states like Germany, discrimination and exclusion still exist today. It is the responsibility of us all not to accept this.

Football is living up to this responsibility and organising the "Remembrance Day in German Football" for the 19th time – as a joint commemoration and in line with the guiding principle of "!Never Again". Important work for women's rights is being done nowadays by, among others, the "Open Stadiums Iran" movement, the documentary film "Freedom Fields", the "Discover Football" project and the "F_in Network Women in Football". One of the many role models in this regard is the US international Megan Rapinoe, who publicly takes a clear stance against racism and queerphobia.

We can all make a contribution, every day – on and off the football pitch!

Download Now!
Print Page to top