Yesterday, I was thinking a lot about Israel. I was one of the five thousand who booked a “mistake” fare to Tel Aviv. Whether El Al will honor those tickets or not is unclear at this moment.
After I booked the flight, I started researching where to go and what to see in Israel. Although my entire family went to Israel many years ago, I stayed home because I was in Law School. I never thought I wanted to go, but suddenly I was aflutter with excitement. Questions flooded my head such as “should I go to Jerusalem? “should I go to Tel Aviv?” “did I have time to visit both?” Of course, people offered suggestions – way too many suggestions for a four day trip. My sister said “You have to visit Yad Vashem.” I looked at the website, which briefly describes its mission as follows:
As the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust, Yad Vashem safeguards the memory of the past and imparts its meaning for future generations. Established in 1953, as the world center for documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem is today a dynamic and vital place of intergenerational and international encounter.
I thought then of the Olympics, and wondered if there was any real sport allowed or pursued at the Concentration Camps. The answer was largely no: concentration camps were the antithesis of fitness.
I kept researching. I found some very interesting, albeit solemn, information.
A portion of this exhibit is entitled The Holocaust – Persecution of Athletes. This is a presentation of many Jewish Athletes who participated in Olympics, but who were killed in the Holocaust. The photos are captivating. I was drawn. I was mesmerized.
As a runner, I was drawn to this photo from Warsaw, Poland:
I wonder what Kusocin’ski’s world record breaking time actually was. I looked further. This athlete was from Hungary:
This was a Dutch gymnastic team:
So sad. Such good athletes. Such beautiful lives. Stolen. And this athlete, from Austria:
|Dr. Otto Herschmann (1877-194?), an Austrian Jewish swimmer, placed second in the 100-meter freestyle in the 1896 Athens Games. He died in the Izbica transit camp in German-occupied Poland.|
There are plenty more. Please look at the website. I remember when I visited the concentration camp at Dachau, near Munich, in Germany, all I could do was shake my head in disbelief and cry. All I can say here, is that there were some very strong, dynamic and talented athletes who participated in Olympic games in years passed. I am proud of them, and of course, saddened by their tragic ends. Never forget.
In addition to the above, I came across a pictorial online exhibit at the Yad Vashem website entitled Jews and Sport Before the Holocaust:
This exhibition gives visual expression to one facet of what was a very diverse Jewish culture- Jews who engaged in sports. From all over Europe, Jews took part in and competed in many different types of sports activities. Many of the individuals in these photos perished during the Holocaust.
This, for example is a photo taken in Berlin, Germany, 1937. It is a football match at the “Bar-Kochba” international sports games with the participation of “Hakoach Vienna”:
It is a beautiful exhibit of sport photographs.
On another note, and back current Olympic events, the IOC refused to permit a minute of silence for the Munich Terror Attack 40 years ago. To protest this, a French swimmer, Fabien Gilot, part of the gold medal-winning 4 x 100 team tattooed his arm. It reads in Hebrew אני כלום בלעדיהם – in English: I am nothing without them. Merci beaucoup, Fabien.
I do not know how to end this post. Instead, with much reflection and an ever increasing appreciation of the sport and the athletes. It also reminds me of how trivial my problems are – and how wonderful my life, and the freedoms I enjoy, are. I am blessed. Thank you.
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