Football giant Bayern Munich forced to reexamine its anti-Nazi past

Bayern Munich to examine anti-Nazi past after new research comes to light

Research uncovered suggests that the club wasn't as anti-Nazi as previously thought

Monday, October 31, 2016

German soccer club Bayern Munich has ordered an independent inquiry into new research which allegedly reveals that the club was "unusually conscientious" about the exclusion of Jewish members at the height of the Nazi regime. 

New research by historian Markwart Herzog, published on news website Der Spiegel, allegedly undermines the widely held view that Bayern - which has strong Jewish roots - was a consistent opponent of Adolf Hitler's anti-semitism.

Herzog evaluated records of the Bayern's figures and meetings from the years 1933 to 1945. He claims that in 1935 the club told Munich's district court that all "non aristocrats" had been forced to leave the club. At this point in history, that definition would have included anyone who was forced to wear the Star of David in public. 

Herzog suggests the club's actions at the time were in accordance with "the majority of other clubs during that time" and not as "heroic" as previously thought.

A number of people have criticised Der Spiegel and Herzog for publishing “a mixture of already-known information and a large dose of fraud.”

The club, has previously insisted that it denounced the Nazi Regime, which sprung up in Munich, during the 1930s. Hitler's Government labelled Bayern a Judenklub, but players and officials repeatedly defied the will of the government.

In 1936, a winger for the team, Willy Simetsreiter, had a picture taken with Jesse Owens, a black American athelete who had infuriated Hitler by winning four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics.

When Herman Göring later made an appeal for the population to donate metal for the war effort, the team's captain Conny Heidkamp hid all of the club's silverware.

But perhaps the most high-profile act of defiance happened in Zurich in 1943, when Bayern's players waved to their exiled former president Kurt Landauer in the stands during a friendly match.

Bayern has previously been criticised for playing down its Jewish roots, but has recently embraced its anti-Nazi past, hailing Landauer as the "father" of the modern club and making donations to numerous causes. 

The club, which is among the biggest in the world and has reached three Champions League finals in the past seven years, has announced it will commission an independent investigation to discover the truth into Herzog's claims.