Schalke fans shed new light on Nazi deportation of local Jews

The “Schalke Fan Project” of the German soccer team Schalke 04 is leading an investigative initiative to find out more about the deportation of Jews from the city of Gelsenkirchen in West Germany.

The project, called “Erinnerungsort Wildenbruchplatz” (Wildenbruchplatz place of remembrance), investigates municipal, state and federal archives for the stories of victims who were deported from Gelsenkirchen, the hometown of Schalke 04.

The atrocities committed by the Nazis in Gelsenkirchen are further clarified by the findings. Local resident Helene Lewek, who took her own life shortly before she was deported, are among the stories released to the public.

The group’s investigation further revealed some of the perpetrators’ stories, such as that of the Gestapo field office director Robert Schlüter, who denied and apologized for the cruelty of him and his colleagues. Schlüter was eventually acquitted by the courts.

The “Wildenbruchplatz”, a once bustling city square from which 350 Jews from Gelsenkirchen and 150 from other cities were deported to Latvia in 1942, was the basis of the Fan Project’s research. “Sometimes it is difficult to find a way to find an entry point to this issue. But here we have a concrete place where you can focus,” 25-year-old Schalke supporter Jannik Rituper told German news organization DW .

According to the investigation, the victims were crammed into a room surrounded by barbed wire on a sub-zero night while they awaited their forced deportation. The Nazis awaiting their arrival in Latvia would later assassinate the transported victims.

German soldiers are seen marching in Warsaw after the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939 (credit: FLICKR).

Rituper, along with other Schalke Fan Project participants, has spent at least six hours a week with the project for the past six months. He was able to interview Gelsenkirchen resident and Holocaust survivor Rolf Abrahamson, 96, and played the video recording at the Gelsenkirchen New Synagogue.

“We always believed that the next day would not come for us,” said Abrahamson, who was 16 at the time, recalling his deportation from Gelsenkirchen to various concentration camps.

Around 25 Schalke supporters in total are participating in the project. Official Natalie van den Meulenhof said she hopes the wrong done by the Nazis will not soon be forgotten. “Through educational work, anti-Semitism can be contained and fought,” he declared.

Schalke 04 and the Schalke Fan Project have a long history of fighting discrimination. In 1994, Schalke 04 became the first club in the German league to include in its statutes a commitment to fight against racism and discrimination. In 2001, they commissioned a study on the club’s ties to the Nazi party during his reign and finalized plans to name a street near the stadium in honor of Fritz Szepan, who won six championships with Schalke 04 and is considered one of the best. club players. history – after his Nazi party affiliation and acquisition of Jewish businesses were discovered. Schalke has a plaque commemorating nine Jewish members and supporters who died in the Holocaust.

“I am incredibly happy with the result,” Rituper said. “We came up with questions that had never been asked before.”

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