Saturday, February 26, 2011

Football at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Source: Winter time: memoirs of a German Sinto who survived Auschwitz by Walter Stanoski Winter and Struan Robertson.  Pages 54 -57

Comment:  Not the most important issue in the world, but an interest facet of camp life.  The soccer field was located right beside Krema III at Birkenau.  The influence of the ghost writer is often palpable.

One day a new Roll Call Leader arrived.  If I'm not mistaken his name was Hartmann, a man very keen on sport, an SS man naturally.  He asked around, the Block Senior, the Roll Call Clerks and the Block Orderlies, to identify those interested in sport: "Who plays football?"
Naturally, I was interested, along with other lads from East Prussia who had played in major clubs, and also my cousins.
He chose me as trainer and said, "You get together eleven or twelve footballers."
I must say that, in my opinion, this Roll Call Leader had a humane side to him.  He supplied us with some provisions that he had probably 'organised' by takin them from others [A hint of ghost writer influence here - my comment].  But we didn't give this a thought at the time, it being a matter of survival.

I selected footballers and trained them.  At that time we had a sports field where later the male prisoners' infirmary, section BIIf, was built.  We organised ourselves, trained and made all the necessary preparations.  The lads could play football, I saw this straight away but, unfortunately, we were short of a right winger.  I couldn't find one, there was noone suitable.  One day when we were training, two Jews were watching.  There were some Jewish workers in our camp, in a separate block.  One of them said, "I can play football."  A short man, perhaps 5'5", 5'6" tall [imperial units of ghost writer], he was slightly bow-legged.  Well, we trained together and he was terrific.
The first match was arranged: Auschwitz Main Camp v. Gypsies.  There were six Polish national players in the Main Camp team.  Kick off.  Only a reduced SS presence remained in the camp, all the other SS men were at the sports field.  SS lined the field on all sides as no prisoners were allowed to watch.  Our camp lay directly adjacent to this sports field so we were able to watch.  The electric current was switched off on the perimter fence on the sports-field side.  Everyone ran to the fence - the entire Gypsy Camp stood at the fence as spectators, with kith and kin, as the saying goes, or on the roofs of the blocks.  The match began.  We attacked from the start and scored the first goal after ten minutes.  I thought, "Now all hell will break loose!"  Normally the SS men from the Main Camp were rivals of those from Birkenau but at this moment they were sportsmen.  As we scored our SS, the Birkenau SS, began to fire off their revolvers, like fireworks going off.  So now, on, on!  In the second half, we scored again.  All hell did break loose!  I thought, "Lad, if only you survive this!"  The two SS factions began to abuse one another and were close to hitting each other.  Shortly before the end we conceded a goal.  We won 2-1.  That eased things.

Hartmann, our SS man, who had made the whole thing possible, was naturally happy and a good sport.  From thenon he saw that we were better fed.  I must say that we, these lads and I, always managed to barter or organise something, especially as we knew Leo in the kitchen.  Everybody did this.  It was because of this that these lads still had some flesh on their bones.  They were all young lads and I was twenty-three.  The packets we got from Hartmann fed us up a little.  We played a return macht and this time lost 2-1.  But, oh, it was a terrific match.

Those were the football matches.  Then the male prisoners' infirmary was built and the area was lost to us.  That put an end to that but there was another reason.  This Hartmann had two sons at the front and the man was well into his fifties at the time.  He lost both sons.  After that he was of no use to anyone anymore.  Somehow, he was completely....well, to lose two sons at one go is no trifle.  Anyway, the football team was disbanded.  But, when possible, we played among ourselves, between the blocks.  We dared not be seen.  But we knew, more or less, when Plagge or the other SS men cleared off, when they visited the town.

1 comment:

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