The European Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism (WGAS) held a meeting on 7 February 2017 at the initiative of MEP Helga Trüpel (Greens, Germany) and under the chairmanship of MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar (S&D, Spain), during which the documentary ‘Liga Terezin’ was screened. The documentary was followed by a panel discussion on ‘Antisemitism and Football’, moderated by WGAS Vice-Chair MEP Heinz K Becker (EPP, Austria).
Mr. Alon Meyer, President – Makkabi Germany, Mr. Roy Rajber, Media Officer – U21 National Team – German Football Association – DFB, Mrs. Roisin Wood, Director – Kick it Out and Mr. Oded Breda, Project Manager – Beit Theresienstadt (also featured in the documentary) took part in the discussion and shared with the Members of the European Parliament and other participants, representatives of diverse organisations, their experience on fighting against antisemitism in football, educating about the importance of remembrance and equipping the young generation with the right arguments in the face of any form and shape of discrimination.
MEP Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar welcomed those present and MEP Helga Trüpel presented her reasons behind the initiative to talk about antisemitism in sports and the urgency to address such topics in today’s society.
MEP Becker, after the applauses stirred by the documentary, praised the extraordinary film ‘Liga Terezin’ and the messages it conveys and introduced the speakers of the panel.
Mr. Oded Breda presented the work of Beit Terezin with emphasis on their didactic activities which include among others exhibitions, educational programmes and memorial tournaments. He explained the importance of screening a documentary such as ‘Liga Terezin’ today, to understand the role of propaganda as a ‘deception round’ by using a language common to more than 50 percent of the population – football – in order to masks the horrors of the Shoah. He emphasized that it was not a coincidence that the football scene occupies such an important place in the Nazi propaganda film on Theresienstadt.
The documentary is a tool that could be used to remember and help in the fight against antisemitism in sports. The reappearance of antisemitic chants and imagery about teams perceived as Jewish is alarming and calls for immediate action, he said. In the words of Uri Coronel, former director of Ajax he “never believed that after 40 years he would see antisemitism at the stadium with his own eyes”.
Mr. Roy Rajber, Media officer at U21 team DFB, stressed out the need to point out the ‘omissions by mistake’ about what happened to the Jews in WWII and gave as an example the criticized centenary book celebrating the 100 years anniversary of DFB which failed to mention the Nazi years. This incident had a positive turn out as it gave life to the publication of a new book ‘Football under the swastika’. Mr. Rajber also presented the ‘Julius Hirsch’ award, which is a strong tool in the fight against antisemitism in football as well as other programmes, such as the annual trip to Israel of the under 18 German National Football team for a friendly tournament and the visit to Yad Vashem, that expose football players to the hidden and hideous past in order to educate and speak up against any form of discrimination.
Mrs. Roisin Wood, presented the work of ‘Kick it out’ which aims at challenging football to overcome racism and antisemitism in ways and languages that are common to the young generation and are easy to access. She said that the goal of their campaigns is no to criminalize, but rather to educate, to challenge attitudes, to present alternatives and consequences to certain behaviors, to raise awareness. They developed a phone application that facilitates the reporting process and gives the opportunity of being actively involved in the fight against antisemitism and other forms of discrimination.
Makkabi Germany President Alon Meyer elaborated on the importance of the 37 local German Makkabi sports clubs in shaping and strengthening German-Jewish self-conception and confidence as well as the commitment to remember the past. He also emphasized the symbolic significance of the European Makkabi Games of 2015, that was inaugurated by German President Gauck at the Waldbühne and which brought for the first time since the third Reich over 2500 Jewish Athletes from 39 different countries to such historic place as the Olympic stadium.
The event was attended by MEPs coming from various member states and political groups, advisors, staffers and NGO’s representatives.