02 August 2016
The lives of Jews in prewar Europe were rich in culture and tradition. Jews excelled in practically every part of society. Not only were they scholars and teachers, doctors and lawyers, but many were renowned athletes as well. Jews competed for the most coveted sporting competitions throughout Europe, including the Olympics.
Sports often served as a bridge between the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds. Friendships and comradery formed between these two societies. During the Holocaust, some of these bonds would help save Jews, when non-Jewish athletes bravely risked their own lives to rescue their Jewish compatriots from Nazi persecution. These brave individuals, who stood up against the evil that prevailed at risk to their own lives, would later go on to be recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.
In the spirit of the upcoming Olympic Games set to open later this week in Rio de Janeiro, Yad Vashem has dedicated two online exhibitions to commemorate both Jewish and non-Jewish athletes. The Exhibition entitled "Jews and Sports before the Holocaust: A Visual Retrospective" utilizes images and artifacts to portray different sporting events and competitions in which Jews participated. This exhibition features photos depicting Jewish athletes, including champion boxer Victor Perez, the Hapoel Football team from Poland, and the HaKoach Vienna Hockey team competing at the Bar-Kochba International Sports Games in 1937.
The online exhibition "The Game of their Lives" tells the stories of non-Jewish athletes recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem. The inspiring accounts of a dozen brave men and women are highlighted in the exhibition – most notably the rescue stories of world-renowned Italian cyclist champion Gino Bartali, Olympian swimmer Margit Eugénie Mallász, and Czechoslovakian soccer player Martin Uher –truly embody the Olympics spirit of "social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles."
These exhibitions are among the 160 online exhibitions in a variety of languages available on the Yad Vashem Website.