Julius Hirsch was a football player in the Karlsruhe football club, and a member of the German national football team prior to World War I. In 1943, Hirsch was deported to Auschwitz. He did not survive the Holocaust.
Julius Hirsch was born in 1892 in the town of Achern, in southwest Germany, and studied in Karlsruhe. He played football with Karlsruhe's youth team, and was known for his powerful left foot. In 1909 at age 17, he played his first game with the senior team, and scored his first goal. By the following year, he was already recruited to the German national team, and played seven matches with them. In his best game against the Netherlands, he scored four of Germany's five goals. Hirsch and his friend Gottfried Fuchs were the only two Jews to ever be members of a German national football team.
Hirsch was a member of the German Olympic team at the Stockholm Olympics in 1912. In 1913, he moved to the SpVgg Greuther Fürth club, which won the German championships in 1914.
Julius Hirsch was a patriotic German. He served in the German Army during World War I, reaching the rank of Vice Sergeant (Vizefeldwebel), and was awarded the Iron Cross Second Class. His brother was killed in action. In 1920, he married Ella Karolina Hauser, a Protestant. Their son Heinold was born in 1923, followed by their daughter Esther in 1928.
In 1925, at the age of 33, Hirsch retired from professional football and started working in trade, while still involved in training football teams. With the increasing economic sanctions imposed on German Jews by the Nazi regime, Hirsch was fired from his job. He attempted suicide, and was then hospitalized for a period in a mental institution.
After the outbreak of World War II, Hirsch was assigned to forced labor. His marriage to a non-Jewish woman gave him immunity from deportation, but he divorced his wife in December 1942 in the hope that this would save her and their children, and from then on, he was no longer exempt from being deported.
Julius Hirsch visited his wife and children in late February 1943, and told them that he was about to be sent to a labor camp. In March 1943, he was deported to Auschwitz. His daughter Esther later recalled:
On 1 March 1943, my father, Julius Hirsch, was taken to the railway station in Karlsruhe, and deported by train. It is one of my worst memories. It was a lovely day; to this day I don't understand how the sun could have been shining. We didn't believe that we would never see him again.
That night, we – Mother, my brother and I – all woke up simultaneously. At the same moment, we all thought: Something has happened. My father never thought that the Germans would be able to do something to him. He couldn't imagine that they would do something to a soldier at the front [in World War I] and a footballer in the national team. He was connected to Germany, he was pro-Germany, as was his brother [who fell in action fighting for Germany in World War I].
It was so humiliating for him to perform forced labor in Karlsruhe. He was a good man, always so understanding. I loved him very much, and I'm still grateful to him for his affection.
Two days after his deportation, on 3 March 1943, Julius Hirsch managed to send a last letter to his daughter Esther for her 15th birthday. It's possible that he dispatched the letter at one of the stops made by the train on the way to Auschwitz to load more Jews.
In his letter, he wrote:
I am very well, and I arrived safely. I will [eventually] reach Upper Silesia, [such that I will] still [be] in Germany.
Greetings and kisses, Juler [Julius]
These words were the last sign of life from Julius Hirsch. His fate is unknown, but he is presumed to have been murdered at Auschwitz.
His children, Heinold and Esther, were thrown out of school in 1938 due to their status as first degree Mischlinge (children of mixed marriages). In 1941, they were forced to wear the Yellow Star. They were deported to the Terezin ghetto on 14 February 1945, and both survived.
In 2005, the German Football Association established the Julius Hirsch Prize, awarded to clubs, organizations and individuals who campaign against exclusion, xenophobia, racism and antisemitism in German sport. Several sports fields in Germany were also named after Julius Hirsch in tribute to his memory.