January 19, 2020

New Holocaust Exhibit Sheds Light on FC Bayern Munich’s Jewish History

FC Bayern Munich Museum Curator Fabian Raabe discussing the exhibit at the opening event on July 16. Credit Los Angeles Museum of Holocaust.

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust’s latest exhibit “Venerated – Persecuted – Forgotten: Victims of Nazism at FC Bayern Munich” tells the story of nine club players and officials who were murdered, deported or had to flee Germany during the Nazi era. It includes the remarkable saga of Jewish Club President Kurt Landauer, who was forced to resign his post and was imprisoned in Dachau.

“We are thrilled to host FC Bayern’s fascinating exhibit in its first appearance outside of Europe. We are excited to bring a new story about the Holocaust to the museum. Not just about soccer, but sports in the Holocaust and the role sports played and how you can really use sports as a tool to combat hatred and anti-Semitism,” Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust CEO Beth Kean told the Journal.  

“The exhibit shows how the Nazis’ oppressive and discriminatory policies reached all aspects of society, including sports. FC Bayern has done an admirable job of bringing attention to the suffering of Jewish club members under the Nazis as well as the resilience of club leaders like Landauer,” said Kean.

The exhibit first opened in 2016 at the Church of Reconciliation at Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial site. Since then it has toured to over 40 locations in Germany and Austria. The opening at LAMOTH is the exhibition’s United States debut. It also coincides with FC Bayern Munich’s summer tour of the US.

“FC Bayern Munich opened its first international office in New York in 2014 with the aim of increasing our fan base and building mutually beneficial relationships. We started working with the American Jewish Committee five years ago to bring attention to the club’s history and highlighting the power of sport for positive change in communities,” said Rudolf Vidal, FC Bayern Munich President of the Americas.

“When we decided to play a summer tour game in LA, we knew that the city was home to the second-largest Jewish population so it seemed fitting to bring this exhibition to California. By working with the AJC, California Legislative Jewish Caucus, Shoah Foundation and Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust we were able to create a unique moment, telling the story of perseverance and tolerance via soccer.”

The exhibit runs through the hallway of LAMOTH and includes a series of large panels containing historical photographs, biographies and maps illustrating the paths taken by team members when they fled or were deported from Germany. 

“The majority of people in this exhibition are Jewish and this exhibition talks about who they were and gives a voice to them and uncovers this part of the history of the soccer club that really was not known until a few years ago,” said LAMOTH Director of Education, Jordanna Gessler.

At the time of the Nazis taking power in 1933, Bayern had just won the league title for the first time in its history under the leadership of Landauer, its club president and the coach Richard Dombi, an Austrian Jew. Less than a year later, the Nazis branded Bayern a “Jewish club” and Landauer resigned from his position as anti-Semitic legislation began to affect the everyday lives of Jews in Germany. TSV 1860, the other big Munich soccer club, immediately acquiesced to the Nazis, allowing SA men to take control of the club from 1934 onward. Players and members of FC Bayern, on the other hand, averted Nazi leadership up until 1943. 

“It seems like the club was very inclusive. While other club teams when the Nazis came to power, they became part of the nationalist movement, this team did not. They really supported their fellow Jewish members,” said Kean. “It shows how when you have a leader like Landauer, you can create a team that is inclusive and promote tolerance and unbiased behavior.”

In 1938, the day after Kristallnacht, Landauer was arrested and sent to Dachau concentration camp. After a brief period of internment, he was released, and he used this opportunity to immigrate to Switzerland and survived the Holocaust. Following his exile, he returned to Munich after the war only to find his beloved team in shambles. Landauer led the effort to rebuild the stadium and the club. Today he is remembered as one of FC Bayern Munich’s most important figures and an important contributor to the club’s success.

“I think coming off this past summer, where soccer has got a new limelight in America, it is a great time and opportunity for Americans to think how soccer plays a role in history, plays a role in society today. How do sports, politics and other things that are going on in the world intertwine? And so here is an exhibition that does just that,” said Gessler.

“Venerated – Persecuted – Forgotten” runs through till October 31 at LAMOTH. Admission to both the museum and the exhibit is free. For more info visit the website.