Robin Streppelhoff, Gelungener Brückenschlag. Sport in den deutsch-israelischen Beziehungen

Robin Streppelhoff, Gelungener Brückenschlag. Sport in den deutsch-israelischen Beziehungen, St. Augustin: Academia, 2012.
(A Successful Bridge. Sport in German-Israeli Relationships)

Against the background of the Holocaust, the rapprochement between Germany and Israel has been one of the most astonishing processes of recent times.

While research has largely focused on the bilateral contacts at a political level, no one until now has examined cultural relationships in this context. This study shows the importance of links in sports ­ between individual athletes, coaches or sporting bodies ­ in fostering mutual understanding and rebuilding trust between Germany and Israel ­ well before diplomatic relations were established in 1965.

The author examines the building of bridges through sport between the two nations from the immediate post-war post-Holocaust period until the 1970s, away from the focus of the media and discourses on nationalism. He traces these roots to the re-emergence of Jewish sporting clubs in post-war Germany and how the German Jewish sporting body became part of the Maccabi World Union (MWU). In this context, the MWU’s claim for restitution is reconstructed from the first official letter up until the final ruling of the Berlin court in 1970.

As early as the 1950s, some Israelis ­ mostly of German descent ­ who wanted to become sports coaches came to Germany for a professional education. The emerging friendships built a base for institutional contacts between the sport governing bodies once the political barriers had fallen in 1969, when Israel officially allowed cultural contacts with Germany. Most personal contacts were made through the sport youth exchange, which also started before formal political links at ambassadorial level had been established. The political quality of the sporting contacts is thoroughly explored using reports showing that German ambassadors were very much in favour of these cultural relationships.

This research is based on files from political archives such as the Israeli State Archive, Germany’s political archive of the Foreign Ministry as well as the archive of the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the archive of the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia. Moreover, documents from sport archives are presented for the first time. The most important among these are the Zvi-Nishri archive (Wingate Institute), the archive of the Maccabi World Union (Ramat Gan), the Willi Daume archive and the archive of the German Olympic Sport Confederation.