Jewish leaders slam French, German soccer teams

German soccer captain, 2 Polish-born players say "missed opportunity" rest of team didn't visit Auschwitz.

German soccer players at Auschwitz 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/POOL New)
German soccer players at Auschwitz 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/POOL New)
BERLIN – The president of the umbrella organization of France’s Jewish communities said it was “shocking” that his country’s soccer team did not visit Auschwitz like other teams playing in the European championships.
The French team should have visited the camp “in light of how soccer players serve as role models for young people,” Dr. Richard Prasquier, president of CRIF, wrote on the group’s website Tuesday.
Dr. Dieter Graumann, the head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, sharply criticized the German Football Association (DFB) and the national team’s manager Oliver Bierhoff :because a visit to Auschwitz by only some members of the squad made a mockery of the Holocaust.
According to a Catholic news agency report, the Jewish leader’s outrage was directed at the choice of words by Bierhoff, who called the Auschwitz visit by just three players from the German squad a “fireside talk.” The German word he used – kamin – can also mean chimney, and thus the term suggested the burning of Jews.
At a meeting of the Jewish communities in Hamburg, Graumann called the Auschwitz visit a “colossal show of tastelessness and insensitivity.” He had called on the DFB in March to visit Auschwitz because the European championship would be taking place in Poland, as well as in Ukraine.
The German captain, Philipp Lahm, and two Polish-born players, Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose, visited the memorial. Graumann called it a “missed opportunity” and said that if the entire squad had been present, the team could have reached hundreds of thousands of young people.
The British, Italian and Dutch teams playing in the Euro 12 tournament visited the camp.
Prasquier, the French Jewish leader, added that a visit was necessary because of “the ignorance of many young people” about the Holocaust despite efforts to educate them.
He noted that the French team was based at Donetsk in Ukraine, some 850 miles from Auschwitz, while the British and Italian teams were based in Krakow, much closer to the site. “However, an airplane would have shortened the trip, he wrote. “The fact that the visit was apparently not even considered is shocking.”
JTA contributed to this report