Blogs > Cliopatria > Weaklings

May 6, 2005 4:37 pm


The German Open began with an unfortunate incident. A tennis club published a pamphlet of its history that describes the termination of Jewish membership in the 1930s as a"Golden Age."
... the brochure by the century-old LTTC Red White Berlin tennis club said the flight of Jewish tennis players from Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s only led to a brief drop in membership, and that it finally ushered in a"golden age" at the organization.

"The number of members was reduced by half but in this way the former so-called Jews' club opened itself to new members," the anonymous author wrote on page 71 of the magazine."This change did not lead to a break for the club or German top tennis. Instead, it led to a golden age."

The page included a photograph of Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering in the club's VIP section at an earlier tournament.

Beyond the obvious faux pas, the statement is contradictory. It begs the questions: why were so many Jews members and why would their expulsion improve the athleticism of the club?

Since the founding of Zionism Jews struggled against the image of the Shtetl Jew, the diminutive body riddled with disease because of unhealthy ghetto air and hours spent hunched over textual commentaries. Almost every issue of Juedische Turnzeitung (later renamed Der Makkabi) had an article from Mandelstamm or some other physician who dissected the influence of the city on the body. The image was self-criticism that bordered on self-hatred. Because of the image of the Shtetl Jew, men and women strove for physical improvement, becoming over-represented in German athletics. German Jews turned German athletics into a tool for their regeneration.

The statement suggests that Jewish members were dead weight, which is unlikely. They were, perhaps, more eager to prove themselves than their German counterparts. Unfortunately, struggling against the image of their own weakness, Jews validated, to the satisfaction of nationalists, notions of their inferiority.

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