Never Walk Alone. Jewish Identities in Sport

  • cultural history
  • 19th century
  • religion
  • post war history
  • history

Ernst Emanuel Simon left the Berlin Sports Club after having experienced anti-Semitic discrimination as a soldier in World War I. In 1918, he joined the Jewish Gymnastics and Sports Club Bar Kochba. While still a medical student in Würzburg, he became champion of the 800 metre race in Berlin-Brandenburg, followed in 1921 by the championship in Bavaria. He was co-founder of the Maccabi World Union. In 1924, Simon emigrated to Palestine where he advocated the institutionalization of physical exercise in schools. He was one of the organizers of the first Maccabiah in 1932, the Jewish World Games in Palestine. But principally, he was a pioneer of sports medicine. A photograph showing him cross the finishing line in August 1919 opens the exhibition “Never Walk Alone. Jewish Identities in Sport”.

The exhibition floors form a sports arena where Jewish sportsmen and women as well as their fans position themselves. Focussing on selected biographies allows looking at the self-perception of the sportsmen and women while at the same time revealing attributions made from outside. How the enthusiasm for sports developed, the many facets of the 1920s, and the exclusion and persecution during the era of National Socialism all form part of the exhibition. Its trajectory further covers Jewish survivors in German displaced persons camps after World War II, how Jewish sportsmen and women in exile found their place in sports, and athletic achievements that recently contributed to sports in Germany.

The exhibition’s title “Never Walk Alone” is inspired by the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, originally written for the musical “Carousel”. Songwriter Oscar Hammerstein II. and composer Richard Rogers—both, by the way, men of Jewish-American descent—therein convey a sense of belonging, motivation, solace and support for the female protagonist. In sports arenas, the idea of the singers is similar—and by now it has spread beyond the ranks of the FC Liverpool.

Read more about the exhibit.