The former Bayern president, who won the club its first ever league championship and escaped from a concentration camp, has finally gained some recognition for his work
How difficult it must have been for Julius Hirsch when he read in a regional newspaper in 1933 that the Nazi Party were banning all Jewish members from football clubs in the south of Germany.
He had given his life to German football, he had been capped by his country seven times, and still he was to be expelled from his post as youth coach of Karlsruher FV just because he was Jewish.
Desperately, he wrote a letter to his former teammates: “Today I read in the journal that the big clubs have decided to expel Jews. This is why I have to inform you that with a heavy heart I will leave the club that I have belonged to since 1902.”
Only 10 years later, the former winger, who suffered badly from his absence from the sport, was deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. There he was killed by people who 10 years earlier cheered him in German stadiums. The exact date of his death is unknown.
To remember him, the German Football Association (DFB) created the Julius-Hirsch-Preis (Julius Hirsch Prize), an award that honours people or groups who fight for values such as freedom and tolerance.
This year, during the 10th anniversary of the prize, Bayern Munich’s ultra-fan group ‘Schickeria’ was rewarded for the choreography which included a banner depicting Kurt Landauer, another great Jewish name in German football. It covered the southern tribune of the Allianz Arena.
Eberhard Schulz, second chairman of the Julius-Hirsch-Preis committee told Goal: “Choreographies like this are a form of expression and, when used properly, also a form of positive political expression. With actions like this or also trips to Auschwitz, we can educate young people.
“It makes it clear: what happened back then, must never happen again.”
Landauer’s story had been somewhat forgotten. Born in 1884 in Planegg, he quickly caught the footballing bug that originated in England. From 1901 he played for Bayern before moving into the club’s management where he became president in 1913.
Even though the First World War, where Landauer fought, interrupted his time at the club of his heart, Landauer became one of the greatest reformers of German football. It was mainly because of his ideas and his energy that Bayern became national champions for the first time in 1932.
“Landauer was someone who understood very early that football was changing. He saw that it wouldn’t continue as just an amateur business,” explains Dietrich Schulze-Marmeling, an expert in Jewish football culture in Germany.
“He understood that you need a good chief executive and a good coach and more training. Munich was the place to be at this time – but the Nazi regime changed everything.”
Landauer’s greatest moment in 1932 was soon followed by his darkest hour. In 1933, after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power, he was forced to step down from his post by the dictator because he was Jewish. Unlike Hirsch, though, Landauer escaped the Holocaust with his life despite being detained in the Dachau concentration camp following Kristallnacht (‘Night of Broken Glass’ when the Nazis carried out a series of attacks on Jews) in 1938.
A year later, the well-networked hero managed to escape to neutral Switzerland. Four of his siblings were not so lucky and died at the hands of the Nazis.
Despite his ordeal, Landauer returned to Germany when World War Two was over and he cemented his unbreakable connection to Bayern. “After the war, he continued exactly where he had stopped after his enforced resignation,” underlined Schulze-Marmeling.
He stepped down for good in 1951 at the age of 70 and died 10 years later in Munich. When the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller brought about a golden age for Bayern from the late 1960s onwards, Landauer began to disappear from memory.
“I played here from 1974 until 1984 as a professional player. During those 10 years I did not hear the name of Kurt Landauer even once,” Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge told Goal. “He wasn’t ignored. He simply disappeared from the club’s history.”
It took the efforts of Bayern’s supporters to resurrect Landauer’s work, and the club is very proud to remember him again.
“He was the first president to make Bayern Munich champions in 1932. He was the first to turn football into a professional sport, following the example of English football,” said Rummenigge.
“He was an important figure who had to experience the hard times of the National Socialists (Nazis). Now he has found his merited place in our club.”