Jewish Hapoel rowers. (Yad Vashem Photo Archives) (Yad Vashem Photo Archives)
Hapoel-Hamburg-rowers

Looking to shed light on another aspect of sportsmanship and comaraderie in honor of the pending Rio Olympic Games, Yad Vashem launched two exhibits on pre-Holocaust athletes.

Czechoslovakian-Jewish-girls’-soccer-team-and-their-coach

Czechoslovakian Jewish girls’ soccer team . (Yad Vashem Photo Archives)

In the spirit of the upcoming Olympic Games set to open Friday afternoon in Rio de Janeiro, Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, is dedicating two online exhibitions to commemorate Jewish and non-Jewish athletes who lived around that dark era.

One Exhibition, “Jews and Sports before the Holocaust: A Visual Retrospective,” utilizes images and artifacts to portray different sporting events and competitions in which Jews participated.

The exhibition features photos of Jewish athletes, including champion boxer Victor Perez, the Hapoel Football team from Poland, and the HaKoach Vienna Hockey team, competing at the Bar-Kochba International Sports Games in 1937.

The other online exhibition, “The Game of their Lives,” tells the stories of non-Jewish athletes who have been recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.

The exhibition highlights the inspiring accounts of a dozen brave men and women – most notably the rescue stories of world-renowned Italian cyclist champion Gino Bartali, Slovenian Olympian swimmer Margit Eugénie Mallász, and Czechoslovakian soccer player Martin Uher – which truly embody the Olympics spirit of “social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”

Jews in prewar Europe excelled in many walks of life, including several who were renowned athletes. Jews competed in the most coveted sporting competitions throughout Europe, including the Olympics.

Sports often served as a bridge between the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds, and friendships were developed among the athletes. During the Holocaust, some of these bonds helped save Jews, when non-Jewish athletes bravely risked their own lives to rescue their Jewish compatriots from Nazi persecution.

These brave individuals, who stood up against the evil at risk to their own lives, would later be recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations.

By: JNI.Media and United with Israel Staff