This year Chelsea Football Club will mark Wednesday's Holocaust Memorial Day at the home match against Wolverhampton Wanderers with a tribute commemorating the victims of the Holocaust.
The tribute will highlight the stories of 20 sportsmen and women, 17 of those of Jewish heritage who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis. These athletes form part of the ‘49 Flames’ collective which refers to the number of Olympians who were known to have been killed in the Nazis’ concentration, labour and transit camps during the Holocaust.
Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 will be commemorated with a light display in the stadium, during which the names of athletes who lost their lives will be read out in the stadium in front of players and club representatives, with figures in the darkness lighting up around the stadium. The stories of the athletes highlight that no part of society was spared, and the club will continue to keep their legacy alight by sharing their stories to inspire future generations.
This matchday activity follows a year on from the unveiling of a large mural at Stamford Bridge depicting two Jewish footballers and a British prisoner of war who were imprisoned in Nazi death camps during the Second World War, and the ‘49 Flames – Jewish Athletes and the Holocaust’ virtual exhibition which launched last year. Chelsea FC and club owner Roman Abramovich commissioned renowned British Israeli street artist Solomon Souza to create the bespoke portraits which feature throughout the ’49 Flames’ campaign with leading voices against antisemitism from around the world contributing to the exhibition.
This year, Chelsea will be unveiling a physical version of the exhibition, which will feature an art installation containing 15 individual prints of the athletes suspended outside the Millennium entrance at Stamford Bridge. Fans will be able to experience the exhibition at future matchdays and during stadium tours once the safe return of fans has been greenlit by the Government.
The club will also be launching a ‘49 Flames’ coffee table book (pictured top) using the portraits to tell the athletes stories with contributions from notable names including Roman Abramovich, President of Israel Reuven Rivlin, and Chelsea’s Emma Hayes. The book will be available to pre-order on the Chelsea Megastore from Wednesday 27 January.
The 49 Flames exhibition and book are part of Chelsea FC’s Say No to Antisemitism campaign and funded by club owner Roman Abramovich.
Abramovich, who took the time to personally highlight the campaign, has contributed with remarks to the book stating: ‘When I first came to Chelsea, I had two ambitions: to create world-class teams on the pitch; and to ensure the club plays a positive role in all of its communities, using football as a vehicle to inspire and engage people around the issues that matter.
‘It has always been important to me to create a club that is welcoming to everyone. We actively celebrate our cultural and religious diversity and, through the work of the Chelsea Foundation, deliver programmes to promote equality and tackle discrimination all over the world.
‘Nonetheless, we are all too often reminded there is more to be done. Three years ago, we launched the Say No to Antisemitism campaign. I am incredibly proud about the amount of progress we have made and the impact we have had since we started, and I am thankful for all the support from Chelsea fans who have taken this campaign to heart.
‘This exhibition is the latest initiative within our Say No to Antisemitism campaign and tells the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of Jewish athletes from all over the world.
‘I hope these stories will serve both as a reminder of the atrocities suffered during the Holocaust and also as an inspiration to all of us to do our utmost to prevent them from ever happening again.
‘We can all do something to challenge discrimination at our club, in our communities and in the world around us. With your help, Chelsea can play a leading role in this vital work and demonstrate that we truly are a club open to all.’
The Blues match against Wolves kicks off at 6pm on Wednesday and will be live on BT Sport. Click to find out more about the athletes’ stories at Chelsea Foundation’s virtual exhibition