Ahead of this evening’s Champions League fixture between Chelsea FC and Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea FC hosted a commemorative service for German footballer Julius Hirsch as part of our ongoing activity to tackle antisemitism.
Hirsch was a renowned footballer in Germany during the 1920s, playing for multiple clubs along with the German national team. Despite these accolades, Hirsch’s position as a Jewish man in Nazi Germany meant he was persecuted by the Nazis and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau on 4 March 1943.
To mark 80 years since Hirsch’s tragic death, Chelsea FC brought together football stakeholders, civil society and the Jewish community to pay homage to his life and legacy in this special service.
Chelsea Director, Jonathan Goldstein, opened the service and said: ‘The fight against racism and Antisemitism is ongoing and here at Chelsea the club has been at the forefront of that fight within the football community and across wider society. In January 2018, we launched Say No To Antisemitism – a consolidated campaign and programme that was adaptable to other clubs, sports and countries.
'We looked at good practice across different sectors and countries and worked with partners to create a wide-ranging campaign, focusing on education, support and awareness with the message that discrimination has no place in our club or society, thereby creating a welcoming and safe environment for fans.'
Carsten Cramer, a Borussia Dortmund board member, then read a message from Julius’ grandson Andreas Hirsch, who said: 'Our remembrance of Holocaust victims and survivors is fundamental to the preservation of our democracies and must continue at all levels of society, especially through education. It is our duty to always stand up against antisemitism, racism and hate.’
As part of the service, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said a prayer of remembrance and lit a yahrzeit candle, with Lord John Mann, the UK government’s Independent Adviser on Combatting Antisemitism closing the service by praising Chelsea FC and Borussia Dortmund’s shared and consistent commitment to tackling antisemitism in football and beyond.
Both Clubs were also in attendance in Parliament yesterday discussing this commitment alongside the Lord Speaker of the House of Lords, Kick It Out and the World Jewish Congress.
Chelsea FC have long documented the life and story of Julius Hirsch and other Jewish athletes who lost their lives in the Holocaust. To mark Holocaust Memorial Day and the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz in 2020, Chelsea FC commissioned British-Israeli street artist Solomon Souza to paint a mural depicting three footballers who were sent to Nazi concentration camps – Hirsch, Arpad Weisz and Ron Jones.
The mural hung at Stamford Bridge for two years and has now been donated to the National Holocaust Centre and Museum in Nottingham, with a replica produced to continue educating supporters and wider society on the history and dangers of antisemitism.
On receiving the mural, Marc Cave, CEO of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum said: 'We're honoured that the original mural has been donated to our Collection and excited to display in the short term a large-scale replica. Football is a great leveller. We use it to educate about identity and belonging. To educate that you can be both British and Jewish, British and Black, British and Muslim, etcetera.
'Building on previous work with Chelsea FC, and our globally watched Holocaust Memorial Day football video starring big names from Chelsea and 13 other Premier League clubs, we’ll be incorporating the mural into our ongoing learning programme.'
As part of the donation, Chelsea Foundation have also launched an education programme on antisemitism for secondary schools, in partnership with the centre and Holocaust Educational Trust. The first session took place with Fulham Cross Girls school last Friday and will be delivered in local schools for the remainder of the school year.
Simon Taylor, Head of Chelsea Foundation, said: ‘At Chelsea Football Club and Chelsea Foundation, we are dedicated to our continued efforts in eradicating antisemitism from our game and pride ourselves in leading the way in doing so. Working alongside partners such as Borussia Dortmund, Lord Mann and organisations such as Kick It Out, Holocaust Educational Trust and the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, among many others, has been a vital element of this work and I would like to thank them for their continued support.
‘By hosting this special service for Julius Hirsch, donating the spectacular mural to the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, along with the development of an excellent education programme, we continue to raise awareness to this crucial subject and play our part in tackling antisemitism.’