Historical Social Research

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David Forster & Georg Spitaler: Viennese Football and the German Wehrmacht – Between “Duty” and Evasion [Abstract]

After 1945, stories about the Wehrmacht and football were integrated into the popular political history of anti-Nazi resistance in the newly formed Second Austrian Republic. This includes, for example, the alleged deployment of the team from SK Rapid to the front lines after their victory in the final of the 1941 German wartime football championship. Against the background of these myths, which were sometimes circulated even in football historiography, this contribution examines the similarities and differences between Viennese football after the 1938 Anschluss and the other regions of the Nazi Reich: How was the conscription of Viennese footballers accomplished and how involved were the players in the soldiers’ football teams? Did the Viennese players enjoy the support of local Nazi functionaries or – like some of their national teammates – the help of “Reich Coach” Sepp Herberger in being held back from the front lines? What strategies did Viennese football players and clubs use in order to avoid being sent to the front, or to remain active as players? And to what extent were Viennese players or football officials involved in Nazi crimes during the war? This essay is based on the results of the research projects “Green-White under the Swastika. SK Rapid under National Socialism” and “Austrian victims of Nazi military justice.”

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