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June 4, 2012 12:11 pm

German Soccer Players’ Auschwitz Visit Draws Rebuke From Jewish Group

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Oliver Bierhoff. Photo: wiki commons.

After months of debate over whether the German national soccer team should visit Auschwitz during their trip to Poland for the 2012 Euro tournament, the German team decided it was the right decision to visit the former Nazi death camp.  However, the delegation of 3 German players and a small number of team executives who visited the camp has been deemed a failure in the eyes of Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

“If the whole national team had come, one could have reached hundreds of thousands of young people — more than a thousand memorial speeches [could reach],” he said in Hamburg on Sunday, according to KNA, the German Catholic news agency.

The German team’s delegation to Auschwitz included the head coach Joachim Löw, the team director Oliver Bierhoff,  team president Wolfgang Niersbach, team captain Philipp Lahm, and two Polish-born players Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose.

Comments made by Bierhoff in March, stating that the German team’s commemoration of the Holocaust during the tournament might take place in the forms of a “fireside chat” or a “lecture”, also drew the ire of Graumann, who said Bierhoff’s use of the word “Kamingespräch” – which can mean “fireplace” or “chimney” in German –  was insensitive.

The use of the word “Kamingespräch” shows a “colossal insensitivity and tastelessness”, he said, adding that “people in Auschwitz, my grandparents for example, were gassed, incinerated and sent up the chimney.”

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