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January 26, 2021 6:13 pm

Top Italian Soccer Club to Hold Memorial for Trophy-Winning Coach Who Perished in Auschwitz on Holocaust Remembrance Day

avatar by Ben Cohen

Players from Italian Bologna FC after going 1-0 up against Serie A rivals Hellas Verona on Jan 16, 2021. Photo: Reuters/IPA/Sipa USA.

One of Italy’s most celebrated soccer clubs will host a memorial on Wednesday for a former championship-winning coach who perished in Auschwitz during World War II, in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Players from Bologna FC will commemorate the coach, Arpad Weisz, in a ceremony that will be streamed online.

A Hungarian Jew, Weisz was one of soccer’s leading lights in the inter-war period in Europe. Born in Hungary, he played for the Hungarian national team at the Paris Olympics in 1924. A left-sided midfielder, Weisz’s club career included periods with Alessandria and Internazionale as well as Makabi Brno, a Jewish team in Czechoslovakia.

After retiring as a player, Weisz became a coach, spending more than a decade in Italy as the fascist dictator Mussolini turned his attention to the sport, seeing in soccer another pathway to consolidating his hold over the country. As coach of Bologna, Weisz took the team to two consecutive league titles in 1936 and 1937.

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The passage of antisemitic racial laws by the fascist regime in 1938 forced Weisz to flee Italy with his wife and children. He moved to The Netherlands, where he coached FC Dordrecht until World War II broke out.

In 1942, the Weisz family was deported to Auschwitz by the Nazis. Weisz wife, Elena, and their two children, Roberto and Clara, were gassed immediately upon arrival.

Weisz spent another 16 months in Auschwitz as a slave laborer before being murdered himself.

Prior to World War II, Hungary was a major center of soccer excellence that produced several other Jewish star players alongside Weisz — including Jozsef Braun, Antal Vago, Henrik Nadler and Imre Taussig, all of whom were similarly murdered during the Holocaust.

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