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July 23, 2021 12:38 pm

Yad Vashem Marks Olympics With Online Exhibitions of Jewish, Non-Jewish Athletes

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In Kaunas, Lithuania, a football match between HaKoach Vienna and the local Maccabi team, on Jan. 8, 1925. Credit: Yad Vashem Photo Archives – Gymnast Estella Agsteribbe was one of five Jewish women to participate in the Olympic Games in Amsterdam in 1928. She was a trailblazer not only as a Jewish athlete, but as one of the first women permitted to compete in gymnastics at the global sports event. In September 1943, Estella and her two children were murdered shortly after arriving at Auschwitz-Birkenau simply because they were Jewish.

In the spirit of the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, Yad Vashem — the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem — is promoting two online exhibitions to commemorate both Jewish and non-Jewish athletes during World War II.

The first, “Jews and Sports Before the Holocaust: A Visual Retrospective,” uses photos and artifacts to portray sporting events and competitions in which Jews participated. This exhibition features the personal stories and images of Jewish athletes before the Holocaust, including champion boxer Victor Perez, the Hapoel Football team from Poland and the Hakoach Vienna Hockey team competing at the Bar-Kochba International Sports Games in 1937.

“For generations, Jewish athletes, both men and women, competed in different sporting events — some of them participating and even winning medals in the Olympics,” said Dana Porath, director of the digital department in the communications division at Yad Vashem. “The Jewish athletes making their way to Tokyo to participate in the Olympic Games, which were delayed from summer 2020 due to the global health pandemic, are only the latest in a long-standing tradition.”

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