Thursday, December 2nd | 29 Kislev 5782

November 22, 2021 4:52 pm

Israeli President Visits UK Exhibit Honoring Jewish Athletes Murdered in Holocaust

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

(From right) Roman Abramovich with Israeli President Isaac Herzog and artist Solomon Souza. Photo: Koby Gideon / GPO

Israeli President Isaac Herzog and his wife kicked off their tour to the United Kingdom on Sunday by visiting an exhibit that pays tribute to Jewish athletes who were murdered in the Holocaust.

The art installation, called “49 Flames: Jewish Athletes and the Holocaust,” is on view at the Stamford Bridge stadium and features portraits of Jewish athletes killed by the Nazis during World War II, painted by British-Israeli street artist Solomon Souza. It is part of the Chelsea Football Club’s “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign, which club owner Roman Abramovich initiated in 2018.

Abramovich joined Herzog and his wife, First Lady Michal Herzog, at the exhibit, along with leaders of the UK’s Jewish community and representatives from Chelsea FC and the English Premier League.

Chelsea FC initially commissioned Souza in January 2020 to paint a mural of three Jewish soccer players who were victims of Nazi persecution. It expanded its Holocaust education efforts by commissioning Solomon again to develop the “49 Flames” exhibit, which was installed at Stamford Bridge earlier this year.

Related coverage

December 2, 2021 2:53 pm

In Israel, Reigning Miss Universe Gifted Star of David Ring Engraved With ‘Am Yisrael Chai’

The reigning Miss Universe winner was gifted a Star of David ring by El Al Airlines after she arrived in...

President Herzog applauded the exhibit, saying the Jewish athletes it portrays “represent the strength and beauty of human will, performance, and commitment to excellence, and the combination of pride in the countries they represented, and in their Jewish heritage.”

He also cautioned that the “culture and politics” of sports can bring out “the worst in our natures, as we have seen, over and over again, in antisemitic, racist, and violent incidents inside and outside stadiums, and in the refusal of athletes to compete against, or shake the hands with, their Israeli counterparts.”

He further thanked the club and Abramovich for their ongoing commitment to fighting antisemitism and racism, describing them as “a shining example of how sports and teams can be a force of good and for shaping a more tolerant tomorrow.”

Chelsea FC Chairman Bruce Buck said the artwork “struck a chord with our fans as it shows that no one, not even your national heroes and football stars, are immune to antisemitism or racism.”

The event’s guest of honor was Sir Ben Helfgott, the only known concentration camp survivor who participated in the Olympics, according to the Chelsea Foundation.

Helfgott, who was the British lightweight champion for seven years, contributed a text to the “49 Flames” exhibition, which read in part: ‘The shadows of the Holocaust, which has darkened the consciousness of the Jewish people, has never left us. Survivors have not allowed Hitler to enjoy a posthumous triumph over us.”

“I have tried to live my life showing that people have the capacity to survive the most dreadful experiences and can emerge with the ability not just to live like human beings, but to exhibit the finest aspects of human behavior,” he added.

Souza painted a live portrait of Helfgott at Sunday’s event, which will be used for the “Say No to Antisemitism” campaign before being gifted to him. President Herzog and Abramovich signed the painting, along with Helfgott, and joined the Holocaust survivor in celebrating his 92nd birthday.

Herzog met with Prince Charles on Monday, as part of a three-day official visit to the UK. The Israeli president is also set to speak with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other British officials, with a focus on the upcoming resumption of talks among world powers to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.