The UK’s Holocaust Education Trust (HET) is to incorporate the story of how Tottenham Hotspur football player Bert Sproston saved Ralph Freeman’s life into its Football Remembers the Holocaust program for under-14s. years in the Premier League top flight.
As reported by the Times of Israel last month Rolf Friedland – later renamed Ralph Freeman – went to watch England beat Germany 6-3 in Berlin in May 1938.
Barely 18, alone and destitute, he desperately sought to leave Nazi Germany after his family left. Her younger brother had been sent to the United States in 1936 with a humanitarian organization. His parents had obtained visas and had gone to England, from where they had apparently tried to bring Rolf, but in vain.
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At the end of the match, Rolf Friedland had been hanging around waiting for the England players to leave the stadium and he approached England left-back Bert Sproston, begging him to invite him to England.
Sproston, who then played for Tottenham Hotspur, is not a fan of the Germans.
Upon his return home, Sproston, with the help of Tottenham, immediately went to the Football Association to seek permission to invite Rolf to visit England to watch the England v Rest of the World match at Highbury, in north London on October 26 of the same year.
This invitation led to a visa being granted, and Friedland arrived at the port of Harwich on the east coast of England in time for the match.
At the invitation of Tottenham, the bewildered young man spent his first three nights in the club’s locker room at White Hart Lane.
Karen Pollock, Managing Director of HET, said: “Ralph Freeman’s story is incredible. He was saved by the kindness of a stranger. Bert Sproston made the choice to save the life of a 17-year-old Jewish boy. »
“Through our work with Premier League academies, we are sharing the dark history of the Holocaust and the choices ordinary people like Bert made across Europe. We hope these young players will take stories like Ralph’s and Bert’s to heart and remember them for many years to come,” said Pollock.
HET has been working with UK Premier League football Under-14s for five years, reaching around 250 promising young players from around 12 of the 20 clubs, including Tottenham. The Premier League promotes the scheme which teams can sign up for.
The one-year program, which begins each year in September, has five stages.
It opens with the turmoil of pre-war Jewish life, during which, among other places, Jewish football teams played in the top divisions of Lithuania, Austria, Finland, Hungary, from Latvia and Poland. He then presents the Holocaust in general.
Young people commemorate Yom HaShoah by remembering a footballer who perished, like Eddy Hamel, Ajax’s first Jewish player, who was murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau on April 30, 1943.
The next step is to listen to the testimony of a Holocaust survivor and then research a footballer who saved others during that time, or Britain’s relationship with the Holocaust in terms of choices made in the 1930s and 1940s, its legacy today, and the fact that anti-Semitism still exists in the UK.
Ralph Freeman’s story is included at this stage of the program.
The teenagers then present the results of their research to the class.
The course concludes with an end-of-year event, which may include a visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp or another site in Europe.
— Football Memories (@footballmemorys) July 29, 2020
Other footballers who have saved lives, and who are presented as possible subjects of research, are René Dumonteil, then vice-president of AJR, the youth football team of Rochechouart, France, which contributed to protect two Jewish brothers; Danielius Žilevičius and Ona and Adolfina Žilevičienė, who saved a Jewish child by passing her off as their daughter. Danielius was a footballer for the Lithuanian national team; Martin Uher, footballer for the Czechoslovak national team, who hid several Jews; and Tadeusz Gebethner, first president of the Polonia sports club and first captain of its football team. He helped three members of the Abrahamer family survive the Holocaust, first hiding them and then helping them settle in Hungary.
All four have been recognized by the Yad Vashem Memorial as Righteous Among the Nations.
The course material, developed by HET, includes dilemmas for participants to discuss. One of them concerns the decision to send the British Olympic team to the 1936 games in Berlin, despite being informed of the German government’s anti-Jewish policy.
A second presents the decision of an Allied military commander not to try to stop the transport of Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau after receiving evidence of these transports.
A third relates to the restrictions imposed by the British Home Secretary on the immigration of Jewish refugees.
Young people are invited to think of examples of people who did what they thought was right and to explain why it is sometimes difficult to know what to do. They are invited to think about how to oppose anti-Semitism, racism or hatred.
HET has also worked with adult football players, including those at Chelsea FC when Roman Abramovich, the now sanctioned Russian-Israeli Jewish oligarch, was the owner. Activities included taking supporters and fans to Auschwitz.
Meanwhile, Holocaust survivors shared their stories with Manchester United and Manchester City under-17 players.
HET plans to extend its course to the English football league, which comprises 92 professional clubs which train some 10,000 youngsters at different ages and levels.