Dr. Jeffrey Koerber
In the years before World War II, young Jewish athletes in Nazi Germany as well as German-occupied Austria and Czechoslovakia pursued individual and team competitions in the face of state-sponsored persecution. This research project seeks to understand how Jewish athletes organized and competed under the Nazi regime prior to the outbreak of war, and how their prewar experiences of athletic competition and team cooperation shaped their survival in ghettos and concentration camps during the Holocaust. Years before the Nazis took power in Germany, sporting clubs were established within the context Zionist and other Jewish organizations. Young Jews, who originally wanted to build stronger bodies, sought escape from mounting persecution by turning to sports. Athletics became effective at life lessons, teaching values such as team building and perseverance. Based on primary source interviews with Jewish Holocaust survivors, this research will examine how these young people endured a range of difficult situations during the unfolding stages of genocide under the cover of war: separation from family and friends, confinement in ghettos and concentration camps, backbreaking slave labor. Others, however, were able to go into hiding, yet here too they faced circumstances with their own physical and mental challenges The research will seek to answer how their prewar athletic ability and reliance on comradery contributed to survivability.
Fabre, Ryan, "Surviving Through the Lessons of Sports" (2021). Student Scholar Symposium Abstracts and Posters. 441.