Snapshot – Sepp Herberger tries to invite Gottfried Fuchs

Sepp Herberger’s admiration wasn’t enough for the DFB to honor one of German football’s all time greats.

Gottfried Fuchs holds a record which is unlikely to be broken by any current national team player. The former Karlsruher FV forward managed to get onto the scoresheet 10 times during Germany’s 16-0 win over a lacklustre Russian side during the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. Fuchs had to share that record with the Dane Sophus Nielsen for 89 years; however, both men were outdone by Australia’s Archie Thompson who scored 13 times in the Socceroos 31-0 thumping of American Samoa.

These days Fuchs’ record appears in the DFB’s history books, a record that was removed from the books between 1933 and 1945. Fuchs is, alongside Julius Hirsch, the most notorious Jewish international in the DFB’s history. Whilst Fuchs fled the country and moved to Canada after brief stays in Switzerland and France, his good friend and former teammate Hirsch ended up being killed by the Nazis in a concentration camp. Where and how it happened is still unclear but the last Hirsch’s family heard of him was that the former KFV man was on his way to Auschwitz.

Sepp Herberger in awe

The journalist Richard Volderauer, who had formerly been in charge of the sports section of Nazi paper Karlsruher Zeitung, wrote a letter to DFB president Peco Bauwens in 1955 asking the DFB president to send Gottfried Fuchs a postcard before the upcoming international between the Soviet Union and Germany.

Volderauer’s suggestion was followed by the DFB, and Sepp Herberger and his team sent Fuchs a card from Moscow on August 22nd, 1955. Germany’s coach sent Fuchs a letter 11 days later on.

The great coach Herberger confessed in his first letters to Gottfried Fuchs (who had changed his name to Godfrey Fochs after emigrating to Canada) that he had fond memories of the forward.

I was a little school boy in Mannheim when first I heard about your footballing skills and then I saw you play for the first time myself (Editor’s note: Herberger probably saw the 2-2 draw between  Phönix Mannheim and KFV, in which Fuchs scored twice). You and your way of playing football had me and my friends in awe.

Furthermore, Herberger told the record goalscorer that he had carried on mentioning his name to his pupils, who now knew what a fine footballer Fuchs used to be during his playing days. The coach of the 1954 World Cup winning national team should later state that Fuchs had gotten in touch with him to congratulate the German national team for their win in Bern. However, it is unclear if Fuchs actually contacted Herberger after Germany’s first World Cup win.

Further mail correspondence

Whether Herberger and Fuchs continued to send each other letters on a regular basis is unclear. However, Herberger sent a picture of the 1912 German national team to Fuchs, stating:

Whenever the name Godfrey Fochs is mentioned amongst these guys, they are reminded of the great times of the Karlsruhe footballing community and your name is mentioned still. You weren’t just a player of high class, but you were also a great sportsman.

Seven years later, Herberger was contacted by Dr. Wolfgang Hubner, who had kept in touch with Fuchs over all these years. Fuchs’s friend suggested that the record goal scorer good appear on the German sports broadcast ”Das Aktuelle Sportstudio” as a guest. Herberger himself got back to Hubner asking:

Do you think – taking everything that has happened into consideration – that Gottfried Fuchs still has interest to be connected with German football?

The former German national team coach had the upcoming opening of the Olympiastadion in Munich on his mind when he reached out to Hubner. Germany were to take on the Soviet Union 60 years after Fuchs’ remarkable performance against Russia during the Stockholm Olympics.

Hubner wrote back stating that Fuchs would be open to an invitation, which prompted Herberger to send a letter DFB vice president a Hermann Neuberger in which he stated:

Gottfried Fuchs was one of the best footballers of his time. His perception of the game and his style could be compared to Fritz Walter. He was a goal-getter and a playmaker. The front three of the KFV – by the standard of their time – were world class. Fuchs was the shining star of the trio Fuchs-Förderer-Hirsch. He returned from the war (editor’s note: The First World War) as a decorated officer.

The DFB reaches a disappointing decison

Herberger asked the vice-president to invite Fuchs as a guest or even a guest of honour to the upcoming international. The former national team coach even told Fuchs in a letter to mark the date 24th of May 1972 in his calendar.

Everybody would be a winner if an invitation was extended to Fuchs in Herberger’s mind. In his letter to Neuberger he stated:

Such an invite would serve as an effort of making up for the injustice which has occurred. Not only footballers and sportsmen, but the rest of the German public would greet such a gesture.

However, to Herberger’s dismay, his suggestions weren’t followed. On March 16th, the former Germany coach received a letter from the DFB which stated the association wasn’t willing to invite Fuchs because it would have created an unfortunate precedent. Fuchs was the last remaining former Jewish international at that point which makes the DFB’s point of creating a precedent a difficult one to fathom.

Fuchs died on February 25th, four weeks before the DFB decided to not invite him to the match between Germany and the Soviet Union. Fuchs’ achievements weren’t honoured during the match just the same.

Connections to the Reich

The DFB’s decision seems to be a strange one on first glance. Fuchs’s friend Hubner had even offered to pay for his travel expenses. However, one can’t gloss over the fact that several members of the DFB board had a past in the NSDAP.

Amongst the board members with a past in Hitler’s party were Hermann Gösmann, vice-president Hermann Neuberger, Hubert Claessen, Hans Deckhart and Degenhard Wolf. Boardmember Rudolf Gremlich was even imprisoned for two years for war crimes after having been with the 8th regiment of the SS Skull and Crossbones division. (The other 7 board members at the time weren’t linked to the NSDAP during Hitler’s reign.)

Three years later on, rhetoric professor Walter Jens was the first person to criticise the DFB for its behavior during the Nazi years and the way the association had handled that part of their history after the war. He had been invited as the speaker who was supposed to toast the DFB on its 75th birthday but the officials were rather shocked when the professor opened his mouth. Jens had read the DFB-chronicles from 1954 penned by Carl Kopphel, and was disgusted by it:

“This cannot be true! (…) The power grab by the Nazis was more of a liberation for football than holding it back? (…) Auschwitz however, Buchenwald, emigration, the resistance of anti-fascists, there should have been a focus on that as well. (…) Weren’t there any footballers, bar-kochba members and working class sportsmen who were prosecuted because of their political beliefs or their race? (…) Those things shouldn’t be forgotten.”

A late admission

Jens stated 20 years later (in 1995) that he ”… could say those exact same words today, and they’d still be true”. However, things  have taken a turn into a positive direction since the he uttered those words. Former DFB president Theo Zwanziger issued a formal apology for the DFB’s conduct during the Nazi years and established the ”Julius Hirsch Preis” who rewards football charities and organisation for their work against racism.

All quotes were taken from Werner Skrentny’s excellent book ”Juluis Hirsch. Nationalspiler. Ermordet.”. The book can be bought on Amazon and is an excellent read.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 32-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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