Born in 1902 in New York to Jewish parents who had migrated from the Netherlands, Eddy Hamel returned to live in Amsterdam while still a teenager. He played amateur football in Amsterdam until he was spotted by Ajax scouts in 1922. He played for Ajax as a star right-winger until 1930.
Ajax and the ‘Jews’
Eddy Hamel was the first Jewish player, and also the first American, to play for Ajax. In the interwar years, Amsterdam was home for the largest Jewish community in The Netherlands (75.000 Jews in a city of 800.000, 75.000 Jews of a Dutch-Jewish population of 120.000/140.000). Although Ajax was no Jewish club, nor did it harbour many Jewish players in the interbellum, Jewish live was very visible in the city of Amsterdam and on the stands of the Ajax stadium. Eddy Hamel was a hugely popular player, with his own fan club. After he retired from playing and became manager of a different club, he still played often for the Ajax veterans XI.
Deportation to the East
After the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1940, Jews were subject to mass arrests. Eddy Hamel was imprisoned in 1942 and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He did four months’ forced labour there until he fell ill and was killed in the gas chambers in April 1943.
Eddy Hamel was the first Jewish player, and the first American, to play for Ajax Amsterdam, but his life ended in tragedy at Auschwitz.
Educators could look at the life story of Eddy Hamel and work with young people to consider these questions:
- What does Eddy Hamel’s story tell us about migration from Europe to America and back again?
- How has the Ajax club since that time faced up to the truth of what happened to the Jews who were players or members of the club?
The Ajax team, 1926 with Eddy Hamel is front row, left (Photo: Courtesy of Ajax, Wikimedia Commons).
LIFE STORIES To discover now
Do you wanna know more?
HISTORY CAN BE EXPLORED THROUGH THE LIVES OF INDIVIDUALS
Browse our collection of stories about football history and inclusion. With the history of football being made up of millions of stories, of individuals and communities, of movements and processes, we offer stories that can inspire our cultural conversations today.
Get to know untold stories where individuals are making history with football. When faced with insurmountable challenges, individuals past and present can use football as a cultural force to foster positive change in society. We honour these individuals and tell their ‘untold’ stories in short videos.
Explore our innovative educational resources that use football’s history, heritage and legacy to engage young people. The resources include ready-made lesson plans and historical source collections for school history education as well as toolkit with activities for non-formal settings.
LATEST POST You may also be interested in
Dutch football referee Leo Horn, born in 1916, was a resistance fighter during the Second World War, all the while hiding his Jewish identity.
An interactive activity connecting football affiliations with personal identity in various historical contexts.
A story of a Spanish footballer turned Communist leader, where football and history intertwine across borders.
History teacher Zdravko Stojkoski developed this lesson plan with a visual approach to teaching post-war European history through football competitions
A lesson plan putting the Spanish Civil War and football in perspective.
We asked author David Goldblatt about the Football Makes History project. He notes how the cultural phenomenon of football offers educators highly relevant topics and themes.