Helmut Sonny Sonneberg (1959)
Helmut Sonny Sonneberg (1959, Eintracht Frankfurt won the german championship)

Eintracht Frankfurt’s Return to Theresienstadt

German Football Club deals with Nazi past and present

Meet Eintracht Frankfurt 88-year fan old Helmut “Sonny” Sonneberg. He is a Holocaust-survivor, former player and lifelong fan.

Last year, this club’s museum organised a special visit for fans to Theresienstadt, where Sonny had been interned. He joined this trip and shared his stories. It was the first time for him to make this emotional journey.

The club continues to look ahead, while reflecting on the painful past.

Facing the past through education

German football clubs have, like all other aspects of society, endured the totalitarian rule of the National Socialist period. Some of these clubs seek ways to commemorate and educate about this period with their younger fans.

At the Eintracht Frankfurt Museum, a partner in the project “Football Makes History”, the team of historians and museum educators have worked on this dark past in a variety of ways. They have, for example, collaborated with the Fritz Bauer Institute on the History and Impact of the Holocaust and local schools to develop educational resources that explore the Jewish history of the club.

Building a historically responsible club

In response to the terrorist attack in Hanau on 19th February 2020, fans in the Eintracht stadium chanted “Nazis out” after the one-minute of silence to honour the victims. The responsible approach to this past sits well with the fan culture, which is explicitly against far right politics.

In 2018, the club’s president Peter Fischer, announced that voters for AfD (Alternative fuer Deutschland), would not be welcome in the stadium, stating that

No one can be a member of our club who voted for this party with its racist and inhuman tendencies.

The club stripped former chairman Rudi Gramlich of his honorary titles, because this former Eintracht player, who served as the club’s president in the 1950s and 60s, was also a member of the Totenkopf division of the SS, a division responsible for many war crimes and mass murders of Jews during World War II.

Read more

Read more about this remarkable story of Sonny and Eintracht Frankfurt on Deutsche Welle and follow the efforts of the club (mainly in German) on Facebook.

Football club Eintracht Frankfurt works with 88-year old fan and Holocaust survivor to educate and build a fan culture of anti-discrimination.

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Helmut Sonny Sonneberg (1959)
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