The triumphs and tragedies of Vienna’s Jewish football clubs

A new exhibition examines the histories of Austria Vienna and SC Hakoah Vienna and how they survived the Nazi era


One of Austria’s oldest and most successful football clubs, Austria Vienna, used to be dubbed Judenklub (Jewish club) because of their Jewish heritage and connections.

In the interwar period, Austria Vienna, 24-time winners of the Bundesliga, became the club of Vienna’s assimilated Jewish middle class.

Founded in 1911, they attracted Jewish directors, players and supporters. Until the mid-1920s, around half of Austria Vienna’s players were Jewish, and at the time of the Anschluss in 1938, the entire board of directors was either Jewish or of Jewish heritage.

Murals on the walls of Austria Vienna’s Franz Horr Stadium memorialise two Jewish club officials, Emanuel Schwarz and Norbert Lopper, who helped to shape the club’s history.

In contrast, the Jewish fans of SC Hakoah Vienna, a Zionist sports association, came from the working- and lower-middle classes.

Hakoah were outlawed following Austria’s annexation in 1938 while Austria Vienna were “racially cleansed” and renamed SC Ostmark, regaining their old name after the war.

A new exhibition, Super Jews: Jewish Identity in the Football Stadium, at Vienna’s Jewish museum examines the histories of both clubs and the Jewish identity of other European clubs.

Super Jews exhibits the passport and ID card of former club director Kurt Hahn who in 1938 was arrested and imprisoned first at Dachau, then Buchenwald.

Following his release in 1939, Hahn fled first to Belgium, then France, where he survived the Holocaust despite spending the period 1940-1943 in several different camps.

After 1945, he returned to Vienna in an attempt to seek restitution for his Aryanised businesses, a process that dragged on well into the 1960s.

Austria Vienna still has many Jewish fans — including Jewish community president Oskar Deutsch — and continues to be identified as a Jewish club.

Fans of crosstown rivals Rapid Vienna have been known to subject Austria supporters to antisemitic chants at derby matches.

First Vienna FC, a club with an even older Jewish history, play in the second tier of Austrian football. The club was founded in 1894, and their patron was Nathaniel Meyer von Rothschild.

They played their games in Vienna’s Döbling neighbourhood where the Rothschilds owned an estate, and wear a blue and yellow kit, the colours of the Rothschild family.

After the war, First Vienna had one star Jewish player, Hans Menasse. Born in 1930, Menasse began his career at Luton Town’s academy after he was evacuated from Austria at the age of eight on the Kindertransport.

After the war, he played on the right wing for First Vienna for almost a decade, winning the league title with them in 1955. He was also capped twice for Austria.

“Super Jews: Jewish Identity in the Football Stadium” is at the Jewish Museum Vienna until
January 14, 2024

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