Seven decades after the end of World War ll and the Maccabi Games are being held in Germany for the first time.
It’s Europe’s largest Jewish sporting event and athletes will compete at a site constructed by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympics.
Organiser Alon Meyer said the decision to host the Games in Berlin was a difficult one.
“Its a signal of reconciliation ….Jews living here in Germany know well that through the games, we have the possibility of conveying this positive message here and also outside of Germany, beyond our borders and this is important to us.”
After today’s opening ceremony Jewish athletes will compete in 19 sporting disciplines.
The staging of the games in Berlin has great significance for holocaust survivors such as author Margot Friedlander:
“It means a lot to me, because who would have expected back then in 1943, when I went underground, that we would survive and that Jewish life would be revived in Germany, and that we have a sports festival at the location which we were denied in 1936 at the Olympics.”
The Maccabi Games were first held in 1929 and 1930 in Prague and Antwerp respectively, but they were soon discontinued with the rise of the Nazis. At today’s Games, non-Jewish sporting celebrities will take part in special “unity” competitions.
In 1936 Adolf Hitler banned Jewish athletes from representing Germany in the Berlin Olympics – a foretaste of the anti- Semitism which led to the extermination of 6 million Jewish.