Wissenschaftliche Forschung

Jüdische Sportfunktionäre im Wien der Zwischenkriegszeit

Roman Horak

Institut für Kulturwissenschaften, Kunstpädagogik und Kunstvermittlung
Numerous works on Jewish Vienna in 1900 describe the attempts at Jewish self-definition and self- assertion against the backdrop of massive religious, cultural and, increasingly, racially based anti- semitism. The same applies to the new Austrian nation-state after 1918: On the one side were emancipatory participation models and their implementation; on the other side, crises of Jewish identity were laid out. Michael Pollak speaks of two different models that helped to strengthen Jew- ish identity in the interwar period: First, “political engagement, for example, in Austro-Marxism or Zionism,” and second, “aesthetic and psychological projects” (Pollak, 2002, 105)2. An essential factor was the fact that the question of ‘Jewishness’ was always asked and discussed.

While many researchers have examined Jewish identity construction in the early twentieth century in relation to high culture, science, business, education and politics, there is a lack of extensive discussions of the role of popular culture in this context (Hödl 2006: 49). In recent years, there have been the first attempts of an engagement with Jewish ‘movement cultures’ (Bewegungskul- turen) of sport (Burner/Reuveni 2006, Mendelsohn 2009, Presner 2007, Wildman 2009).3 The in- tent of this project is to develop a central contribution to the theme of “Jewishness” through the example of Viennese sport, and to analyze this as a project of Jewish self-assertion.
The starting point of this investigation is a field of society that developed during the interwar period, at the latest, as popular mass culture and established a large public presence. Primarily as a spec- tator sport but also as a sporting practice, movement cultures played an important role in the con- struction of specific collective and individual identities in Vienna, especially for the male portion of the population: In the imaginary or real (play) style of their athletes and teams, the Viennese formed a picture of themselves. ‘Sports discourse’ forms a part of that struggle for the definition of the key “myths of the city” in which “their specific profile, their aura, their historically developed and politically motivated identity with all its failures and crises” can be seen (Fuchs/Moltmann 1995, 14).
Particularly in Vienna, Jewish life up until 1938 was dominated by a variety of contemporary and retrospective dichotomies. This applies to both (self-) definitions as well as (other) ascriptions to the question of who should be considered a Jew and what is “Jewish”. The same applies to the discussion of whether to start from a “Jewish” or “Jewish-influenced” Vienna or, alternatively, an antisemitic Vienna. This research project uses this “or” and intends to make “and” or “as well as” into the reflexive starting point with which to reconstruct complex lifestyles. For example, Malachi Hacohen (2008) sketches individual and collective (Jewish and non-Jewish) identities and cultural practices of cooperation and conflict as the constant interplay of visibility and exclusion, of allianc- es and segregation.

Jewish people played a significant role in the foundation, establishment and professionalization of sport in Austria: They were active in the years before the First World War as association founders, patrons, athletes, journalists and officials of clubs as well as federations, and made a significant contribution in the interwar period to networking at the international level. However, there were massive differences between the various movement cultures and sports. The English ‘sports’ of- fered Jewish men and women far better opportunities to participate than, for example, the strongly German nationalist-dominated Turnen (gymnastics).
The Anschluss in 1938 meant not only the temporary and enforced end of the participation of Jews in Austrian sport, but more fundamentally, a redefinition of who is a “Jew”. Some Jewish athletes and officials managed to escape abroad. Many were interred; a great number were murdered by the Nazis. After the Holocaust, the Jewish community of Vienna could not compare to the period prior to the Nazi regime, neither in size nor in prominence. On the other hand, there was a remark- able continuity after this break, as some of the former athletes and officials returned to Vienna to continue their work into the 1980s.

1 This application is a resubmission of our project proposal P25112-G15. New paragraphs that were edited
?2 In order to facilitate readability, all direct German quotes were translated into English.
?3 For the Austrian context, see in particular the fundamental work on SC Hakoah, e.g. Bunzl 1987, Jewish Museum Vienna 1995, Betz/Löscher/Schölnberger 2009.