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Israeli soccer fans subjected to antisemitic abuse at 1st match in Berlin stadium built by the Nazis

Berlin — Israeli soccer fans who came to support their team as it took on a German side at a Berlin stadium built by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime for the 1936 Olympics were subjected to antisemitic abuse. The Thursday game was the first time an Israeli team had played at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, and the abuse directed at the Jewish fans drew an immediate backlash.

The German-Israeli Society Youth Forum said fans were threatened and insulted at the match between Berlin’s FC Union and Maccabi Haifa, from Israel. The abuse was directed at Haifa fans who had been seated in a mixed section of the stands, with supporters of both sides.

“In the mixed block, we were threatened by Union fans, pelted with beer and insulted as ‘shitty Jews,’ among other things,” the group said in a post on Twitter

1. FC Union Berlin v Maccabi Haifa - Group E - UEFA Europa Conference League
Supporters of Maccabi Haifa FC use pyrotechnics during the UEFA Europa Conference League group E match between 1. FC Union Berlin and Maccabi Haifa at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium, September 30, 2021 in Berlin, Germany.

Nico Paetzel/DeFodi Images/Getty

One Union fan reportedly tried to set a female Haifa supporter’s Israeli flag on fire but was prevented from doing so by civilian security staff.

The Youth Forum note that some Berlin fans did speak out against the antisemitic behavior during the match, but that the fans in the mixed seating block decide to relocate to the section reserved for Haifa supporters “to be on the safe side.”

On its Twitter account, FC Union Berlin called for authorities to hand over the seat numbers of the perpetrators of the abuse. 

Germany Soccer Europa Conference League
Supporters of Haifa attend a group E Europa Conference League soccer match between 1. FC Union Berlin and Maccabi Haifa FC in Berlin, Germany, September 30, 2021.

Michael Sohn/AP

Felix Klein, Germany’s commissioner for Jewish Life and the Fight against Anti-Semitism, told local media outlet Funke that the incidents at the soccer match demonstrated “that hostility towards Jews is still widespread in football.”

“I am dismayed that instead of fairness and respect, hatred and violence emanated from German fans, especially at this historically-charged venue,” Klein said.

Hitler’s Nazi regime had the Olympic Stadium built to host events in the 1936 Summer Olympics, and then the Third Reich used the Games as an opportunity to showcase Nazi propaganda to the entire world.

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Maccabi Haifa had not issued any comment on the abuse of its fans as of Friday afternoon, but praised what was generally a peaceful atmosphere at the game.

“Thank you very much for the great hospitality. It was an exciting game in front of your crowd and also in front of ours, and also in this stadium, which has its importance. Thank you and here’s to seeing you again in Israel,” the Israeli team wrote on Twitter.

The mood in the stadium on Thursday was largely euphoric, as the 23,324 spectators, including about 1,000 Haifa fans, cheered for their teams.

A high-ranking delegation from Berlin welcomed the Israeli guest team to the German capital earlier in the day, and representatives of Maccabi Haifa visited the city’s Holocaust Memorial and laid flowers there.

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