Kuper photograph post – Zach L

screen-shot-2020-07-13-at-7.24.51-pm-1-1I was struck by the photograph of the English team giving the Nazi salute before the kickoff of a friendly in Berlin on May 15th, 1938.

At first glance, it is easy to quickly judge this as a traitorous act.  However, Kuper provides context to this photograph in Ajax The Dutch, The War:.  A constant theme of this book is that most acts are not inherently “goed or faut” – the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.

The English soccer team was in an unenviable position.  British political officials were evaluating the “salute or no salute decision” without any consultation with the players.  Germany had annexed Austria a few weeks before the games.  The highest levels of British government, including Neville Chamberlin, wanted to appease Hitler.  These young men were just soccer players, not diplomats or government officials.  They likely felt that it was their patriotic duty to follow the wishes of their government leaders.

This salute was a shameful memory that haunted each player for the rest of their lives.  As this picture was taken, none of them had any idea of the consequences.


2 thoughts on “Kuper photograph post – Zach L

  1. Empathizing with different people in the past is an important historical skill and task. It is inherently intellectual, not emotional, as we have to explicitly imagine ourselves in their position, or at least try to see it from the point of view at the time–in this case May 15, 1938. It would be interesting to know the full spectrum of points of view on that date. And then, you have that 2nd point of view, the players looking back on this, as they see it differently. Both are historical–backwards looking and forwards looking.


  2. Zach,
    Your perspective is very insightful. It is difficult to judge whether the ordinary civilians, including the soccer players depicted in the photograph, are “goed or faut” during the war. The act they had done is inherently faut but their other actions were not captured by the pictures. Like Kuper stated in his book, some members of the soccer clubs had joined NSB but also helped to hide Jews at the same time. They claimed that they had no choice and needed the money to survive. The English team was in the same situation as they probably faced a lot of pressure from all aspects. However, as you concluded, the faut act of the English team would accompany them throughout their lives and they were deemed to be faut by the public, because it was the action that had been captured.


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