Soccer as a Wartime Prism
Author Simon Kuper uses soccer to show how, as Dutch Jews were killed, life went on for everyone else
Growing up in the Netherlands, Simon Kuper was raised on soccer and on stories of the Dutch resistance during World War II. It was only as an adult that Kuper, a columnist for the Financial Times, began to understand the level of complicity on the part of the Dutch: more than 75 percent of the Jews in the country were killed during the war. And yet ordinary life—including soccer playing and viewing—continued with little disruption.
In his book Ajax, the Dutch, the War: The Strange Tale of Soccer During Europe’s Darkest Hour (just out in the United States), Kuper looks at soccer culture during the war and offers fresh insight into the treatment of Dutch Jews. In particular, he digs into the archives and institutional memory of Ajax Amsterdam, the country’s premier club and one that has long been associated with the city’s Jews.
Kuper, who has written three other books about soccer, spoke from Paris with Vox Tablet’s Sara Ivry about what he uncovered in his research and about how echoes of wartime anti-Jewish attitudes still reverberate in the Netherlands today. [Running time: 20:54.]
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