DFB delegation in Auschwitz (Photo: Reuters)
Germany's Jewish community was furious Sunday, after only three members of Germany's national soccer team visited the Auschwitz death camp on Friday. The team travelled to Poland in the run up to the Euro 2012 soccer championship.
President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, on Sunday criticized the German Football Association (DFB), saying an opportunity to influence hundreds of thousands of young people was missed, reported by the German Catholic news agency KNA. England's football squad will visit the death camp, the English Football Association said last month.
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The German soccer team delegation that visited Auschwitz last Friday consisted of team coach Joachim Löw, Bierhoff, DFB President Wolfgang Niersbach, team captain Philipp Lahm as well two Polish-born players Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose. The delegation also included the German ambassador to Poland, Rüdiger Freiherr von Fritsch, as well as Charlotte Knobloch, the former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
Speaking at the site where Nazi Germany murdered more than one million Jews, Der Spiegel quoted Niersbach, saying that "It is our duty to pay very close attention and above all to keep conveying to young players in our clubs that there must be no room for anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance," he said during the visit.
Graumann further criticized German team director Oliver Bierhoff, who spoke on the matter, accusing him of insensitivity. In March, Bierhoff said that the team will address the Holocaust during the tournament but did not specify in what form that would happen.
Bierhoff suggested an informal discussion will take place, using the German word "Kamingespräch" for fireside chat. Kamin means fireplace but can also mean chimney, which Graumann said evoked the chimneys of Auschwitz.
Graumann said the use of the word Kamingespräch showed "colossal insensitivity and tastelessness" and was unbearable given "that people in Auschwitz, my grandparents for example, were gassed, incinerated and sent up the chimney."
Bierhoff had said in March that the German team had to focus on its sporting performance while in Poland and that Auschwitz was a long way (570 kilometers) from the team's base in Gdansk on the Baltic Coast. The England team only has a 70-kilometer journey to Auschwitz from its base in Krakow. Bierhoff had added that the DFB wanted to avoid any visit looking like a "PR exercise."