The regular readership has already noted that the old PRATERSTADION, since renamed after the famous Austrian player and manager Ernst Happel, was the venue where the last-ever World Cup hopes of East Germany died thanks to three goals from Austria international striker TONI POLSTER.
No proper stadium tour / history would be complete without a visit to the VIP section at the old Praterstadion, which was originally completed in 1931.
Austria was, of course, annexed by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany after the infamous Anschluss in 1938. The Praterstadion was commandeered by the Nazis and used for military purposes starting shortly thereafter. On the orders of the notorious and despised SS-Obergruppenfuehrer REINHARD HEYDRICH, the arena was also used more a most sinister purpose.
In the wake of the infamous BLITZKRIEG of POLAND, for three days beginning on September 11, 1939 — just two days short of the eighth anniversary of the Praterstadion’s first-ever international football match between Austria and Germany — the stadium was used as a detention center for the well-over one thousand Polish Jews rounded up by the SS during the invasion. Beneath the grandstands, in the corridors beneath Section B, the prisoners awaited an even more disastrous and undeserved fate. Soon, another group of almost 500 “racial detainees” were transferred from the Natural History Museum in Vienna to the Praterstadion.
On September 30, 1939, just over one thousand people were sent on to the BUCHENWALD concentration camp. Reportedly, of all those temporarily held at the Praterstadion, exactly 70 of the prisoners were ever eventually released. The rest were dispersed throughout the Nazi death camp system.
The VIP section at the ERNST HAPPEL STADION hosts a memorial plaque to honor the victims and shame the perpetrators.