German Football At The Olympics : The Immediate Post-War Period


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With RUDOLF SCHOENBECK (1) of Hamburg’s FC St. Pauli standing between the sticks for all four of the squad’s matches in Scandanavia, the Olympic football team of the “Unified Team of Germany” advanced to the Bronze Medal Match only to fall 2-0 to Sweden at the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki, Finland.
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Following the defeat of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany, the four victorious Allied Powers (the United States of America, Great Britain, France and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) could not entirely agree on how to best administer the occupied country and, as a result, three separate German states initially emerged at the beginning of the immediate post-World War II period.

The Olympic Games, the last editions of which — ironically enough — had been held back in 1936 and hosted by Hitler’s Nazis, were scheduled to resume again in 1948 with football, of course, a regular part of the competitions programme. Germany had sent an athletic team to the very first edition of the modern Games in 1896 and, thus, attempts were made to continue the Olympic tradition. However, Germany were to be punished immediately and severely as a consequence of World War II and this was to include a ban from all international sporting events.

A new Deutscher Olympischer Ausschuss (German Olympic Commission) had been created in 1947 but was not officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee in part because the sport organization did not represent an existing sovereign nation. Two years later, the Western Allied powers combined most of their respective zones of occupation and formed the Federal Republic of Germany. Shortly thereafter, in September of 1949, the Nationales Olympisches Komitee fuer Deutschland (National Olympic Committee for Germany) was founded in Bonn, the new capital of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, to replace the D.O.A.

The Soviet Union, administering the eastern occupation zone, was none too impressed with developments in the west. In response, the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic) was declared in October of 1949 with the full political and military support of the U.S.S.R. Two years later, the East German government established the copy-cat Nationales Olympisches Komitee fuer Ostdeutschland although more than a baker’s dozen years would pass before this organization was officially recognized by the I.O.C.

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Making their one and only-ever appearance on this particular stage of international sport, the athletes for the Saar march at the Helsinki Olympic Stadium in the opening ceremonies of the XV Games of the Olympiad hosted by Finland in 1952.
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During this time period there actually existed a third German “state” and, most naturally, yet another Olympic organization for the occupied region. The small, southwestern territory known as the Saarland and its Olympic group were prohibited by their French administrators from joining any pan-German Olympic committee. This situation would persist for quite some time after World War II ended, in fact, until the mid-1950s, as events unfolded.

The Olympic Movement, meanwhile, had always thumped its chest about its supposed lofty and noble policy of political neutrality. Thus, the I.O.C. for a decade and a half attempted to dodge the reality of two separate countries commonly called East Germany and West Germany. The I.O.C.’s solution was to restrict the Olympic Games to one, all-German team and left the details to be sorted out by the B.R.D. and D.D.R., themselves.

The so-called Unified Team of Germany was re-admitted the Olympic Movement in time for the 1952 Winter and Summer Games. But the East German authorities would not allow D.D.R. athletes to be selected and stubbornly demanded that they be granted a separate team by the I.O.C. This proposal was rejected but for the first and last time, the Saar sent an independent squad (but no football team) to the Olympic Games.

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After returning from a British Prisoner of War camp England during the fall of 1945, the still 20-year-old, one-time field hockey player MATTHIAS MAURITZ embarked on a long career as a defender for the Fortuna Duesseldorf football club and would be a member of both the 1952 and 1956 Olympic sides for the “Unified Team of Germany”; Mauritz earned exactly one full international cap for the national team of West Germany with his appearance against Poland in May of 1959.
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Although the ruling body for world football, F.I.F.A., had granted membership in its organization to a separate football association for East Germany roughly eight months after the German Democratic Republic had requested such in 1951, the I.O.C. steadfastly refused to alter its German policy until the mid-1960s. The East Germans backed down for the time being in 1956 an began to make their athletes available for an all-German team. And so, for the next three Olympic cycles thereafter, the team officially known by the I.O.C. as “Equipe unifiee d’Allemagne” (Unified Team of Germany) participated in the Winter and Summer Games.

The reality, though, that the world saw on the developing technology known as television was everything but a team representing a unified Germany, particularly in terms of the football sides entered in Olympic competition.

Ahead of the Melbourne Games scheduled for 1956, powers-that-be from the East insisted that any all-German Olympic football team must have one-half of the roster spots reserved for D.D.R. players. The Bundesrepublik representatives on the I.O.C.’s officially-recognized N.O.K.D. would not stipulate such, however, which prompted the East Germans to, once again, withdraw their football players en masse. And so, as had been the case in Helsinki four years earlier, the acutal Olympic football team competing in Australia was entirely comprised of West German players.

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