German football team caught up in Holocaust row over whether they should visit Auschwitz when they compete in Poland at Euro 2012?
The England squad has already said it will make a pilgrimage to the site to pay respects to the dead
German team captain Jürgen Klinsmann says players should attend because 'much can be achieved'
By Allan Hall
PUBLISHED: 11:33, 22 March 2012 | UPDATED: 10:38, 23 March 2012
A debate is raging in Germany over whether the national football squad should pay its respect at the site of the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz when the team plays in the European Championships in Poland this summer.
Auschwitz, built by the Nazis near Krakow during the Second World War, was the extermination camp which murdered 1.2 million of the six million victims of the Holocaust.
Now a museum and place of remembrance, thousands of German schoolchildren are among the hundreds of thousands who visit it annually.
Difficult decision: A debate is raging in Germany over whether the national soccer squad should pay its respect at the site of the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz when the team plays in the European Championships in Poland this summer
The England squad has already said it will make a pilgrimage to the site to pay respects to the dead. But for Germany, it is a more tortured and complex issue.
German team captain Jürgen Klinsmann is among those who does believe they should attend because 'players are ' models for so many young people'
Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany whose grandparents were gassed there, is among those who says the team should visit the site, arguing; 'It would send a disastrous message to the rest of the world if the German players were to bypass Auschwitz.
'The young players don't bear the blame, but they do bear the responsibility.'
Protestant and Catholic church leaders also say they should go but it is understood that the German FA is not keen on the idea, that it would not only draw attention away from the football but might also put an intolerable emotional strain on individuals.
Henryk Broder, a prominent German-Jewish writer, is also opposed to the gesture.
In an article in the news magazine Der Spiegel he said; 'What are the footballers supposed to do in Auschwitz? Swear that they're sorry? Explain that this sort of thing can "never happen again?" And has anyone thought about what would happen if the German players visited Auschwitz and became so overcome by emotion that they lost the tournament?
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'It isn't about the players visiting Auschwitz. It's about the images of the visit that will be broadcast to the rest of the world afterwards - as if they were touring an SOS Children's Village in Africa to draw the world's attention to the misery of war orphans.
'The German footballers have no business going to Auschwitz. That is, unless some of them choose to go there on their own and without the cameras, for personal reasons that would make them accountable to no one.
'If the German Football Association wanted to take Graumann's advice and "send a message", it could come up with something more original than an obligatory visit to a place where wreaths are deposited, and where visitors can show their retroactive consternation for free.
'Showing solidarity for dead Jews is a cheap exercise. The people who were murdered can't be killed again, nor can they be rescued retroactively.
'But in case someone does feel something resembling 'responsibility' - and there's nothing wrong with that, in principle - then he would be better off declaring his solidarity with those who are alive today, and would like to stay that way.'
'Cheap exercise': There are some who say the German players, pictured at the World Cup in 2010, should not visit Auschwitz
German newspapers are filled with those who argue that it is a duty of the footballers to pay their respects there and others, like Broder, who say there is no need for them to go.
But team captain Jürgen Klinsmann is among those who does believe they should attend because 'players such as Özil, Klose, Gomez, Schweinsteiger or Khedira are the idols of today, the role models for so many young people'.
'If they attend a simple ceremony at Auschwitz and are moved by it, then much can be achieved,' he added.
It is understood the government would like the team to make a gesture at the camp as neo-Nazism rises in Germany, particularly among the young, and Internet propaganda denying that the genocide of the Jews ever took place continues to proliferate.
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