Fighting against antisemitism in German football

German football clubs met in Dortmund last week to discuss the fight against antisemitism in the game.

Borussia Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion gave home to a conference last week that was held to discuss the topic of antisemitism in German football and the ways to tackle it. „Antisemitism and Professional Football: Challenges, Opportunities and Networking” was organized by Bundesliga club Borussia Dortmund in cooperation with the German Football League (DFL), the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Central Council of Jews in Germany (ZDJ). It included workshops on various aspects of the ongoing battle against antisemtism, as well as on modern Jewish life in Germany in relation to football but also beyond. Among the 150 attendees were representatives of 26 Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 clubs, German politicians and the German government’s commissioner for Jewish life in Germany and the fight against antisemitism.

One of the main points raised at the conference was an acknowledgement of what antisemitism actually is and how it differs from other forms of discrimination such as racism. The difference between the two forms of discrimination expresses itself predominantly in the way the discriminator perceives its subject.

„The racist looks at his subject of hate from above, as inferior,” explained Pavel Brunnsen, an academic and author who researches antisemitism in football. „The antisemite looks above their shoulders, to their sides and above, where they believe there’s a conspiracy of secret powers.” According to Brunnsen, the expressions of antisemitism can be directed at both Jews and non-Jews, saying: „When fans of a football club portray the symbol of a rival club with a Star of David to mark it as ‘Jewish,’ there’s no need for actual Jews to be there.”

Thanks to initiatives and educational efforts of recent decades, there is an ever-increasing awareness of the topic of antisemitism in German football. Antisemitic chants are mostly a rarity at Bundesliga grounds. Borussia Dortmund’s educational program against antisemitism has become an integral part of the club’s social responsibility department, offering educational trips to concentration camps for members, fans and employees, and also making a donation to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Other German clubs which offer their supporters educational programs against antisemitism include Werder Bremen, Eintracht Frankfurt and FC St. Pauli.