KREUZBERGED BERLIN

Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin

ALFRED FLATOW, THE OLYMPIC CHAMPION FROM KREUZBERG

Today, April 6th, marks not only the 88th birthday of Berlin´s “Ubahnhof Moritzplatz”, but it is also the date of another important anniversary: exactly 120 years ago the First Olympic Games began at the Panathinaikos Stadium in Athens.

Nine days later, on April 15th, Germany was the unquestionable winner: its eleven sportsmen won five out of eight competitions. On top of that, three of them – Alfred Flatow, Hermann Weingärtner and Carl Schuhmann won individual gold medals in parallel bars, horizontal bar and  the vault respectively.

However, instead of being celebrated and cherished for their success, the German athletes got suspended: the Deutsche Turnerschaft, the authorities on charge of German gymnastics at the time, who boycotted the Olympic games, punished them for participating in the event. They considered competing “ungerman.”

The fate of one of them, Alfred Flatow, who lived in Alexandrinenstrasse 50 in Kreuzberg, was to take a tragic turn: after the Nazis came to power in 1933, he was persecuted as a Jew. This persecution and the increasing rage against Jewish citizens led to his arrest in 1938: ironically, his incarceration was the result of Flatow´s sense of order and respect for rules of the state. In 1932, following the introduction of new regulations, he duly registered three pieces of firearms which had been in his possession. Six years later he was arrested as “armed Jew”.

Subsequently, Flatow, who ran a bicycle shop and repair station in Alexandrinenstrasse 49, was transported to the concentration camp in Theresienstadt, where he died in 1942. He was one of over 150,000 European Jews (including tens of thousands of children) who were held and killed there, or died after having been shipped by train to the extermination camps in Auschwitz and Treblinka.

Today, the main street leading towards Berlin´s Olympia Stadion as well as the sports hall in Berlin-Kreuzberg carry his name: Flatowallee and Flatow-Sportshalle in Straße Vor dem Schlesischen Tor 1. The names commemorate another famous German athlete and Alfred´s cousin, Gustav Flatow, who died of hunger in Theresienstadt in 1945.

Here is a detailed account of Alfred Flatow´s arrest, presented by Stephen P. Halbrook in his text, “Arms in the hands of Jews are a danger to public safety: Nazism, firearm registration, and the night of the broken glass”, published in 2009 by the St. Thomas Law Review (January 1st edition).

The three German gold medal winners of the 1896 Olympics in Athens: Schuhmann, Flatow (in the middle) and Weingärtner. (image author unknown)

The three German gold medal winners of the 1896 Olympics in Athens: Flatow (left), Schuhmann and Weingärtner. (image author unknown)

Flatow

One comment on “ALFRED FLATOW, THE OLYMPIC CHAMPION FROM KREUZBERG

  1. berlioz1935
    April 6, 2016

    What i like about the story, is the way you find things out. It is a sad story, especially for Alfred Flatow. Where he brought fame and honor to Germany his home country gave him a dirty deal. While you often point out, in your blog, that there is so much to be proud about about Berlin, and Kreuzberg, there is also so much to be ashamed about. And once again this bad German element is on display right now with the “Fremdenfeindlichkeit” towards the refugees. A democratic society must be able to balance those two elements to make Germany a place where people can live together in peace. I hope the civil society will win in the end.

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