Yesterday, as every day, the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum shared a photo on Twitter of one of the people killed at that concentration and extermination camp.  This would be Jiří Popper, a young Jewish Czechoslovak who was born on July 21, 1923 in Prague, and killed at the Nazi extermination camp along with a million other people.  He had been deported to that camp from the Theresienstadt ghetto on September 6, 1943.  He hadn’t even reached the age of 20.

Before going into this, we hasten to point out that he did not die, he did not pass away.  He was murdered.  There were no accidents or diseases involved.  We’re talking about people whose lives were taken from them in an organized, industrial fashion, with levels of sadism and hatred that can only be found in totalitarian regimes.  Going through the Memorial-Museum’s Twitter feed is facing the victims that pure evil causes, and looking them in the eye.

But on this occasion, the remembrance of a life, and a murder, of a Holocaust victim took an unexpected turn, because, in the photo of young Mr. Jiří Popper, he can be seen to be wearing the pin of the Real Sociedad of San Sebastian!

El joven checoslovaco de etnia judía Jiří Popper con un pin del escudo de la Real Sociedad de San Sebastián. (Holocaust.cz)
Young Czechoslovak Jew Jiří Popper with a pin of the Real Sociedad of San Sebastián. (Holocaust.cz)

A Real Sociedad fan who saw the tweet realized, and commented on the Twitter post.  From there, after getting over the surprise, a search was launched to get to the bottom of why a young Czechoslovak would be wearing a Basque soccer team’s pin in the 1930s.

Things started getting clearer on the atotxa.org Twitter feed.  We’re sharing the thread below as one page, thanks to the threadreaderapp.

The Diario Vasco just today gave a full explanation to the matches held in those years between the San Sebastian and Prague teams.  On December 25-6, 1923, the club played against the Prague Deutscher team, made up of Jewish players.  The following year, Real Sociedad played in Prague.

This whole story is dampened by the tragedy Europe, and the world, would live through in the following years.  The young protagonist of our story was killed, along with millions more, in Nazi concentration camps.  Prague Deutscher would cease to exist, as it had been a Jewish team.  And the world would open up one of its darkest chapters.

In this story, there were also Basque who suffered the punishments, and murders, of Nazi concentration camps.  There were Basques, serving the Basque Government in exile, who opposed the monster.  Some helped those escaping the talons of the Hitler regime, collaborating with the Red Cométe.  Others would help the Jewish survivors, including Captain Steve and the group of Basque seamen manning the Pan York.  There were also members of the Gernika Battalion who found against the Nazis in the liberation of France.

But there were other Basques who supported Franco’s regime and celebrated the Nazis’ victories.  It is important to remember them, because they are also a part of our history, and because now some would have us believe they never existed.  Of course they did, during the insurgents’ war, throughout the dictatorship, and even today.

By the 1930s, when the totalitarian and exterminating spirits of the Hitler regime were becoming clearer, there were Basques who opposed Nazi barbarism and those who applauded it.  Among the former were Basque nationalists, who never applauded any totalitarian regime.  Among the latter were those who, not long after, would join the ranks of Franco’s insurgent forces.

Portada del libelo “Judaísmo, Nacionalismo y Comunismo" repartido en Bilbao en julio de 1932
Portada del libelo “Judaísmo, Nacionalismo y Comunismo” repartido en Bilbao en julio de 1932

Just about the same time as this young man’s birthday, on July 17, 1932, a libel titled “Judaism, Nationalism, and Communism” was shared throughout the churches of Bilbao.  The Sabino Arana Foundation tells us:

The pamphlet defended the thesis that, even after the PNV had declared itself formally Catholic, its doctrine and political activities were facilitating the influence of communism and Judaism.  The authors of the defamation—members of the Spanish nationalist right—called Jews the most despicable scum in contemporary society.

The PNV sent a protest to the bishops of Pamplona and Vitoria and to the nuncio of His Holiness in Spain.  The former replied with a brief letter prohibiting the matter, instructing the designated censors to do the same.  The Bishop of Vitoria, Mateo Mugica, in a letter dated August 8, 1932, censured the pamphlet, siding with the PNV saying, “it is false in its totality and appearances, and against the rules of the Church”.

Almost a year later, in 1933, the PNV, far from thinking that a gesture in favor of the Jews could deteriorate their image, sent the Party’s firm protest of the persecution the Jews in Germany were facing to the League of Nations, the predecessor of the UN.  This can be found in a letter the Bizkai Buru Batzar sent to Manuel de Irujo on June 27, 1933, which can be found in his personal archives.

Along with the original tweet from the Auschwitz Memorial and Museum, we’re including the atocha.org information, and the Diario Vasco article, by Ainhoa Iglesias.  We’re also sharing an article on the matter from Milenio in Mexico.

Finally, we couldn’t end this entry without sharing the great sadness we feel when remembering this part of Europe’s history, and without sharing a candle for all the victims of that totalitarian barbarism, for which we Basques were part of the “dress rehearsal”.  A candle to remember them, to pay homage to them, and to guide them home.

Atoxa.org – 22/7/2020 – Euskadi

Jiří Popper y el pin de la Real Sociedad

Ayer @AuschwitzMuseum sacó a la luz una foto de un niño judío con una insignia de la Real, Jiří Popper, deportado primero al campo de Theresienstadt y unos meses después al campo de exterminio de Auschwitz, hilo abierto donde iremos publicando cosas que vayamos descubriendo

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Diario Vasco – 22/7/2020 – Euskadi

Una insignia de la Real Sociedad para la memoria

Se llamaba Jiří Popper y fue víctima del Holocausto. Esta semana hubiera cumplido 97 años, por lo que el Memorial de Auschwitz ha recordado con una fotografía en redes sociales parte de la biografía de este joven checo. Nacido el 21 de julio de 1923, fue deportado del Gueto de Theresienstadt al campo de exterminio más tristemente célebre el 6 de septiembre de 1943

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Milenio – 22/7/2020 – Mexico

La historia detrás del pin de la Real Sociedad en una víctima del Holocausto

Recientemente salió a la luz una fotografía publicada por el Memorial de Auschwitz en donde un joven judío aparece con el escudo del equipo de futbol Real Sociedad. Se trata de Jirí Popper, quien fue víctima del holocausto junto con su familia en 1943.

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