Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Olympic Hockey Card of the Day, German Team 1936

This first card I was sent by my friend Bruce who I play hockey with, the second one is from my collection. They are from separate German sets from 1936 depicting the 1936 Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partinkirchen. Both cards show the German Olympic hockey team, and yes, the first one pictures them giving the Nazi salute. Amazingly, one of the players on this team, perhaps the best player was a Jewish man named Rudi Ball.

Ball was born in 1911 in Berlin to a German father and Lithuanian Jewish mother. He took to the game of hockey at age 15 and by 17 he was starring for his hometown Berliner SC. The speedy, 5'4" Ball tallied 11 goals in 13 games and would suit up for the German National squad for the first time the following year. On both teams he was joined by his good friend and fellow star, Gustav Jaenecke. Together they led the Germans to the Silver medal in the 1930 World Championships.

By now Ball and Jaenecke were outright stars for Berliner SC and the national team. Next they helped lead Germany to a Bronze medal in the 1932 Olympics at Lake Placid. After a fifth place finish in the 1933 World Championships, things changed rapidly for Ball and the world in general.
1933 saw the rise of the Nazi regime to power in Germany and the beginning of the alienation of Jews throughout Germany by Adolf Hitler. Rudi Ball and his hockey playing brothers fled their homeland and played the next two seasons in St.Moritz, Switzerland and  Milan, Italy.

As the 1936 Olympic games approached, Ball was left off the German squad for the sole fact that he was of Jewish descent even though the national team were in desperate need of his hockey ability. Just prior to the games, Ball's best friend Jaenecke refused to play if Ball was not added to the team. Not wanting to put forward an inferior team at their home Olympics, the Nazis relented after striking a deal with Ball. 

In exchange for offering his services to the German team, Rudi Ball's family would be allowed to emigrate from Germany. Ball agreed to join the team, but even with the inclusion of himself and Jaenecke, the Germans finished in fifth place. Even still, in late 1936 Ball's parents were allowed to move to Johannesburg, South Africa. Ball himself would remain in Germany skating alongside his friend Jaenecke with Berliner SC for another ten years.

In 1948, Ball followed his family to South Africa were he helped legitimize the hockey scene there. He would play five more years in Johannesburg before finally retiring at age 42. Ball lived in South Africa until his death in 1975. He was elected to the IIHF Hall of Fame in 2004 where he joined his longtime friend Gustav Jaenecke.

The back of the second card is translated loosely with Google translate.
"The German ice hockey team is not favored by fortune. From the group matches coming into the second round, where it 1-1 after three periods of elongation plays in a dramatic battle against the Olympic winner England, then excretes. Thus was lost the European Championship."

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