Thursday, July 28, 2005


In Hebrew and German with English subtitles

In 1909, after the Austrian government passed a law known as "the Aryan Paragraph" which forbade sporting clubs from accepting Jewish members, a group of Jewish athletes responded by forming a sports organisation of their own. Known as "Hakoah Vienna" (from the Hebrew word for strength), the club sought to give Jewish athletes a place to turn to, and to confront stereotypes that Austrian Jews were intellectual giants but physical weaklings. The members of Hakoah Vienna were champions in a number of sports in Austria and Europe, but their most famous athletes were the members of the women's swimming team, who soon came to dominate competition throughout the nation. Hakoah Vienna's female swimmers were the core of Austria's 1936 Olympic Team, held in Germany, though some had serious reservations even participating in what was seen by many as a propaganda triumph for Adolf Hitler.

Ann Marie, one of the former champion swimmers of Hakoah Vienna
Judith, eldest surviving member of the group
Hanni, her sister
along with Greta, Elishvea, Anni, Trude and Hanne

More of an insightful documentary than one presenting something entirely new and different, it will appeal mostly to students of history. Seeing how these women coped with the difficult situation in their native country is but one more stinging condemnation of the Nazi era.


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