Hitler, Nazi Philosophy and Sport

Written in 2009 by Emma Anspach, Hilah Almog, and Taylor.

Edited & Updated in 2013 by Brittney Balser and Alessandro Santalbano


Adolf Hitler usurped all the power he had in Germany. After Hindenburg’s death, he took over the position of state president. He then proceeded to take command of the army and transformed the SS (the police) to uphold his racial beliefs. This way, the entire state was working for and in support of him. Eventually, Nazi beliefs became the highest point of reference on the moral compass of all administrative officials 1.


Military Strategy

During World War II, Hitler implemented a war strategy known as Blitzkrieg, in which they get the state to capitulate by attacking a small section of the enemy front and then proceeding aggressively through the rest of the country. The aggressive strategy was dependent on surprise penetrations, unpreparedness and swift attacks. His ultimate goal was the conquest of the European part of the Soviet Union, as code-worded by “Operation Barbarossa.” Ukraine’s fall to Germany in the initial steps of the Operation offered a huge economic win, despite the proceeding failure in the USSR. 2



Nazism is defined in the dictionary as “The ideology and policies of Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist German Worker’s Party from 1921 to 1945.” 3 Hitler, in molding Nazi philosophy, stressed the superiority of the Aryan race. He believed they had a destiny as the “Master Race” to rule the rest of the world. Hitler construed the social theories of Gustaf Kossinna to create this philosophy. Aryans were Indo-Europeans, Nordic in appearance and of German ancestry. According to the theory, they were to have natural superiority and dominance in all social, physical and mental aspects. 4


Nazism and Sport

Embedded in the aforementioned philosophy of the superiority of the Aryan race was the idea that they should dominate in all athletic competitions. This translated into sport, as exemplified by Hitler’s infamous distaste during the 1936 Olympics with the success of non-Aryans, including Jesse Owens. As stated in Albert Speer’s Inside the Third Reich: “He was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens. People whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive, Hitler said with a shrug; their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites and hence should be excluded from future games.” To read more about Fascism at these Olympics, go here5


Naturally, this philosophy also translated into soccer. The DFB, Germany’s soccer federation, enthusiastically supported Hitler and the Nazi regime. Thus, his beliefs readily infiltrated the sport. Already in 1933 when Hitler had just came into power, all Jewish players, club owners, sponsors and journalists were excluded. One tenth of the pre-war Jewish German population (40,000) were involved in sport clubs. By 1945, only a few thousand Jews remained in all of Germany. By purging Jews from the system, the DFB and soccer both became another arm spreading Hitler’s influence. “The consensus was that German soccer helped stabilize the Hitler regime, failed to do anything for Jews and in some areas was overly eager to please the Nazis even if its overall level of support for the regime only mirrored that of the public.” 6 In addition, soccer was not only a way of showing support for Nazism but it also served as a strategy for Hitler to spread his politics. BBC explains that “Europe’s right-wing dictatorships pounced on the working man’s sport as a means of drumming up support for their politics,” meaning that by forcing his philosophy on the bourgeoisie he aimed to spread his influence exponentially. (To read more on the relationship of soccer and politics, go here.)  7 It is convenient to note that Hitler’s rise just after the 1920s coincided with football’s ascent as a major international sport and culture, emphasizing the necessity for his involvement in that realm despite his original indifference to the game.


Various rules were implemented by the DFB to aid in this bolstering of the Nazi regime. For example, it was a Foreign Office order that opponents must perform the salute. There have been numerous instances in which this order has caused problems, including the game against England (when legendary Stanley Matthews played) and in 1942 against FC Start where they refused and instead did a Soviet salute. Another scandal that exemplified Hitler’s influence involved Austria’s star player Matthias Sindelar. After Germany had annexed Austria, Hitler abolished their team and forced their best players to play for him. Sindelar refused, and he did so after scoring one of two goals leading to Germany’s defeat in a final immediately before integration. Not a year later, Sindelar was found dead at age 35. The Gestapo file on him had him marked as pro-Jewish and a social democrat. 8 This scandal showed that Hitler was not just offended by the refusal to play for him, but also the personal vendetta he held against those who aided in Germany’s defeat. Hence, all of Germany’s losses (in sport or otherwise) were a personal attack on Hitler himself. The most infamous instance of Hitler’s obsession with his image via sport is called the “Death Match” that occurred in Kiev, Ukraine in 1942.

Another image exemplifying Hitler's influence in the sport. This is the Nazi salute, of which a Federal Office order mandated before each game as Hitler attempted to conquer all of Europe. By requiring the salute, Hitler felt every other nation was acknowledging on a deeper level that Germany was no longer a pariah state, but rather a superior force to be reckoned with.

An image exemplifying Hitler’s influence in the sport. This is the England team, forced to do the Nazi salute from the Federal Office Order that Germany instigated in order to prove its legitimacy and that it was no longer a “pariah” state.

An image of a soccer stadium under the Nazi regime that shows how aggressively Hitler forced his influence into the sport.

Another image of a soccer stadium under the Nazi regime that shows how aggressively Hitler forced his influence into the sport via the Swastika propaganda.


Further Information:

The Death Match

Main Topics:

Football and Politics in Europe

Mussolini’s Football



1934 World Cup

The Magical Magyars


How to cite this article: “Football and Politics in Europe, 1930s-1950s” Written by Emma Anspach, Hilah Almog, and Taylor (2009), Edited and Updated by Brittney Balser and Alessandro Santalbano (2013), Soccer Politics Pages, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp (accessed on (date)).

  1. Scheck, Raffael. “The Functioning of the Nazi Regime: State and Society.” Colby University, 2006. Web. 12 Dec. 09. <http://www.colby.edu/personal/r/rmscheck/GermanyE5.html>.
  2. World War II Chronicle, 2007. Legacy/ Publications International, Ltd. Page 146.
  3. Grobman, Gary. “Nazi Fascism and the Modern Totalitarian State.” The Teacher’s Guide, 1990. Web. 12 Dec. 2009. <http://remember.org/guide/Facts.root.nazi.html>.
  4. Hirsch, Kris. “Who Were the Aryans?” About.com. Web. 12 Dec. 2009. <http://archaeology.about.com/od/indusrivercivilizations/a/aryans.htm>
  5. Speer, Albert. Inside the Third Reich. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997. Print. Quote from page 73.
  6. “Germany Tries to Purge Nazi Past Before World Cup.” RedOrbit – Science, Space, Technology, Health News and Information. Web. 12 Dec. 2009. <http://www.redorbit.com/news/sports/465409/germany_tries_to_purge_nazi_past_before_world_cup/index.html>.
  7. Duffy, Jonathon. “Football, fascism and England’s Nazi salute.” BBC NEWS | News Front Page. Web. 12 Dec. 2009. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/3128202.stm>.
  8. Duffy, Jonathon. “Football, fascism and England’s Nazi salute.” BBC NEWS | News Front Page. Web. 12 Dec. 2009. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/3128202.stm>.

6 thoughts on “Hitler, Nazi Philosophy and Sport

  1. Dr Gary James

    Important article but I do need to point out that the last image (with the caption: Another image of a soccer stadium under the Nazi regime that shows how aggressively Hitler forced his influence into the sport via the Swastika propaganda.) is actually from the film Escape To Victory and is not a genuine image of a football game in Germany during this era.

  2. William Major

    I have salvaged a box file of records of my late grandfathers official visits to both the Olympics in 1936 and then with a UK delegation in 1936/37 particularly studying gymnastics but also reporting on Physical Education in Germany. One of the optimistic conclusions drawn in a report is that the extremism of Munch is no longer a problem as the Nazi “whoop whooping” of earlier years has calmed down by this date. as Germany has moved to the right. Reference is made to the Nazi wish to completely change the German citizen, which cannot be done with the extreme teachings of Munch. I wonder what my Grandfather (who was head of Carnegie PE college in the 1930s) felt about this post war when he was a Senior HM Inspector of PE. His name was Ernest Major OBE,MBE.

  3. Danial

    its nice to see this site.you provide informative knowledge about the soccer news.i am very interested in this sport.thanks for increasing my knowledge. =)

  4. Pingback: Er Pia Kjærsgaard en “unyttig idiot”? | DF-Nyt

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