Maccabi Winter Games in Ruhpolding: gold medals and a message – Sport
The German hope for a medal wears a different kind of racing suit. Her red one-piece suit is thickly lined, it looks warm, but less streamlined. This racing suit might cost her one or two tenths of a second, but she wears it consciously. It’s not just any piece of clothing, she says. Mother has already carried it. Mother who once hid her faith because she had to. And she advised her daughter: It’s better not to say that you’re Jewish at school.
400 people have come to the Upper Bavarian town for a week these days Ruhpolding to hold the Jewish Winter Games there again after a break of 87 years. Diana Goldberg, 27, is one of them. The native of Munich starts with the ski alpinists in slalom, parallel slalom and giant slalom, three of the 16 disciplines in seven sports. Among the participants are professionals, semi-professionals, most are amateur athletes like Goldberg. It’s about best times, medals. And yet it is no coincidence that Diana Goldberg and many others do not wear racing gear but simple ski suits.
Thursday afternoon, day four at the Maccabi Winter Games, rest day for Diana Goldberg. She has just come from a regeneration swim and is still wearing her bathrobe. Minutes later she returns in a ski suit and climbs into a decorative gondola in front of the hotel reception. Wooden retro skis are hanging in front of the glass windows of the gondola, and a woman in a retro look is now sitting inside. The past cannot simply be locked out of a gondola. “The hatred of Jews, for example,” she says, “some of it is still there.”
In 1933 in Poland they organized the first Jewish Winter Games, in 1936 in what was then Czechoslovakia they held the last ones to date. The atrocities of the Holocaust followed, six million Jews were murdered by the National Socialists. The new edition – now for the first time on German soil – can of course not only be about sporting achievements. At the opening ceremony, Charlotte Knobloch, President of the Jewish Community in Munich and Upper Bavaria, explained that “a historical gap will be closed”. “The Maccabi Winter Games are more than just sport, they are also a celebration of Jewish culture and Jewish identity. Maccabi connects people across borders, regardless of their origin and religion,” said Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in a video message. Jews and non-Jewish Maccabi members are allowed to participate. The games, that’s already certain, should be repeated.
high security? “I hope that one day we won’t need it anymore.”
The politically influenced start of the event was followed by the athletes’ competitions, in which their flexibility was particularly important. The town of Ruhpolding is considered a reliable snow hole, but these days the last white spots are drying up even on the peaks of the Chiemgau. The cross-country skiers had to move to Reit im Winkl, 24 kilometers away, where they hold their races on the remains of a brownish trail. Goldberg and her alpine colleagues even move to Kitzbühel, which is two hours away. “We were really unlucky with the weather,” says Alfi Goldenberg, inventor of the games, Vice President for Sports at Makkabi Germany. About Diana Goldberg he says: “She is one of our German medal hopes.”
People from 20 nations and five continents have traveled there, an 18-year-old skier from Australia is considered the most exotic exotic, 35 hours of travel for rather Australian conditions in Ruhpolding, it’s that warm here. After all, the figure skaters and curlers can compete as planned in the Ruhpoldinger Halle, the pictures from Kitzbühel will be broadcast on the Internet via live stream. On Thursday evening, at the cross-country sprint in Reit im Winkl, children dance and sing with a fan poster from “Makkabi Suisse” at the edge of the track for the Swiss “Didier”. Just out of the headlights are two police buses.
The Maccabi Winter Games are amateur games, but it is a high-security event. Police officers are clearly posted at all venues. The officials can be seen from the hotel gondola in front of the hotel’s main entrance. Goldberg’s voice gets serious, she talks about the attack in Halle in 2019. When an armed right-wing extremist tried to break into the synagogue there, friends of hers were in the building. “It was super close for me because it was in Germany and people my age.” No police officers were posted in Halle in 2019 on the highest Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur. In Ruhpolding now, the whole week, according to reports, no incidents have been reported. A Jewish event under high security? “I hope,” says Goldberg, “that at some point we won’t need it anymore.”
The initiators are also and above all concerned with a message. Not least because of this, Diana Goldberg is now sitting in a red ski suit in this gondola, through which not a breath of wind penetrates in the hotel lobby. The suit is a bit warm, says Goldberg, but the old fabric also says something. A small Jewish history in the great history of this people.
Goldberg works as a singer, she was born in Stuttgart and grew up in Munich, her parents come from the former Soviet Union. “In her passport, the nationality was not Latvian or Russian, but Jew,” says Goldberg. Celebrating the Jewish faith was forbidden there at the time. While the couple celebrated their bar mitzvah in the apartment, her father listened at the door for police patrols. The parents would have been threatened with imprisonment, they told her that. “My family grew up with this fear.”
Behind the doors of the gondola, the organizers are getting ready for a music event, the first are grooving on the dance floor, some trudge through the lobby in their bathrobes, a few wear a yarmulke. Muted party music emanates from the loudspeakers. Celebrating is not insignificant, explains Goldberg, “about the community”.
A classmate told her to take a shower in the gas chamber
In the evening, Holocaust survivors will describe their memories in Ruhpolding. And Goldberg gives an idea of why reports like this are so important. She talks about her school days, she endured a lot. Hearing “Fucking Jew” hurt, it often happened that over time she had hardened. But then that day in the sixth grade, a Munich high school, art class. She, the eleven-year-old, was the first to finish her work – wanted to leave, and was told this sentence: Go take a shower in the gas chamber. “My parents picked me up from school that day, I was too exhausted,” she says. Her classmate was expelled from the directorship and did community service, she says, followed by a letter of apology from her parents. “I hope they discussed the subject at home.”
Religion can divide – and unite. There is some debate as to which of the three pillars of Judaism—country, religion, or people—is most important. Goldberg would most likely choose the people. “I’m really not super religious or anything,” she says. She founded initiatives at the university and jointly managed programs with Christian and Muslim students, similar to her commitment to Makkabi Germany. “Religion,” she says, “should be treated like a hobby.”
A participant from the USA recently asked her how she can stand living as a Jew in Germany, the country of the former Holocaust. “There has been a change,” she says. It’s good to live here. On Sunday she will win silver in the slalom and bronze in the parallel slalom. The trauma of her family, she says at that moment, the fear, “I don’t want to carry that on.” Then she gets up, takes a pair of carving skis from the gondola holder and carries them to the exit door.