“What Happened during the Second World War Must Never Be Forgotten”

The 14th European Maccabi Games (EMG) are taking place in Berlin from 27 July until 5 August 2015. More than 2,000 Jewish athletes from 36 countries will compete in 19 sports from football to fencing to chess. To accompany the games Tamar Lewinsky and Theresia Ziehe are producing a series of portraits with interviews, introducing a new member of the German delegation from Berlin every day here on the blog. They conducted the interviews on the grounds of the TuS Maccabi in Berlin’s Grunewald where Stephan Pramme also shot the portraits.

Leonid Sawlin, 16, chess

Young man at a table with chess

Leonid (16) chess © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Stephan Pramme

Leonid, why are you participating in the European Maccabi Games?

The games are really fun. I see friends from other cities, and I’m also learning because there are two grand masters here as coaches. They’re teaching me a lot. And of course I’m proud to get to take part in a European championship.

Jewish athletes were barred from the 1936 Olympics. Does that play a role for you, considering that some of the competitions this year are taking place at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium?

That’s hard to explain. Germany tries to deal with its past but at the same time, it’s not possible to make amends for what happened. I think it’s a good thing that such a large Jewish Olympics is taking place in Berlin, in Germany. It’s like a memorial for the Jews who died. I find it important that what happened to Jews in the Second World War and even earlier is never forgotten.

What does Judaism mean to you personally?

I’m not particularly religious, and when someone asks me where I come from, I always say first that I’m Russian. Then, if I’m also asked about my religion, I say I’m Jewish. Even though there’s still a lot of anti-Semitism.

Tamar Lewinsky, curator of contemporary history, and Theresia Ziehe, curator of photography, are keeping their fingers crossed for all their interviewees at the European Maccabi Games!

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