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Memorable Monday: Kurt Landauer, the Man Who Built FC Bayern

Julius Hirsch died a painful death at the hands of a government which knew no bounds to its cruelty. Karlsruhe and the German national side acknowledged his wrongful death. FC Bayern waited until six years ago to officially acknowledge their own Jewish past.

A relationship for Kurt Landauer
A relationship for Kurt Landauer
Alexandra Beier/Getty Images

Kurt Landauer was born into a Jewish family with its own clothing store. He knew a thing or two about finances from the first day of his life. He played for FC Bayern as a 17-year-old in 1901 but took a break later to learn the banking trade in Switzerland. He returned and became President in 1913. This was a short term presidency because, in 1914, Landauer chose to serve his country in World War I.

His love for Bayern was by then obvious and was confirmed when he returned to serve as President after the War. He took a hiatus in 1921 for a year but served until early 1933. Landauer knew and loved his club. He went against many members who wanted a new stadium for Bayern and instead chose to invest in the team. He understood something many did not. German football was moving towards professionalism but had not reached that point yet; Bayern did not need a new stadium just then. His wisdom, to the detriment of Landauer himself, proved to be fateful.

Bayern became German Champions in 1932, beating Eintracht Frankfurt in the final game, 2-0. The victory was especially sweet considering Bayern won it in Nürnberg, in front of more than 50,000 fans. They had beaten their regional rivals in the semifinals. A year later, the Nazis came to power. Landauer saw no choice but to step down.

He could not hold on to a job under the watchful eyes of the Nazis and ended up working for a Jewish laundry firm called Rosa Klauber. The day after Kristallnacht, he was sent to Dachau to be killed in a concentration camp. But Landauer, because of his service in World War I, was handed his freedom after 33 days. His family members were not so lucky. Three brothers died in concentrations camp and one sister, Gabriele, was deported; his sister is still considered missing.

It is in Dachau where Bayern acknowledged their Jewish history, accepting an invitation to visit the area to remember the Jews who died there. They appreciated the goodness of a man who just would not leave Bayern alone. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who did not hear Landauer's name in his time as a player at Bayern, appreciated his efforts wholeheartedly in 2009.

Landauer set the stepping stones up for Bayern perfectly. He went away to Switzerland after his release from Dachau and returned in 1947. He held the presidency till 1951 and even managed to extend a hand out to 1860 München, a club which was considered a Nazi club in Adolf Hitler's years. Hitler considered a professional football league to be a Jewish idea and wanted German football to remain amateur. In some ways, he pushed back the development of German football. Landauer lived till 1961, not long enough to see the start of the Bundesliga in 1963.

By then, Bayern's youth system was set up perfectly. Bayern would see the fruits of Landauer's labor not too long after. And yet, those faces which won the European Cup in 1974 barely knew about the Jewish President. He had been extinguished from memory as the enthusiasm for football in Munich had been destroyed by World War II. The Ruhr region continued to love football but Munich was considering a divorce. Landauer, however, felt differently. He ensured that every football club in Munich was licensed. Although he was Bayern's President, he was very much the President of football itself in the entire Munich region.

Today, he has a street named after him, a street which leads up to the Allianz Arena. This brings us back to Julius Hirsch. Hirsch's tragic death led the DFB to name an award after him, the Julius-Hirsch Preis. A member of the Schickeria Fan Club of Bayern was awarded the prize in 2014. Simon Müller was behind the brilliant choreography to honor Landauer in 2014 in the Allianz Arena.

In the film made about him in 2013, he said:

"Ich bin a Jud und a Bayer."

The quote, pretty self-explanatory, perfectly sums up Bayern's third honorary President. Had Bayern not embraced their Jewish past, they would have missed out on honoring the man who built the club.

Anti-Semitic attitudes washed over German football but could not extinguish Landauer's flame. If anything, his passion and what he did for Bayern, should be a lesson for the modern world. He came back to his roots with a ticket for America in his pockets, a ticket which he never used. Landauer should never have had to leave in the first place. Likewise, racism and sexism need to be kicked out as well today, if just to honor those who fought prejudice and came back to football to contribute to it.

FC Bayern is what it is today for Landauer.  Kurt Landauer deserves more than applause. He deserves a standing ovation.

*Thanks to goal.comFC Bayern's official websiteZeit OnlineCNNDeutsch WelleDW's Kick-Off and Wikipedia

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