1920-1939 | Appeasing Hitler

FA chief apologises to the Nazis and toasts Hitler

The dining room and facade of the Victoria Hotel from a postcard, circa 1912 – Leonard Bentley – Flickr.

4 December 1935

On Wednesday 4th December 1935, the visiting German national football team had been invited to an after the match dinner reception at the Hotel Victoria, situated just off Trafalgar Square. William Pickford, the vice president of the Football Association and the man who first introduced markings on football pitches in 1902, rapped his table and everyone fell silent. ‘It is,’ he declared, ‘a privilege and honour to be able to propose a toast to the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.’1 The assembled guests responded promptly with a Nazi salute and, maintaining their arms in an extended position, they sang the ‘Horst Wessel,’ an infamous anthem to a young Nazi thug who’s death in 1930 was mythologized as martyrdom.2 

At the conclusion of the singing,  Sir Charles Clegg, the Chairman of the FA, stood up and apologised for the earlier presence of anti-Nazi protesters outside the Tottenham football ground where the teams had played. He condemned the demonstration as an unwelcome ‘annoyance to which our visitors have been subjected’ and, according to a report published in several newspapers, ‘amid thunderous applause Sir Charles proceeded to say “This is the first time the TUC ( Trade Union Congress ) has interfered in football. I hope it will be the last.”‘3 The TUC had earlier called on the government to suspend the match, which it feared would be a propaganda coup for the Nazis, as indeed turned out to be the case with the swastika flag flying high over the stadium.

FOOTNOTES

  1. ‘Toast Drunk to Hitler,’ the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 5 December 1935 p. 4.
  2. ‘Hitler Toast Follows National,’ the Dundee Courier, 5 Decembter 1935 p. 6, ‘Footballers at Dinner,’ the Leeds Mercury, 5 December 1935 p. 1, ‘Toast Drunk to Hitler,’ the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 5 December 1935 p. 4 and http://www.insidethegames.biz/articles/1050381/philip-barker-the-most-controversial-match-at-white-hart-lane.  See also Daniel Siemens. The Making of a Nazi Hero: The Murder and Myth of Horst Wessel, I.B. Tauris, London, 2013.
  3.  ‘Hitler Toasted in London,’ the Nottingham Evening Post, 5 December 1935, p. 15 and ‘Hitler’s Health Drunk in London,’ the Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 5 December 1935 p. 9.

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