Germany's new Sporting Hall of Fame was offically opened at the German History museum in Berlin on Tuesday, May 6. However, the inclusion of some inductees with Nazi connections stirred debate.
Ex-soccer star Uwe Seeler and former skier Rosi Mittermaier at the Hall of Fame opening
The ambitious project, "a permanent celebration of our country's greatest athletes," according to the head of the German Sport Aid Foundation, Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff, will initially contain the names of 40 of Germany's sporting heroes, with potentially three to be added to the roll call every year.
The first sportsmen and women to enter the Hall of Fame, officially opened by President Horst Koehler and Minister of the Interior Wolfgang Schaeuble, were chosen by a 25-strong jury headed by Schaeuble, which considered the nature of their sporting achievement, the legacy and impact of the person, their personal attributes and whether they were a good role model for future sports stars.
Initial inductee list dominated by West German males
The jury was presented with a list of 150 potential inductees which had been compiled by the German Olympic Sports Alliance, the Federation of German Sports Journalists and the German Sport Aid Federation.
Former showjumper Hans Guenter Winkler with his portrait
The final list of 40, which includes the likes of boxing legend Max Schmeling, soccer ambassador Franz Beckenbauer and tennis idol Gottfried von Cramm, features 32 posthumous inductees.
Most of the 40 are male, the exceptions being Germany's first Wimbledon tennis tournament winner Cilly Aussem, ski idol Rosi Mittermaier, a double Olympic champion in 1976, and track and field athlete Ingrid Mickler-Becker.
There is only one sports star from the former East Germany in the initial batch: four-time Olympic swimming champion Roland Matthes. Given the GDR's well-publicized doping program in sports, the jury appears to have erred on the side of caution in the initial round of inductions.
Idols with Nazi links cause unease
However, the jury has not managed to completely avoid controversy. The induction of five former members of the National Socialist Party has already caused some heated debate as to whether those associated with the Nazis should be honored and has led to some calling the new project the "Hall of Shame."
Sport Aid founder Neckermann had Nazi links
Cyclist Gustav Kilian, athlete Rudolf Harbig, former German Olympic President Willi Daume and the founder of the German Sport Aid Foundation, Josef Neckermann, as well as Sepp Herberger, coach of the 1954 World Cup winning soccer team, "the Wonders of Bern," all had connections to the Third Reich during World War II.
"We do not see the Hall of Fame as being tarnished by this," Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff told reporters. "In fact it is the opposite. This is useful in the processing of our past through sport. To exclude those who had connections with the National Socialists would be an act of arrogance by a generation which has had the luck to grow up in a democracy."