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Michael Verhoeven, author and filmmaker
Image: DW/ H.Mund

'Kurt Landauer was my Bayern president'

Interview: Heike Mund \ rd
October 16, 2014

Bayern Munich's past is little-known. The club's Jewish president was dismissed by the Nazis - and then returned. DW spoke with former Bayern player and filmmaker, Michael Verhoeven, about his time under Landauer.


Michael Verhoeven has repeatedly examined the horrors of the Second World War. His film, "The White Rose," became a German classic upon its release in 1982. As a teenager, Verhoeven played football for Bayern Munich. The club president back then was Kurt Landauer, a Jew, who had faced persecution during the Nazi era.

DW: Mr. Verhoeven, what does the name Kurt Landauer mean to you? Are there stories which connect you to the former Bayern president?

Michael Verhoeven: I'm a filmmaker and have made some documentaries on this topic, as well. In one of these documentaries, Kurt Landauer plays an important role. The theme of the film was the expropriation of the Jews. The Nazis removed Kurt Landauer's status as president of Bayern Munich. And the club lost a president. Through this topic, I was reminded about that and of course it triggered something quite different for me, because I played at Bayern Munich as a young guy just after the war years, in which Landauer had returned. I can honestly say: Kurt Landauer was my president at Bayern Munich.

Did the German people know that he was the former president of Bayern Munich? Did you speak in the postwar period with Landauer? He spent so many years in exile in Geneva after he was free from the Dachau concentration camp.

After the war, Landauer was a name that wasn't mentioned much. I don't think he was exactly pushed away. But it was something unusual that a Jew, who was once president of a Bavarian football club, had returned to Germany. It was certainly an exception. I met with Landauer only in the postwar period. I don't think I had heard much about his Jewish past before. I had no idea who the president of Bayern Munich was. That didn't have so much to do the supression of everything that had happened, or with his particular case. Football had no status whatsoever in German postwar society, with the exception of the young and a few other football-crazy types. That's what makes Bavaria different to the Ruhrpott (the Ruhr Valley) where football is closely anchored in society.

Kurt Landauer and former national player Peco Bauwens
Kurt Landauer (left) and former German national player Peco Bauwens, back in 1955Image: imago

Were there any major differences between the football clubs in Munich at that time?

The club 1860 Munich was for the workers, Bayern was more for the upper-class. There were always fights between Bayern supporters and 1860 fans and it was in school where they were really fought out. Of course, as a young Bayern Munich player, I fought with those from 1860. A win was necessary, whatever the circumstances. The teams faced each other with hostility, but that had nothing to do with their past. Everyone was silent about that.

The two professional Munich football clubs are obviously very different now compared with the Nazi period of 1933 to 1945. Bayern Munich was considered to be the "Jewish Club," but instead 1860 were seen as the "Nazi club". Was that ever an issue in your home?

I only discovered this when I did some research for my documentary "Human Error" in which Kurt Landauer played an important role. We had tracked down and spoken with his nephew Uri Siegel. This old rivalry didn't exist between the teams by then. We always has good discussions about this at home with my parents, about the Third Reich and about what happened, who was involved, who was able to resist and who didn't cooperate with the Nazis. Who was against the Nazis was also an issue with my parents. It would be spoken about by my parents, even when I was too young to understand it all. Football wasn't important then: neither Bayern nor Landauer.

The film "Landauer - The President" debuted on 15 October on German television (ARD), followed by a documentary on his life. The DVD with both films will be released on 16 October. Michael Verhoeven's most recent film is a documentary entitled "Let's go" about a Jewish family in post-war Munich.

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