The German national team in World Cup of 1938 in France
The exit of Germany from the League of Nations in 1933 created a new situation around the projection of Germany in international level. So football appeared probably as only way that the nation could promote its image abroad. During the Nazi era national football team had the role of German Ambassador in International competitions of 1930’s, the 1934 World Cup and especially in 1938 World Cup when appeared in France the “Great German” national team after Anschluss. (Deutschland über Alles: discrimination in German football, p.755-756, Soccer & Society, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2009, 754–765)
The annexation of Austria on March of 1938 was something that gave a new opportunity for German football. Because of the annexation, the Nazis believed that the inclusion of several brilliant players who were the best of Austria’s national team until 1938 was a good chance for the German team to strengthen. The Austrian football Association stopped to exist and the Nazis started to think about a Great Germany team for the 1938 World Cup in France. But however the Germans failed again. The national team of Great Germany lost to Switzerland in two matches and was eliminated in the first round. Probably the reason for failure was the two completely different styles of play in one team. (The Hidden Social and Political History of the German Football Association (DFB), 1900-50, Udo Merkel, p.184, Soccer and Society, Vol.1, No.2 (Summer 2000), pp.167-186)
An important fact after the annexation of Austria was the mysterious death of the Austrian international footballer Matthias Sindelar in 1939. Sindelar who was known as a “paper man” because he was very thin, he was the greatest player in Austria but he refused to play for the German national team in 1938 World Cup. Because of his refusal he became the greatest symbol of Austrian resistance to the Nazi invasion. The international player of FK Austria Vienna found the death in his house but they never discovered the reasons of his death. His refusal to play in German national team after the annexation of Austriain the Third Reich, they created the fames that the Nazis were hidden behind of his death. Some others said that probably Sindelar committed suicide because he didn’t want to live anymore under the Nazi tyranny. (Between Manipulation and Resistance: Viennese Football in the Nazi Era, Matthias Marschik, p.222, 224-225, Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Apr., 1999), 215-229, BBC Documentary: The history of football)
At this time when fascist regimes took the power in European countries, international football matches between Germany and Democratic states had great ideological significance. Such case was the friendly match between Nazi Germany and Liberal Democratic England in May of 1938. Through this kind of matches had promoted the ideological differences of two states. A possible victory against democratic state meant also victory of ideology against the other. (German football: cultural history, Pyta W, p.6-7, Deutschland über Alles: discrimination in German football, p.756, Soccer & Society, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2009, 754–765)
Back to international competitions and World cups of 1930’s, the German national team did not achieve to prove the German superiority in international level than Fascist Italy of Benito Mussolini. Italian Fascism prevailed German National-Socialism because of the Italian national team’s victories in the decade of 1930. At the 1934 World Cup inItaly, the Germans reached in fourth place. At 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin despite that the German athletes won the most gold medals, the football team was defeated in the preliminary round by the football dwarf Norway. At 1938 World Cup inFrance, the post-Anschluss ‘Great German’ national team disgraced itself when failing to get past the first round after losing from Switzerland. So the Nazis failed via football to promote their superiority as the Aryan Race. Football was proved inadequate in the promotion and demonstration of racial superiority of Germans (German football: cultural history, Pyta W, p.6).
Perhaps one of the reasons that Germany failed in international tournaments was the intense interest of Hitler in other sports and mainly in boxing because he was convinced that this sport was more able than football to develop physical aggressiveness and to toughen the human body. Thus Hitler gave more emphasis in individual sports because his belief that the Germans could grow up with the ideals of National-Socialism through individual physical programs that toughen the human body. (The Hidden Social and Political History of the German Football Association (DFB), 1900-50, Udo Merkel,, p.181, Soccer and Society, Vol.1, No.2 (Summer 2000), pp.167-186 ) That’s why the Nazis established the German Reich’s Committee for Physical Exercises in 1934, to promote the strategic plan for the Reich’s sport. Football failed to promote the Aryan race superiority, so the Nazis turned their interest in other sports through which they were able to prove their supremacy as nation and prepare the nation for the Second World War. (The Hidden Social and Political History of the German Football Association (DFB), 1900-50, Udo Merkel, p.182, Soccer and Society, Vol.1, No.2 (Summer 2000), pp.167-186)