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Schweinfurt’s Stadium Name Shame

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

Getting rid the legacy of Germany’s painful past is an ongoing issue, even in 2020, three quarters of a century after the end of WWII. FC Schweinfurt 05 were the opponents for FC Schalke 04 (German teams do like having their year of origin in their team names) in the delayed 1st round tie in the DFB Pokal.

Schweinfurt is located in northern Bavaria and the team is one of the more powerful teams in the fourth their Regionalliga Bayern. They play their home games at the Willy Sachs Stadion, which is where the problem lies. Schweinfurt‘s main industry was the roller bearing factory set up by Ernst Sachs in the 19th century. His influence throughout the community was everywhere and his image still features in the city’s flag.

The club‘s stadium however is named after his son Willy and he has a much more complicated legacy, to put it mildly. He was a member of the SA, as the Nazi party grew in popularity then moved into the SS in 1933 as the they took over the country. Three years later he was granted the Freedom of the City having built the stadium that still bears his name and donated it to the city. He was such a prominent member of the Nazi Party that the ceremony in his honour was attended by such luminaries as Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Goering, whilst Hitler himself sent a telegram in congratulations.

His legacy grew even more tainted as the crimes of the Nazis increased. The factory in Schweinfurt, now run by Willy Sachs, continued to produce roller bearings and became a vital component of the Nazi war effort. In addition it was manned during the later years of WWII by slave labour from occupied territories who were treated brutally.

Astonishingly despite all this the stadium remains named after Willy Sachs and there is a remarkable lack of enthusiasm for changing this. Locally a movement has started to rename it the Sachs Stadium, thereby retaining the reference to Ernst who did so much to put the city on the map. Willy Sachs, who died in 1958, will see his legacy live on until the city develops the will to get finally get rid of this shameful episode in its past.

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