Wolves under-14s mark Holocaust Memorial Day

Wolves under-14s have marked Holocaust Memorial Day for the fourth year running, taking part in the Holocaust Educational Trust and Premier League’s ‘Football Remembers the Holocaust’ programme.

On 27th January, Wolves remembered the Holocaust and the murder of six million Jewish men, women, and children during the Second World War.

Players from the under-14 side, coached by Adrian Ganchev, have been learning about the Holocaust as part of their academy education work and held a minute’s silence prior to last Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Leicester City.

The theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day was ‘Ordinary People’, which invited everyone to consider the millions of ordinary people affected by the events of the Holocaust and the hundreds of communities which were destroyed or changed forever.

Both sets of players gathered together before the game to honour the life of Otto Fischer, a former Austrian footballer who was killed in 1941 during the Holocaust in Latvia.

Emphasising the significance of ordinary people, a representative player from the two sides read out a special card focusing on the life and career of Otto and how he was treated before his passing.

During the game, the under-14s played with stickers on the front of their shirts which represented a stone and ordinary people. In the coming weeks, the boys will paint their own  commemorative stone based on the Jewish custom of laying small pebbles on headstones and graves. The stones painted will join others from across the UK to become part of the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in London once built.

Academy tutor, Linda Barnett, has been leading on the project over the last four years and is delighted with the buy-in across the whole club as well as the players’ approach to a sensitive subject. 

The programme was started for the academy, but it’s wonderful to see it spread through the club and foundation who take it into junior and primary schools to educate the youngsters about this time.

The boys have really engaged in this and it’s wonderful to see how much they’ve taken from it. It does relate a lot to the work that they do in their own curriculum at school.

“We look at the problems we have with antisemitism and we try to bring it up to the present day where we’re looking at discrimination in football, giving the boys a lot more of a connection to what we’re doing. We also look at how many footballers were able to live through the Holocaust and go on to have successful careers as managers and coaches. There’s a survivor the boys have learnt about called Bela Guttmann who went on to coach in Europe in the 50s and 60s.

“We believe the boys can use things as powerful as this to help with the way they grow as young people and also the way their values and beliefs are formed.”

Although the remembrance fixture is a centrepiece to the project, there have been several other sessions throughout the course to support the players’ learning, as Linda explains.

“One of the areas we look forward to is when we invite a Holocaust survivor and we get the support, with lots of resources, from the Premier League and also the Holocaust Education Trust. They organise for us to have a person who survived those times to come and visit us. Many of the survivors are now very old and there aren’t many left, but they’re trying to keep it going with bringing the next generation along through their children and grandchildren.

“We must never forget the Holocaust and this is something that we do try to promote. The boys are rewarded with two being chosen to be our club ambassadors. This year, they have an opportunity, along with the other 12 academies and the Premier League, to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Poland, enabling them to experience some of the things they’ve been learning on the course.”

The Premier League have commended Wolves for their work on this project, contacting the club before Christmas to take part in a short film, which was produced by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and shown nationally on 27th January.

Linda and the team were overwhelmed when seeing the final production, with the boys being the first group to introduce the film, which also had prominent people, including leaders, actors and artists, featuring and showing support on the video.