Dr. Michael Gander, director of the project "From a Place of Jubilation to a Place of Injustice – Forced Labor Camps on Soccer Pitches and Sports Fields" of the Gestapokeller and Augustaschacht Memorials

Mr. Gander, the project recalls forgotten National Socialist forced labor camps which were once built on soccer pitches and sports fields. How many sites have been identified already, and are there regional focal points?

With well over 100 sites, the research so far exceeds the expectations we had at the start of the project. The focal points are in regions that were of great importance to the National Socialist war economy, such as the Ruhr region. In addition, however, these places can be found throughout the territory of Germany and Austria. The importance of forced labor at that time is manifested on the one hand in the broad spread of the locations and, on the other hand, in the diversity in terms of the type, size and period of existence of camps. Built over with commercial or residential space, in some places today there is nothing to remind us of the past, either as a sports field or as a NS forced labor camps. However, at other locations soccer is played again today, sometimes by clubs from the professional sector, mostly by local amateur sports clubs, which we of course also want to address with our project.

You work together with fan projects from all over Germany. What is the feedback from these socio-educational projects, and has it already been possible to reach soccer fan scenes with this cooperation? Do soccer fan scenes generally show an interest in dealing with the topic of National Socialism?

The fan projects that do social work with soccer fans are very open to our project in most cases. Nevertheless, as far as participation is concerned external factors also have to be taken into account. If, for example, the club was only founded after 1945, it may be more difficult for fan projects to get fans interested in the topic because their focus is on their affiliated club and possibly its history. Furthermore, fan projects also have to take into account the content-related focal points and topics which are prevalent in their fan scenes. Is it possible to pick up where we left off or generate fresh impetus? Fan scenes are diverse in this respect, so I can't really make a general statement. There are fan scenes that have already initiated their own projects, are doing memory work and have addressed the history of their affiliated club in this context - not only, but also under National Socialism. In some fan scenes, these were or are smaller, time-limited projects; elsewhere, there are working groups that work continuously on these topics. At the same time, there are fan scenes where this process first has to be initiated. There may be a variety of reasons for this, one being, as mentioned, that the history of the club starts at a later time or that the groups and individuals who dominate the fan scene have less interest in such topics. In Austria, the situation is different again. First of all, there are no socio-educational fan projects like those in Germany, and fan scenes that deal more intensively with historical topics are less common in Austria. However, in every association there are at least some individuals who can be approached for such projects - it is important to reach them.

Next summer, Germany will host the European Football Championship: Is this a good time to create publicity for the historical links between football and NS forced labor?

As a major event, the European Championship naturally provides an opportunity to present the project to a wide public audience. At the same time, however, we must also note that the European Championship appeals mainly to a different group of spectators. The focus of "active fans" or fans involved in memory work is primarily on league football and their affiliated club for which they are involved. This is the starting point for historical projects to reappraise the history of clubs or cities, and the socio-educational work of fan projects is also primarily oriented towards this. However, a broad cultural supporting program is planned for the European Championship and we are also going to use this opportunity to introduce precisely this other group of fans to our project.