Club | 27/01/2020

The fate of the Levy brothers

Sülz 07 and KBC under the Nazis

The member clubs that made up 1. FC Köln, Sülz 07 and Kölner Ballspiel-Club, suffered under the drastic measures of the Nazi regime. A few events and fates were of particular prominence to the clubs.

The arrival of the Nazis into power in January 1933 brought sport and football far-reaching changes. The popular workers’ sports clubs were immediately forbidden, and most dissolved in order to avoid the ban beforehand. What followed was the synchronisation of the "bourgeois" sport. Regional sporting areas and nationwide specialisms replaced the normal associations, such as the West German FA. There was little in the way of resistance from the largely conservative functionaries. Like many others, they had succumbed to the national frenzy in Hitler's coming to power.

On 9th July 1933, the DFB voted to disband themselves and were then slotted into “Pillar 2” within the nationwide association for physical exercise. The associations received uniform statutes, according to which, for example, a "Dietwart" had to be hired and was responsible for political training and Jewish members were excluded. The posts of directors for clubs were often taken over by party people who stuck to the line, provided that those in the post didn’t conform accordingly. That was the case for Karl Büttgen, long-term Chairman of Sülz 07 and member of the SPD since 1931, had to leave the board of the Sülz club due to political reasons. When it came to the KBC’s 30th anniversary in 1931, both Jewish football pioneers were mentioned, Otto and “Addy” Levy. However, 10 years later, both were not to be found.

Adolf and Otto Levy

The removal of Jewish members was particularly difficult for KBC, as the club was closely associated with the Jewish community from the beginning and was even known as the “Jüddeklub” (Jewish Club) by people in the city. The exclusion of the popular sport club was the beginning of a long period of suffering for Jewish members, like the example of the brothers Otto and Adolf “Addy” Levy. Both were members of the club from at least 1902 of KBC, which was founded a year before. At least from 1906, perhaps also longer, both Otto and Adolf Levy were in the first-team. They were also engaged off the pitch. Through contacts and mediation skills, the Levy brothers played an important part in bringing the Rheinisch-Westfälische FA to the DFB in May 1905, which KBC profited from. This was because Otto and "Addy" Levy were also involved at the association level and could fall back on corresponding connections.

On the biographies of the Levy brothers, there is little that can be found or researched. Adolf Levy was born on 23rd January 1883 in Köln. His last known address was Spichernstraße 30 in Neustadt-Nord. The Jewish family Leiser also lived here. At Roonstraße, only around a kilometre away from Spicherstraße, the Synagogue was inaugurated in 1899. According to government archives, the Nazis deported Adolf Levy on 30th October 1941 from Köln to Lodz. Here, he lived in a Ghetto and less than a year later, he passed away on 8th September 1942. The cause of death is not known.

Otto Levy was also born in Köln, two years after his brother (*27/3/1885) and, according to documents, he was a chocolatier. After 1933, Otto Levy and his wife from Dresden, Katharina Levy (born Schwarz, *17/8/1896) moved to Berlin where he worked with Daimler-Benz. On January 14th and 16th 1943, the Levy couple had to submit asset declarations to the "Asset Recovery Office" in accordance with the eleventh ordinance to the Reich Citizenship Act of November 25th 1941. The corresponding file (No. 22423) can be viewed in the Brandenburg State Archives. The declaration of assets was followed by the confiscation of assets and, according to data from the Federal Archives, on January 29th 1943, the joint deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. There, the trail of the married couple Otto and Katharina Levy was lost.

Ernst (Hermann) Pelzer

The story of Ernst (Hermann) Pelzer was just as tragic. He was born on 28th April 1896 in Köln and was a self-employed businessman in the city. In his company, the later "Amateurchef" and long-time third chairman of 1. FC Köln, Karl-Heinz "King" Schäfer, completed an apprenticeship. After 1933, the company was aryanised, which meant that Ernst Pelzer had to sell the company to a German entrepreneur of "Aryan origin" at a low price. Before the takeover from the Nazis, Pelzer intensively worked in the youth academy at KBC but, due to being Jewish, was then excluded with the rest of the Jewish members. According to the state archives, he was departed to the Ghetto in Lodz eight days before Adolf Levy on 22nd October 1941. He passed away in Lodz on 6th December 1942.

Ernst Pelzer’s mother, Emma, survived the Nazi regime and lived in a Jewish home in Köln after 1945, in which the sick and the elderly were cared for. Brokered by the Mayor of Köln and FC board member, Theo Burauen and DFB President, Peco Bauwens, whose role in the Nazi era is not without controversy, 1. FC Köln came into contact with Emma Pelzer in the winter of 1960. A delegation from the FC board, including the former Pelzer apprentice, Karl-Heinz Schäfer, visited the now 90-year-old lady, who could never process her son's death, in the home.

“After we didn’t hear anything up until now, we now have certainty that he was unfortunately a victim of the Nazi regime,” wrote the FC club news about the fate of Ernst Pelzer in December 1960. Very clear words in comparison to which was otherwise used to supress in the post-war years. FC gave Emma Pelzer a new armchair for Christmas 1960 and kept the connection going. For the club’s actions, Emma Pelzer thanked FC with a letter that was published in the FC club news in February 1961.


On 27th January 2020, it is the 75th anniversary of the Red Army's liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz. With the "Rememberance Day in German Football", the DFL and clubs of the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga remember the victims of the Nazis on Matchday 19 and 20.

The Rememberance Day through the initiative "Never again" was brought to life in 2004. The initiative has taken on the message of the survives from the concentration camp at Dachau. The day reminds the football family that those from their own club were followed by the Nazis and killed. Football also played its part in these dark crimes. The exclusion of Jewish and communist members was often celebrated as a success by the club's news - that will remain unforgotten.

Along with Jews, political opponents and other excluded groups, the German and European Sinti and Roma were treated especially poorly in the Nazi times. Hundreds of thousands fell victim to the extermination policy, more than 20,000 were murdered at Auschwitz alone. In times of increasing Populism, both in Germany and in other countries, it is even more important to stick to the joint European values of democracy and tolerance.

There is no alternative to this engagement. The football family understand that. More and more fans, fan projects, amateur and professional clubs, football associations and civil society initiatives work with courage and desire for a community committed to human rights and for an open and solidary society. 1. FC Köln stands completely behind these values and this is confirmed in the club Charta.

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Total table
9TSG 1899 Hoffenheim35
101. FC Köln32
111. FC Union Berlin30