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Ajax, The Dutch, The War: Football in Europe During the Second World War [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Simon Kuper
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

16 Jan 2003
The Holocaust, the Second World War, the Jewish community of Amsterdam, all seen through the filter of football. The Dutch club Ajax is the vehicle through which Simon Kuper recounts the stories of both survival and persecution of members of Amsterdam's Jewish population - almost 80 per cent of Amsterdam's Jewish Corner was wiped out in the War, and the long-held notion that, by and large, half the Dutch population had some kind of link to the Resistance has, of late, come into question. Simon Kuper explores this issue and looks deeper into the role of football across Europe in the years both preceding and following World War II.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Orion; illustrated edition edition (16 Jan 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752851497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752851495
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.2 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 635,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

In Ajax, the Dutch, the War, Simon Kuper, broadsheet journalist and author of the bestselling Football Against the Enemy, turns his attention to the Dutch club Ajax of Amsterdam, and the hidden history of the Nazi occupation of Holland in WW2.

At one level the book can be seen as an investigation into the mystery of how and why Ajax, like one or two other of Europe's major club sides, are considered to be a Jewish team--their supporters, of no discernable faith, still wave an Israel flag at matches; in return some rival fans revel in anti-Semitic language and gestures. Kuper tries to locate the roots of this alignment through interviews with the ever-decreasing number of living witnesses, players, club officials and supporters, who experienced the period from the early 1930s to the end of the Second World War in 1945--a time in which the soul of Amsterdam, "the city of Jews and bicycles", was indelibly stained by the horrors of occupation, ghettoisation and the Holocaust.

What he finds is the story of a city, its people and its football team, that challenges the semi-truths and misconceptions about civilian lives in wartime that most of us hold--including how and why the mass obsession with football thrived in the unlikeliest circumstances. It's a personal history too. Kuper's parents, Jews from South Africa, moved to the Netherlands more than 30 years after the war had ended, but were confronted by its legacy at every turn.

By weaving himself, his family and the contemporary voices of ordinary people into what is essentially a book on a facet of 20th Century Northern European history, Kuper pulls off the remarkable feat of creating a readable, entertaining work out of potentially difficult material. Free of the occasionally pompous, cod-academic tone that soured parts of Football Against the Enemy, the book breathes a little more easily, is more involving, funnier, and more moving than its predecessor--and as such, is warmly recommended. --Alex Hankin


FEATURES THE TIMES - article by the author on 13 JanuaryTHE HERALD - articleabout the book on 4 JanuaryJEWISH TELEGRAPH - author interviewLONDON JEWISH NEWS - interview with SimonTELETEXT - interview TV GMTV SUNDAY programme - interview with Simon about the book on 2nd February RADIO BBC RADIO 3 Nightwaves 17 January. Simon reviewed a football documentary but got a plug for his book too.BBC RADIO 4 TODAY discussion with Simon during week of 27 JanuaryLONDON LIVE Robert Elms Show interview (broadcast week of 20 January)TALKSPORT interview 15 JanuaryBBC RADIO 5 CHILES ON SATURDAY - interview with Simon on 15 FebruaryBBC RADIO 5 SIMON MAYO programme - discussion and review of the book on 13 FebruaryBBC Radio York - interview on 17 JanuaryBBC Radio Humberside - interview on 15 JanuaryBBC Radio Jersey - interview on 17 JanuaryBBC Radio Leicester - interview on 22 January REVIEWS 'Kuper's poignant and perceptive account again proves that there can be more to football writing than fanzines and pale Hornby imitations.'GQ - January 03 'This book makes you realise that Bill Shankly's statement about footy being more important than life and deathis not far off.'FRONT - March 03 'Kuper is an orginal, sophisticated and adventurous writer.' THE SUNDAY TIMES 9 February 'passionate and moving volume' THE GUARDIAN - 1 February 'His writing combines scholarly graft, a feel for political complexity and quiet but powerful wit.' THE INDEPENDENT - 25 January'An absolute belter.' Danny Baker THE TIMES 7/6/03 'Kuper has produced a beguiling book, not only for aficionados of the beautiful game or connoisseurs of Jewish history, but for anyone curious about our not-so-distant past.' FT -18 January 'Kuper has fashioned a work which brilliantly juxtaposes the everyday life of football clubs with the awful fate suffered by so many of their Jewish players, officials and supporters.' TIME OUT 19/03/03 THE EXPRESS Non-fiction Read of the Week **** 16 FebruaryTHE INDEPENDENT sports section 'Bookof the Week' 17 FebruarySUNDAY TELEGRAPH - 26 JanuaryTHE TIMES - 1 FebruarySUNDAY TELEGRAPH - 2 FebDAILY TELEGRAPH - reviewFHM - review 1st June 03 SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY 19 January 'football history at its best' TLS - 24 January 'Kuper's book demonstrates how football can be treated in a way that broadens ourview of the world' THE SPECTATOR - 18 January 'Hereby hangs a fascinating tale which Kuper describes particularly well.' JEWISH CHRONICLE - 17 January '[A] moving and compelling account' 'Simon Kuper is one of the country's brightest and most sophisticated sports writers.' THE TABLET - 12 April WATERSTONE'S BOOKS QUARTERLY Spring 03 'Not just for football fans. This book is filled with human stories and intelligent commentary on the relationship between football, politics and the war.' FOURFOURTWO - 5 FebruaryWHEN SATURDAY COMES - February 03 'compelling, but also disturbing' 'Kuper has delivered a fantasticaddition to the literarture of God's Game' DUBLIN EVENING HERALD 'Kuper's book is a relevation...Moving and enlightening, this is an unexpected triumph.'LEEDS GUIDE 1/03/03 Staffordshire Journal - reviewHAM & HIGH - review 17 --The Times

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Should have won the William Hill prize 23 Dec 2003
A fascinating and moving book which is as much about the impact of war and brutality on ordinary life as it is about football.
In adding to what began life as a lengthy essay on Ajax during the Second World War, Kuper also examines the effect of the conflict on the game in England and Germany as well as Holland.
Frinstance: on the day Hitler began the invasion of Russia, around 90,000 people attended the German Cup final.
However, it is probably at its most compelling when examining the fate of Dutch Jews through the prism of their football clubs.
Jewish members, who start the war as important and influential people, appear in committee meeting minutes less and less frequently before finally fading away completely.
Will appeal to historians as much as football fans. Buy the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terrific 8 July 2004
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Simon Kuper has written another gem, this time about a little known and less understood period of football history.
It is an intriguing book, bristling with tales of the unexpected and the unknown, and shatters several commonly held myths - even amongst seasoned football followers such as myself.
If you enjoy football history, you'll find this a great book; and even if you don't, its insights into wartime Europe and descriptions of football's political importance in the appeasement years provide gripping reading.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Top class journalism 24 Aug 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an abolutely fabulous book, which does a great job at merging football journalism with popular history writing. It doesn't have one cloear cut theme, but rather merges many of them: Dutch football, Israeli football, the Holocaust, contemporary politics, international football. The overall result is a great and highly informative read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Oranje History 1 Mar 2012
Being a football fan in a Dutch family whose parents lived through WWII, I had some reservations when starting this book. But these were quickly replaced with the absolute wonder of the story. Brilliantly written and one of those "secret" stories that few people are aware of - but should be.

If you are Dutch this book is a must read.

If you are a football fan this book is a must read.

If you like history or war stories this book is a must read.

If you are none of the above, you should still read the book!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Best football book ever? 30 Dec 2011
Can't praise this highly enough for the depth of the research, the style of writing and the lengths Kuper has gone to interview the likes of Oscar Heisserer. This puts 99 percent of biographies to shame.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The title should be "Football Under Occupation" 10 Mar 2008
This book is written about an extraordinary period in the history of the famous club Ajax during the World War 2. The writer carefully analyses the backgrounds at the time in Holland and in Europe. People live merrily and without a concern for their lives. Interestingly most of all the Dutch under occupation do not feel the occupation or the hardships of war unless they are Jew. So few Dutch people joins the Resistance Movement. Ajax is not exempted from this whole picture either. They bar their Jewish members from membership and after the war they willlingly allow members to join even if they have cooperated with the occupiers. The book deserves a lot of attention as it goes beyond Ajax and Holland. The notorious Nazi salute given by the English football team before the war is analysed in detail, interestingly that was not the only example of appeasement in sports to growing fascism in Europe. Finally the book is written around Ajax in the beginning but later grew bigger to cover the whole era. The subject is interesting but Ajax has no history to be proud of during the War unlike Dynamo!
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