Vienna Jews get back pre-WWII sporting club
The playing fields of the legendary Jewish sports club Hakoah-Vienna have been returned to the city's Jewish community, 60 years after World War II. Last week the cornerstone was laid for a huge community center, set to include a nursing home, a school and a state of the art sports center to serve the community's 7,000 members.
Hakoah-Vienna was founded in 1909 after Jews were prohibited from becoming members of Austrian sports clubs. The glory days of the club were in the 1920s and 1930s. At its height, it had 30,000 members. The members of the club excelled in several branches of sports. The club's soccer team won the Austrian championship in the 1920s, and in 1923 the club beat the British Westham team 5-0 in London. In 2004, a documentary was released on the stars of the women's swim team of Hakoah-Vienna.
On the eve of Word War II, Vienna had a population of some 170,000 Jews. After the war, the club resumed limited activities. Today the club has about 400 members. It participates in skiing and bridge, among others, and its soccer team plays under the name Maccabi Vienna in one of Austria's minor leagues.
In the 1980s, the heads of the Jewish community initiated their first attempts to obtain the club's original fields. The fields are located within Prater Park, Vienna's main public park, near the area where most of the city's Jews lived before the war. Only in 2000 did the community receive the right to lease the land, and last year, the community purchased 28 dunams of the fields and adjacent lands for 10 million euros.
The president of Vienna's Jewish community, Ariel Muzicant, told Haaretz that the land was purchased due to its symbolic importance, and the planned construction of a nearby subway station. The planned community center is to be built at an estimated cost of 57 million euros. The city of Vienna and the Austrian government is to fund 90 percent of the construction costs, and the Jewish community will raise contributions to cover the rest of the costs.
The school planned for the center will serve 600 children from age 2 through high school.
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