As we continue our celebration of White Hart Lane over the years we turn our attention to one of the most controversial games played at the ground.
Tottenham were not even involved as on 4th December 1935 when England met Germany. The German National Socialist party had arranged for a massive ten thousand fans to travel to England for the game.
It is these that are shown on the east side of the ground making the Nazi salute rather than as some people claim the home team’s fans (see picture below). This is also demonstrated by the signs in German above the turnstiles doors. Upon investigation and cutting through some of the rumours, (such as it was the Spurs fans saluting), comparing eye witness accounts with the press and the FA records I came to the following conclusions.
Stories coming from Germany at the time led to protests in the press and demonstrations led by the trade unions and Jewish organizations.
Calls for the game to be called off were ignored by the government and the FA (see below).
There was a demonstration march on the day of the game and leaflets were handed out.
This led to seven people being arrested outside the ground.
The feared major problems, which helped keep the attendance down, however did not occur although there are reports of one man trying to climb on to the roof hoping to tear their flag down.
Right - From the Manchester Jewish Museum.
The game saw the Swastika fly from the clubs roof, although at half mast as Princess Victoria had passed away the day before.
The ground seemed a strange choice for the match. England’s previous home had been at Anfield and following one in Wolverhampton.
The game itself was played out in front of 60,000 (2) and England ran out victors by 3-0. There were no Spurs players in the England side. Some reports state some of the English side were of the Jewish faith, but I cant confirm this. The referee was Swedish.
Left - The German fans were in the East Stand, note the signs above the turnstile entrances. Below - match action.
One fan present on the day reported when I asked him that despite losing the game their players and fans, (all good party members), had behaved with good manners on the day.
Remember the year before the fascist Italian team had been beaten at Highbury in a game that literally became a ‘pitch battle.’
The newsreel of the German game contains the line "You can always tell a good Nazi by his cap"
The England players had been instructed to travel to Enfield Chase station from Kings Cross and then make their way to Theobalds Park Hotel in Waltham Cross. They were also asked to bring their golf clubs so they could have a game after the match.
Other post match activies included the traditional dinner hosted by the FA for their guests. The evening included Nazi salutes and a toast to Herr Hitler. On behalf of the FA Sir Charles Clegg, issued an apology to the German’s. He criticized the behaviour of union leaders in the lead up to the game and said they should not have brought politics into sport.
The German leaders must have been amused by this statement in that they would have seen the game as a propaganda victory, despite the protests.
It should be considered that at the time the political situation was very delicate and the government in (a failed) attempt to avoid a future war had adopted a policy of appeasement.
The papers seemed to carry as much about the after match activities as the game itself.
Whilst we might be horrified by the actions of the time and disagree with the decisions made, as well as the FA's approach to the issue, maybe we shouldn’t be too critical, hindsight after all is very helpful.
As a footnote the teams met again in Germany in May 1938. The political landscape had changed and the England team on this occasion was ordered to give the Nazi salute by the British government, they had not done so in the first game, (1).
On a footballing note - This was only the second time the two countries had met having played out a 3-3 draw in Berlin in 1930 before the Nazi party had taken power.
You might have noticed the Shelf was painted green.
This was the original colour, having been opened just a year and was quickly changed to white.
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Right - Its easy to spot the few regular Spurs fans on this day in the East Stand.
Notes -1 – You might like to read 'Olympic Tales' for another insight into the use of sport in politics involving Nazi Germany.
2 - Other figures for this game state it was 54,000.
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