Statues of Nazi-persecuted Jewish athletes destroyed in Frankfurt

Police say the travelling exhibit was targeted by vandals on two consecutive nights

German authorities in Frankfurt are asking for witnesses to come forward after two sculptures of Jewish athletes who were persecuted by the Nazi regime were destroyed at an open air exhibit in a city square.

The Plexiglas renderings of Lilli Henoch and Walther Bensemann, part of a touring display temporarily on show in Frankfurt’s Rathenauplatz, were targeted on two successive nights.

According to the city’s Jewish Museum, the sculptures were torn from their pedestals. Fritz Backhaus, the deputy head of the museum, the vandals has used extreme violence in their efforts to tear down the pieces.

The exhibition, which has been displayed already in several German cities, features larger-than-life images of 17 successful Jewish athletes who suffered at the hands of the Third Reich from 1933 onwards.

The plinth of the Lilli Henoch sculpture stands destroyed in Frankfurt

Lilli Henoch was a highly successful track-and-field star of the Weimar Republic, setting world records in the discus, shot put, and the 4 x 100m relay race. She was banned from competing in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and on September 5th 1942, Henoch and her mother and brother were deported to Nazi-occupied Latvia.

Living in the Riga Ghetto, she and her mother are believed to have been taken and machine-gunned to death by an Einsatzgruppen mobile killing unit that same year, along with a large number of other Jews. Their remains were dumped in a mass grave in a forest outside the city.

Walther Bensemann was the son of a Jewish banker and is widely credited as helping to spread football across Germany.

Having learned of the sport during his schooldays in 19th century Switzerland, Bensemann founded the first football club in southern Germany and was instrumental in the formation of the Deutscher Fußball-Bund, the German Football Association.

In 1933, fearing persecution while Hitler flexed his power, Bensemann fled to Switzerland, dying shortly afterwards after living in poverty.

Frankfurt police say they have no clues as to who the vandals are, but that an investigation is ongoing. The exhibition will remain open to the public until July 7th.

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