They have won and

A common friendly photo by Flakelf (the football team of the German army) and Fc Start (ex-Dinamo) after the Kiev match of 9 August 1942, hidden for decades by the Dinamo fans and published only in 2007 by the Киевские Ведомости

The “death match” of Kiev in August 1942, about which we wrote two months ago – for the first time in the Hungarian media – with reference to the Russo-Ukrainian film made on it and on the basis of Russian sources, now on the occasion of the Euro 2012 championship in the Ukraine has become a veritable gold mine for the journalists. In the match breaks all of them try their lion’s claws on it, each in his own way, often using our post as a guideline or sometimes even as a carbon paper, and usually arriving at the same conclusion as the mainstream of the Russian media after 2007, the publication of the first authentic documents: that the legend of the heroic Ukrainian football players executed by the German invaders as a revenge for the match won by them is entirely a product of the Soviet propaganda of the 1950s.

A completely different, unusually familiar and almost forgotten tone is hit, however, by the article jointly published yesterday by BBC History and the popular Hungarian portal Index, also marked by its dramatic title: “They have won and this cost them their lives”. In a deep baritone voice, with a Russian dash long pause after “won”, while Vera Mukhina’s worker and kolkhoz woman make a quarter turn before the credits of the film – I would write if I wanted to be melodramatic.


But I do not want to be melodramatic. I am just sad that someone who should know ex officio both the Soviet propaganda methods, and the recent Russian investigative journalism in the matter, so tenaciously sticks to the propaganda version of the story in circulation for fifty years (because he also acknowledges that it appeared for the first time in 1958). “The Germans decided to show the Aryan supremacy on the football ground” (to the Ukrainians who, both in the contemporary German propaganda, and in the present Ukrainian official ideology, are also Aryans, in contrast to other Slavic peoples). In the locker room an SS officer advices the team to lose (according to witness, nothing similar happened). To the “Heil Hitler” of Flakelf the battle cry of the Red Army is the response (in the reality the Ukrainians just pretended to reach their arms and then by slapping on their chests they shouted the usual “Fizkult [physical education] Hoorrah!” of the Soviet athletic clubs). The Germans kicked bloody with impunity the Ukrainian players in front of the referee (the only offending German was immediately excluded by the referee). And so on. Never mind that recent Russian research says the opposite of all this, and never mind that the Hamburg prosecutor’s office pointed out in 2005 that there is no evidence for any element of the legend. And, to be on the safe side, the article does not permit you to add your comments.

At the same time it is remarkable – and it also questions the author’s good faith ignorance – that the article does not entirely repeat the Soviet propaganda version. The author is aware of the recent research results, and he also weaves them into the new plot. The Germans do not arrest the team immediately after the match as in in the original Soviet version, but only a week later when, after the victorious match against the “Rukh” team of the Ukrainian nationalist army their own fellow compatriots denounced them for their former NKVD membership (“the Germans waited with the retaliation until the last match”, of course). The previously uncovered NKVD officer will be executed later (in the reality he was executed already before the match, during a raid, and of course all the members of Dinamo, the team of the Cheka/NKVD, were NKVD officers ex officio). So any new fact might be revealed on the one-time events, it by principle cannot change the legend of the vengeful Germans and the Ukrainian martyrs. Preserving by abolishing, as the great theoreticians of Communism have insisted.

And even an awkward half-sentence is added to the end, without any counter-argument or rebuttal: “There are some people who consider the whole story an invention of Soviet propaganda, claiming that there was no threat at all, and in fact most of the players of FC Start did not lose their lives because of the match during the war.”

Oh yes, there are. What a pity that they all come from the opposite direction.