During the 1939 Chess Olympiad (August 24th - September 19th) in Buenos Aires, Germany invaded Poland and WWII began in Europe. The USA didn't participate in the 8th Olympiad for financial reasons. Great Britain dropped out upon news of Germany's invasion. Germany eventually, and unfortunately, won.
The following tournaments are some that were played in Germany and Nazi occupied territories:
Ludwig Rellstab Sr
R Max Blümich
Ludwig Rellstab Sr.
Max Jr Eisinger
R Max Blümich
Bad Oeynhausen (Ger. Champ.), 1941
Ludwig Rellstab Sr
Prague (Duras Memorial), 1942
Ludwig Rellstab Sr
Lublin/Warsaw/Cracow Poland, 1942
Paul Felix Schmidt
Alekhine and the Nazi Articles
While Alekhine's involvement was far less damaging than that perpetated directly by the Nazi regime, his stature in the world of chess at that time and for that matter, in the entire history of chess, requires that the degree of his involvement be minutely scrutinized. Still, I'm of the opinion that focusing on Alekhine's antisemitism somehow diverts our attention from the real impact of Nazism on chess and the people who played it.
Alekhine's name appeared on a six part article called "Aryan and Jewish Chess." The article appeared in a German daily newspaper called "Pariser Zeitung" in March of 1941. The author of the article denigrated the Jews and certain Jewish chess players by name. The article was found so distasteful that Alekhine was essentially a persona non grata after the war. However, Alekhine denied having written the article. The controversy has been ongoing whether or not he actually wrote the articles, or if he wrote them under duress or if they simply have his imprimatur. To muddy the waters, in 1956 when Grace Alekhine died it was told by a reputable source to another reputable source that source A had seen hand-written copies of the article in Grace's personal effects (i.e. Alekhine's personal papers). Of course, the argument evolved that if these papers do or did in fact exist (they've never surfaced), they could have been either a rought draft for the published version, or simply a hand-written copy of the published version.
Let's go look at what some experts have said:
Much of this controversy can be read about in greater detail at Edward Winter's "Was Alekhine a Nazi?"
Pablo Morán (1926-1995), journalist, promoter and chess champion of the Principality of Asturias on the Iberian Penisula 1955, 1957, 1965, 1966 and 1972 who drew against Alekhine in a simul in 1943, wrote an important book, "A. Alekhine: Agony of a Chess Genius."
from his book:
"'Aryan and Jewish Chess' was published in six parts by the "Pariser Zeitung," March 18-23 1941. A slightly revised, three-part version, with the words of the title reversed, appeared in "Deutsche Zeitung" in den Niederlanden, March 23, 28 and April 2, 1941. This version (which eliminates the last 20 paragraphs and an earlier one on Schlechter), translated for Chess, volume 6, numbers 71 and 73 (August and October 1941), and volume 7, number 76 (January 1942). . ."
I. A. Horowitz wrote in the Feb. 1945 issue of "Chess Review":
In an interview with a Spanish correspondent of New Review, reprinted in the December  issue of the "British Chess Magazine" and the January issue of "Chess," Alekhine denied indignantly that he was a Nazi collaborator. . .
The Madrid correspondent of the British Chess Magazine reports the interview as follows:
"Concern over the fate in Paris of his American-born wife, Grace Wichaar, and indignation over allegations that he collaborated with the Germans were expressed to me by Dr. Alekhine here yesterday.
"The 52-year-old world chess champion looked fit after his rest-cure at San Sebastian, and said he had lost none of his chessplaying form despite the worrying times experienced since the fall of France. Only a few days ago in an exhibition match at Valladolid.
"According to his own statement, Alekhine returned to France from the Argentine in January, 1940, and was immediately mobilized. (Born in Moscow, he went to France in 1921 and became a naturalized French citizen in 1926 [sic - 1927, in fact, -HS]). After the fall of France, it took him nearly a year to get permission to leave for Portugal and America, and he had to write two chess articles for the Pariser Zeitung before the Germans granted him his exit visa.
"His wife, who was to have joined him later, stayed behind in an endeavor [sic] to save her castle at Saint Aubin-le-Cauf, near Dieppe, by selling it under American Embassy protection. The Germans refused Mrs. Alekhine an exit visa and have since, added Dr. Alekhine, 'scientifically looted his home.' Meanwhile, articles which Alekhine claims were purely scientific were rewritten by the Germans, published and made to treat chess from a racial viewpoint.
"In 1941, Herr Post, President of the German Chess Federation, wrote Alekhine that although he would not be allowed to return to France, if he consented to play in the tournament at Munich his wife would be permitted to join him there. In view of his wife's sixty-two years of age and her failing health, Alekhine was obliged to agree.
"They resided in Poland and Czechoslovakia and he won all the tournaments in which he took part: two at Warsaw, two at Prague, two at Salzburg, one at Munich, though he admits that the Esthonian [sic] Paul Keres was the only international class opponent with who he had to contend." (Editor's Note: The above statement is incorrect. Stoltz won the 1941 Munich tourrnament, with Alekhine tied for second place.)
"In January 1943, Alekhine fell ill from scarlet fever at Prague (European dispatches carrying this news were dated December 24, 1942 - Ed.) and was treated at the very hospital where his friend Reti died in 1929 from the same illness. In order to live, Alekhine claims that no sooner was he out of hospital than he was obliged to take part in various exhibitions and tournaments, otherwise the Germans would have withdrawn his ration cards.
"At the invitation of the Spanish Chess Federation, Alekhine came to Madrid in October 1943. He arrived too late to take part in the tournament staged here by the European Federation. (A Nazi broadcast at the time claimed Alekhine went to Madrid to take part in a tournament but was 'confined to a sanitarium' shortly after his arrival. - Ed.) The Gestapo allowed him an exit visa but would not permit his wife to accompany him, only consenting to her return to Paris, where she has been since. From that time until the present day Alekhine has resided in
Spain, and has not heard from his wife for the last five months, though he hopes to be allowed to return to France soon to join her.
Alekhine said he had a sister in Russia from whom he had also not had any news. His brother died in Russia in August 1939. . ."
The editors of the "British Chess Magazine" and "Chess" are apparently prepared to accept Alekhine's explanation of his conduct. In an editorial, BCM says:
The report explains many things which hitherto have puzzled the champion's many admirers. For instance, the two ludicrous articles which appeared over his name - there have been none since - always appeared to us to be entirely apocryphal; they were too senseless and so utterly at variance with Dr. Alekhine's oft-expressed admiration for Steinitz and Dr.Lasker.
The only real criticism we expressed at the time concerned the champion's journey to Munich after having reached the safety of Lisbon. The reason given for this journey may seem to some to be insufficient, nor does it appear to have helped. But who are we to cast the first stone?
The report kills once and for all the malignant rumours, which we refrained from reproducing, that the champion had been confined to a lunatic asylum.
We certainly like the tone of the interview. There is no apologia, but a plain statement of fact not lacking in dignity.
However, Pablo Morán tell us:
"But his authorship of the anti-semitic "Pariser Zeitung" articles was an open question until the rediscovery, in a pile of old newspaper clippings, of Alekhine's 1941 remarks to the Madrid press.
Ending the Lisbon sojourn which began in April 1941, Alekhine reached Madrid in September, en route to the Munich Tournament. He gave two exhibitions and several interviews, forgetting that the first virtue, according to Soloman, is to hold one's tongue.'
Edward Winter summarized in Chess Explorations (1996):
"Pablo Moran sends us copies of two Madrid publications, "El Alcazar" and "Informaciones," dated 3 September 1941 in which Alekhine gave interviews. Some extracts from the latter, in our translation:
-What will your promised lectures be about?
A: About the evolution of chess thought in recent times and the reasons for this evolution. There would also be a study of the Aryan and Jewish kinds of chess. Of course I am not satisfied with the direction of hypermodern chess, which is over-defensive. In German this tactic is called Uberdeckung, and its rough meaning in Spanish is "to cover again" rather like wearing two coats, one on the other.
-The Portuguese press has spoken of negotiations for a meeting between you and Capablanca. Is that true?
A: Not at all; there has only been a letter from me on this to the Cuban Federation, but we did not come to an agreement. And trips to the United States or England are out of the question; I am not in favour in those countries, as a result of some articles I wrote in the German press and some games I played in Paris during the last winter - against 40 opponents - for the German Army and Winter Relief.
-Who is the player you most admire?
A: All of them. But among them I must stress the greatest glory of Capablanca, which was to eliminate the Jew Lasker from the world chess throne.'"
Pablo Moran added:
"In the 'Madrid daily El Alcazar,' September 3 1941, the journalist Lastanao summarizes Alekhine's remarks:
"He added that in the German magazine "Deutsche Schachzeitung" and in the German daily "Pariser Zeitung," nowadays edited in Paris, he has been the first to treat chess from the racial viewpoint. He says that in these articles, he wrote that Aryan chess was aggressive chess, that defense is only the consequence of a previous error whereas the Semitic conception admits the pure defensive idea, believing it a legitimate winning method."'
Hans Kmoch wrote a series of vignettes under the title, "Grandmasters I Have Known."
Relating to WWII, here is an excerpt from his portrait of
Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine, *doctor juris* (1892-1946)
Sometime between Bled 1931 and his 1934 match against Bogolybov, Shura dropped Nadasha. A fourth wife undertook to carry Alekhine's luck, but she bore him to his doom. Madame Number Four was an American, also of advanced age, in appearance more a barren trunk than a Christmas tree. She lived in France, where she owned an old castle as well as some land suitable, according to Alekhine, for raising sheep. (When I asked him how many sheep they had, he admitted that there were only two "but two is enough, as Adam and Eve proved.") When she was younger, Madame had been a very skillful painter of miniatures, but while married to Alekhine she no longer pursued that hobby.
Unfortunately, Madame Number Four liked liquor as much as her husband did. Both were drinking heavily during Alekhine's 1934 match against Bogolyubov, which was played in several cities in Europe. I acted as Alekhine's second (which today means being almost a partner, but in those days was hardly more than a
formality). One day in Munich Alekhine invited me to his room, where Mrs. Alekhine played hostess. She opened a large trunk, which, to my amazement, contained nothing but liquor bottles a traveling bar. I had a feeling of foreboding for the man whose chess genius I so greatly admired.
A major scandal occurred when the three games at Munich were finished and the whole chess troupe was about to leave for Bayreuth, where the next game was scheduled. The special cars for the trip and all the passengers had been ready for a long time, but the Alekhines kept them waiting. Eventually, Madame appeared
alone in the hotel lobby, very drunk, and shouting, "We won't play! We won't play!"
The organizers finally succeeded somehow in loading both Alekhines into one of the cars. The trip took all night, and although the next game started ten or twelve hours later, Alekhine won.
It is incredible how long Alekhine remained on top despite his pernicious addiction to alcohol. Euwe's victory in their 1935 match for the world championship must not be underestimated, especially because for exactly half the match Alekhine totally abstained from alcohol. But neither should Alekhine's recovery of the title in 1937 be overrated, since in that match Euwe was the victim of public opinion in his native Holland that favored him so strongly that even his sober mathematical mind was muddled by over-optimism.
Alekhine's powers started to wane in 1935, and although he avoided alcohol completely for the next five years the years of the great tournaments at Nottingham 1936, Kemeri 1937, and AVRO 1938 his decline continued. He was still great, but he was no longer unique.
Alekhine's views on many subjects changed often over the years, probably due in part to the effects of alcohol. During the 1934 match with Bogolyubov, Sportfuhrer von Tschammer und Osten, a leading Nazi, invited the entire chess troupe to a banquet, where Alekhine was a guest speaker. During his speech, which he gave in German, he referred to the leaders of the Soviet Union by saying, "*Die Schufte müssen verschwinden*" (these scoundrels must disappear). But Alekhine soon sought the favors of these "scoundrels."
Thanks to Euwe's victory in the world championship, there was a chess boom in Holland after 1935, and during important chess events Russian chess editors called daily from Moscow to ask (usually me) for the latest news. When Alekhine found out about this, he became very eager to receive one of these calls himself. Reports by Flohr and Fine, and probably some other "explorers" of the Soviet Union, had convinced him that a chess tour in the country of his birth might be very profitable. He could earn as many rubles as he wished and convert them into jewelry, and in that way take his earnings out of Russia to his new homeland, France. He was fishing for an invitation to the Soviet Union.
After the 1939 Olympiad in Buenos Aires, Alekhine sent me a friendly card from France. It was the last message I ever received from him. The war in the West started, France collapsed, and Alekhine, who was serving as a sanitation officer in the French army, landed in Toulon. There he met an old friend of mine, an
antiques dealer from Vienna, and together they made plans for a dash for freedom across the Pyrenees. But on the crucial day Alekhine changed his mind and returned to Paris, where he surrendered to the Germans. My friend fled alone and eventually reached New York with one dollar in his pocket. He became a well-to-do American citizen, a dealer in antiquities. For many years he was an ardent chess player at the Manhattan Chess Club. Walter Ephron was his name. He died in New York in 1972, at the age of seventy-seven.
The German victories in Russia apparently changed Alekhine. On his return to Paris he returned also to the bottle. Then he suddenly attacked the Jews in a series of articles for "Die Deutsche Zeitung in den Niederlanden," a Nazi newspaper published in occupied Holland. Under the headline "Aryan and Jewish Chess," he pointed out that many players whom the chess world had up to that time considered the greatest of masters were in fact, since they were Jews, rather mediocre. The Jew Reuben Fine would not be the next world champion, he now asserted, contrary to his own prediction before the war. Referring to the match he had lost to Euwe in 1935, he attributed his defeat to the religion of my wife"Referee Kmoch," he wrote, "has a Jewish wife, so one can imagine how objective he was."
Such nonsense was normally unfit to print, but given the conditions in Europe at that time it was threatening in the extreme. Under the watchful eye of the Gestapo, such statements could mean death for the attacked Jew and even for his or her non-Jewish spouse. Since my wife and I were already in constant fear that she might be deported, Alekhine's accusation was very frightening.
Much later, some noble whitewashers, people of the same category as the above-mentioned German professors, explained that Alekhine had been forced to write those infamous articles. But that is simply a variant of the story of the drunkard who befouls his pants and then wonders who might have done it.
While reading those articles, I remembered that Alekhine used to get angry if his name was pronounced Al-YOH-khin, the way Russians sometimes pronounced it. The correct Russian pronunciation, he said, was Al-YEH-khin, explaining that the name was derived from that of a tree ("alyesha") that grew abundantly near one of his family's estates. "Al-YOH-khin," he claimed, was a Yiddish distortion of his name, like Trotsky for Troitsky or Feigl for the German Vogel. But strangely, no one whom I ever heard pronounce the name Al-YOH-khin was Jewish. One was a friendly elderly gentleman named (I believe) Tereshchenko. A Russian emigre like Alekhine, he had been named to the position of Alekhine's second in the 1929 match against Bogolyubov mainly to please the world champion. He immediately antagonized Alekhine by addressing him as "Gospodin [Mr.] Alyokhin."
Alekhine once told me that his family originally owned seven estates. The five from his father's side, worth two million rubles in gold, had been gambled away by his father in Monte Carlo. The world champion apparently had been hoping for some time that the Germans would restore to him the two estates left by his mother. He was the only heir; his brother, whom I met in Moscow during the 1925 tournament, was murdered shortly afterward in connection with a love affair, according to newspaper reports outside Russia. There was a great deal of tragedy in his family.
After his return to Paris and his debut as an anti-Semitic author, Alekhine went to Germany and then to occupied Poland, where he lived most of the time. There he was an esteemed guest of Governor Hans Frank, who became known as the "Butcher of the Poles" and was hanged as such at Nuremberg. I had met Reichminister Frank several times during the 1934 match. He displayed a genuine interest in chess and showed no hostility toward the Jews Mieses and Nimzovich, who were there as reporters. I never quite understood how Frank could have become such a monster in Poland.
When it became obvious that Germany was losing the war, Alekhine fled to Spain on the pretext of participating in a tournament there. But when he arrived, instead of entering the tournament he claimed he was ill, and he remained ill even later, thus avoiding having to return to Germany. He was not eager to return to Nazi-controlled France either, since his service as a French officer during the war might have counted heavily against him. He was now having to deal with the consequences of the politically dangerous path he had chosen (a path similar to but not quite so dangerous as that of the Soviet chess master Dr. B., now living in North America, who had accepted a high rank in the pro-Nazi Russian army of General Vlassov. He was not welcome in England, either. Although the organizers of the London 1946 tournament would have been delighted with the participation of the world champion, they refrained from inviting Alekhine because of his wartime activities. Alekhine never again left the neutral territory beyond the Pyrenees.
Once while traveling in German-occupied territory, Alekhine contracted scarlet fever. This was in Prague, where Reti had died of the same malady in 1929. Alekhine recovered, thanks to his good physical condition, but his heavy drinking probably had done too much damage. Alexander Alexandrovich Alekhine, born in
Moscow on November 1, 1892, died at Estoril, Portugal, on March 24, 1946, while still world champion. Other reports notwithstanding, he actually died of a stroke. Najdorf assured me of this after speaking with the physician who had performed the postmortem examination of Alekhine's body.
Around 1953, while I was the secretary of the Manhattan Chess Club, Madame Four visited the club. She would not talk of the past, nor would I. I invited her to dinner, but she took only toast and tea. Soon afterward I learned she had died, at about eighty years of age.
The Nazi legacy
As much as I tried, I could not find a single positive effect that Nazi Germany had on chess. Death, dislocation and despair were it's only real legacy. While on a personal level, the death of humans and the repercussions from this, were the most tragic consequence of the Third Reich, as far as chess is concerned, what i have found to be most relevant is the role that Nazism played in destroying two players in particular: Alexander Alekhine and Klaus Junge - one, the greatest master of his day and the other, destined to be his equal.
- The Dutch player, Salo Landau died in Gräditz probably 3-31-44. His wife and small daughter were murdered at Auschwitz 10-12-44.
- Klaus Junge died in combat just a few weeks before WWII ended.
- Heinrich Wolf of Austria dies in 1943 reportedly murdered by the Nazis. David Przepiorka was a victim of a mass execution near Warsaw in 1940- I've also read he died in a concentration camp (he won the first Polish championship in 1926, came in 1st at Munich the same year, played in 2 Opympiads). Karel Treybal was a victim of the 1941 Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia.
- Problemists and endgame theorists Leonid Kubbel and Alexei Troitzky both died in the siege of Leningrad in 1942; Ilya Rabinovich, the first Soviet to play outside the Iron Curtin, starved to death during the seige
- Vera Menchik died in the V2 German bombing of London in 1944.
- Vladimir Petrov of Latvia, died in a Gulag in 1944; another Latvian, Kristjan Raud, died Buenos Aires of starvation, but I don't know if there any relevance to that.
- Bogoljubov became a Nazi - I've seen it wrtten, "a Nazi of convenience"
["I am getting old. I know only chess, I have a wife and family. True, I abhor politics, but if I earn a living and keep out of trouble by teaching and playing chess under political subsidy, am I to be blamed?" - Bogoljubov at Nottingham in 1936.]
- George Koltanowski and Miguel Najdorf and many others were displaced during the 1939 Olympiad in Buenos Aires. Eliskases and Becker, members of the German team, didn't return home.
- Paul Keres, as well as Samisch, Pachman, Bogolubov, Schmidt, and Richter kept playing in Nazi-sponsored tournaments. Alekhine, we all know something about, but I find it so strange that, as the captain of the French team in Buenos Aires, 1939, he refused to play the German team after Germany invaded Poland..and in a couple of years, there he is, the Nazi chess poster boy....something's not kosher.
- Of course, Golombek and Milner-Barry went on to to work with Alan Turing at Bletchly Park on breaking the German code, Enigma.
- Emil Diemer, a bit crazy anyway, embraced Nazism.
- Then there's the strange case of the Australian chess Chess and Latvian expatriot, Karlis Ozols.
- People like Lasker and Speilmann were indirectly affected.
This appeared in Edward Winter's Chess note #2926.
Koltanowski on Junge
It was from Allentown, PA that Paul Schmidt wrote to "Chess Life & Review" in 1976 to straighten out the following paragraph by Koltanowski which had appeared on page 89 of the February 1976 issue:
- ‘During the Second World War Dr Alexander Alekhine, then Champion of the World, participated in a number of tournaments. In 1942 he played in Prague, under the sponsorship of Germany’s Nazi Youth Association. There he met 18-year-old Klaus Junge of Leipzig, who was acclaimed as a future world champion by the German press, and who was stabbed to death in a chess club fight in 1942!’
On pages 212-213 of the April 1976 issue Schmidt wrote:
- ‘Klaus Junge, one of my best friends, was not “stabbed to death in a political brawl in a chess club in 1942” as stated by George Koltanowski in the February issue. He died in combat, as a German officer, on the last day but one [sic] of World War II, i.e. in 1945. Nor did Alekhine meet him for the first time at the tournament in Prague, 1942, where they tied for first and second place. They met for the first time at the 1941 tournament in Warsaw-Cracow, their individual game ending in a draw, … and then again in 1942 at the six-master double-round tournament in Salzburg, each winning one game… [as well as two other tournaments before Prague, 1942].
- Klaus Junge also did not come from Leipzig. He was born in Chile as the son of German parents who, unfortunately, returned to Germany to get a better education for their children than was possible at that time in Chile – only to lose all their three sons to Hitler’s war. His parents lived in Hamburg.
- About the only correct reference to Klaus Junge in Mr Koltanowski’s article is to his chess genius: had he not died in 1945 he would indeed have become a formidable contender for the world championship. He was equally fond of combinatorial and positional play, and his style was completely mature even at age 18. My book Schachmeister Denken! (Walter Rau Verlag, 1949) is dedicated to the memory of Klaus Junge.’
The following information came a Tim Krabbé's article called "A Forgotten Chessplayer," Open Diary - entry #108
Cor Jansen sent me this quote from a little known book, Schach ohne Partner für Könner by Herbert Grasemann (1982): "When [Hitler] had not yet decided to devote himself to politics, and, as a twenty-year old without any plans for the future, was a drifter in Vienna, he frequented the chess cafés of that city, sitting there for entire nights. The game fascinated him so much that he feared it could, as it had so many others, totally absorb him, and take over his life. Therefore, he decided to break with it overnight."
"A footnote then explains that Hitler told about this episode of his life to his legal adviser and intimate friend Hans Frank, ordering him to be absolutely silent about it, "because the image of a chess addict did not fit with the legend of one destined by providence to change the world." Frank, Generalgouverneur of Poland during the war, and hanged at Nuremberg in 1946, was a true chess lover, playing some ill-famed consultation games with Alekhine and Bogoljubow in Warsaw in 1941. He told the story of Hitler's chess love to the problemist Ado Kraemer, who in turn, told it to Grasemann."
Also from Tim Krabbé
82. 9 December (2000): Salo Landau
There was a thread recently in rec.games.chess.misc about the fate of the Dutch chessmaster Salo Landau who died in the war. What I know about him, I know from an article by Hans Ree in 1995 in Schakend Nederland, a communication by Adri Plomp, and mostly from a book Partij verloren... (1947; something like 'Lost games...'), about Dutch chess players who did not survive the war - most of them Jews who were victims of the holocaust.
Landau was born 1 April 1903 in Bochnia, Poland. In 1914, the Landau family fled the Russians to Vienna; not much later young Salo was sent to friends in Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Later, the family followed. In 1919 Salo was sent to Antwerp to learn the diamond trade. His chess career seems to have started there. In 1922 he went back to his family in Rotterdam; he soon became a top player in Holland, and a full-time chess professional. For some years, he was the Dutch number two; in 1936 he was national champion when Euwe, then world champion, did not defend his title.
For years, Landau wrote for the Dutch Tijdschrift. In August, 1941 when anti-Jewish measures came into effect, his name disappeared from its columns, although for a while his articles continued to appear under the name of Nieukerke, a fellow editor who lent him his name. (The first article by 'Nieukerke' was about the English Opening - this may have been a typical wartime joke. Somewhere in 1942 a chessclub 'Landau' had to change its name. That it chose De Oppositie for a new name must also have been a wry joke that went unnoticed or, in any case, unpunished.)
In September 1942, Landau tried to escape to Switzerland with his wife. They sent their young daughter into hiding, and contacted a people-smuggling operation. But they were betrayed or it simply went wrong; on 28 September Landau and his wife were arrested when leaving the railway station in Breda in the south of Holland. In November, he was deported to a forced labour camp in Gräditz, then in Germany, now again in Poland; his wife was sent to the Dutch Durchgangslager Westerbork, where she was later joined by their daughter whose hiding place had been betrayed.
Salo Landau died somewhere between October 1943 and March 1944, probably in the Gräditz camp; 31 March 1944 being his official dying date means that that is the last day any witness saw him alive. His wife and daughter were sent to Auschwitz where they were gassed on 12 October 1944.
Visit Krabbé's Open Chess Diary
from my own notes (without citation) :
The following is from a letter, discussing this topic with a friend, about 15 years ago:
"Harry Golombek was also involved in perhaps one of the most dramatic Chess Olympiads of all time: Buenos Aires 1939, when the chess world was thrown into a quandary with the declaration of war. On the day war was declared on Nazi Germany, Golombek was part of the all-British team of Hugh Alexander, Harry Golombek, Stuart Milner-Barry, Sir George Thomas and Baruch Wood. They had just qualified from the six-game preliminary section to the finals of the Hamilton-Russell Cup, but decided to withdraw from the tournament.
They seized the chance to catch the first ship back to Britain where Alexander, Golombek and Milner-Barry were quickly recruited to serve under Alan Turing at Bletchly Park to crack the German Enigma codes. War, however, was not allowed to wreck the Olympiad and a diplomatic solution was found for the tournament to continue. No other team withdrew - but inevitably the changing world circumstances caused some problems: matches involving France and Poland against Germany or Bohemia-Moravia-occupied-Czechoslovakia were not played and counted as drawn.
The Germans may not have won the war, thank goodness, but they did however win the Olympiad that year. Their team was strengthened on top board by the Austrian Erich Eliskases following the Anschluss of the two countries in 1938, and took the Hamilton-Russell Cup half a point clear of the country they had just invaded to precipitate war - Poland, who fielded Saviely Tartakower and Mieczyslav Najdorf. At the end of the Olympiad many players decided to remain in Argentina rather than return to the uncertainties of a war-torn Europe. The whole of the Polish team - all Jewish - made the agonising decision to stay on in South America; of the German team, Erich Eliskases, Paul Michel, Ludwig Engels, Albert Becker, Heinrich Reinhardt stayed; and so to did the Swedish master Gideon Ståhlberg, Pelikán and Skalicka of Czechoslovakia, Endzelins of Latvia, Frydman of Poland, Luckis and Vaitonis of Lithuania. Desperate to make contact with his wife and daughter in Poland, Najdorf made an audacious attempt on the blindfold simultaneous record, hoping that newspaper reports of his feat, known that he was safe, and so give them hope of a new life in Argentina. It was all in vain. Returning to Europe in 1945, he found that they, along with every other member of a large extended family to which he belonged, had been killed. With nothing to live for back home in Poland, Najdorf returned to Argentina, changed his first name to Miguel, and went on to become an Argentinean legend and one of the true greats of chess, famed for his battling play in the Sicilian. "
After Buenos Aires Olympiad in 1939, Gideon Ståhlberg chose to stay in Argentina for the duration of the war where he played in many tournaments in Mar del Plata and Buenos Aires against Najdorf and Eliskases. The government of Argentina was sympathetic to the US/UK allied side (they declared war on Germany in 1945. Sweden remained neutral). I believe it wasn't until 1948 that he returned to Sweden to play in Saltsjobaden Interzonal.
Eliskases was an Austrian who evidently was not overly happy about the Nazi invasion of his country. He did play for the German team at Buenos Aires (Austria no longer had a team), but preferred to stay in Argentina rather than return to his Nazi-occupied homeland.
At Buenos Aires Olympiad, Alekhine's team were not the only ones to refuse to play Germany and Bohemia/Moravia. Poland also refused to play both, and Palestine refused to play Germany. All these matches were declared drawn without any games being played. I suspect that Alekhine had no reason to love the Nazis, but after France fell, he sided with them to protect his skin.
After the fall of France in 1940, Tartakower served with the Free French forces under the name Lt. Cartier.
With the Nazis closing in, Botvinnik left Leningrad on August 17, 1941 just two days before they cut off all rail transport out of the city. He spent the rest of the war in the Urals.
See also Bill Wall's World War II and Chess