What a Tangled Web. . .


What was Germany like during WWII ?  What was chess like within the confines of the Reich?  What do we know? How much of that can we trust?

No matter how deep I try to dig or how much elbow grease I apply,  I can barely scratch the surface. The very existence of a government such as Nazi Germany is an absurdity to my mind and I fail in all my feeble attempts to understand the time.

It goes without saying that Jews were barred from playing since they had been banned from der Großdeutsche Schachbund (the Greater Chess Federation) as early as 1933 (including Walter Robinow, the President of the German Chess Federation).

Alekhine played in Nazi tournaments and  anti-semetic articles were published under his name.  In a 1981 interview conducted by GM Hans Bouwmeester for Chess magazine, Max Euwe, who seemed sigularly unimpressed with Capablanca, was very empathetic towards Alekhine while acknowledging Alekhine's dislike of Jews.
"Alekhine had a very difficult life. All in all, he was always very correct with me. He stayed with me during our match in 1926 on the eve of his match with Capablanca. In 1935, when I played him the Dutch press was against him and he had his problems with the committee who numbered some hard, strict men - maybe justifiably."
. . .
"After he beat Lasker at Zurich he said something like "the Jew has had another lesson!"
B: So he was already anti-semitic in 1934? (...)
E: Tartakover was a very interesting man - a paradox. A fine, often trenchant, writer. When, in London in 1946 Alekhine's collaboration with the Nazis came into question, Tartakover maintained that it was not for us but for the French Government to judge the case. That Alekhine was anti-semitic, we have all known since 1934."
. . .
"B: Is it true that during the second world war he spent a lot of time
with the Nazi Governor Frank?

E: That is certainly true. Frank was friendly with Bogolyubov and they played chess together. It seems to me they just wanted to play chess.
Alekhine may have hoped the Germans would win because he owned several houses in Leningrad. As things went, he lost everything..."

In Checkmate in Prague, Ludek Pachman wrote about Alekhine:
"I think it shouldn't be forgotten that Alekine went so far and played skittles with the Nazi Dr Frank, highest commander in Poland at his side as a partner against another couple often with Bogoljubow as the other GM.  At the end of the war Dr Frank was sentenced to death as a war criminal. So you might understand that he wasn't exactly the director of the Red Cross at the time ...

The question still exists if you don't have a special responsibility if you're educated. Sure, you don't have to see the freight cars full of people (i.e. Jews) locked up like cattle to understand that something is going wrong. As a Doctor of Jurisprudence Alekhine should have known what the politics of extinction "finally" meant against the Jews. He must have had experience with the question when he wrote his articles ...

So, this sort of excuse doesn't function. Because you live in an ivory tower full of luxury you're unable to judge possible inhuman developments?  I wouldn't say so. If you're smart enough and well educated to reach a living standard including a certain isolation, you're *smart* enough to read newspapers and to think for yourself ...

One thing's for sure. The Nazis didn't *hide* what they wanted to do with the Jews. They shouted it in their public speeches and they printed it in newspapers. And last but not least Hitler had written it in his book 15 years earlier ..."


 Pachman also wrote about his impression of Ehrhardt Post (Alfred M. Ehrhardt Post), Chief Executive of the Großdeutscher Schachbund.
Pachman, who was 17 at the time when he played in the 1943 Prague tournament, notes -
"My finish in the tournament was not as glorious. Alekhine and Keres of course prevailed over me -- supposedly in quite interesting games; but to
a youth only interesting games are those he wins. ... At the end I finished 10th out of 21 players. This was generally considered to be a sensational success. Alekhine wrote well about me in Frankfurter Zeitung. At the end of the tournament, I got invited to a trip to The Reich. I need to write about that in a greater detail :

The closing ceremony was quite, well, ceremonious. The prizes were given out by the Premier of the Protectorate Bohmen and Mahren government Krejci. Moreover, IM Ehrhardt Post, the chairman of Deutscher Schachbund and of the so called "Europa Schachbund", came from Berlin to give the ceremonial speech He was very courtious, praised Czechs and Czech chessplayers and golden Prague -- not a word about the New Europe or Final Victory. Then he gave away the prizes. First, everyone thanked by a small bow to Krejci and a hand shake with Post. Two Czech masters, however, when they arrived at the podium, clicked perfectly their heels and raised their right hands. One of them shall be forgiven, he is dead now. The other is now politically very up to snuff. . .
After the passing of the prizes in 1943, Her Post called me up and in the presence of two or three others he told me that he realy liked my play and that he'd like to invite me to a tournament in Germany. He completely knocked the wind out me. I started to stutter that this was not possible, that I had high school exams coming up, that right after that I had to start working, that I could not possibly have taken any such longer time off, that I thanked him, that, perhaps, after the War was over...

Post caught on, looked at me and said: "Sehr gut und viel Erfolge," and he let me go in good graces. The claim is that he a was Nazi, but certainly he was a decent man! I heard that he also managed to fight off all attempts to swallow the German Chess Union into that less-than-stellar organization KdF. ..." 

          Ehrardt Post
                 Ehrhardt Post
                 Adolf Hitler
                            Adolf Hitler

      Post somewhat resembled Hitler in appearance but not in character.

Ehrhardt Post was born in 1881. While he was a strong player, scoring well in some important tournaments between 1902-1907, a couple in the next decade and a few between 1921-1923, his greatest impact was that of a chess organizer, putting together such tournaments as the first and second European tournaments (Stuttgart 1939 and Munich 1941), Salzburg 1942, Munich 1942 and Salzburg 1943.