BBC BLOGS - Dan Walker
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
« Previous | Main | Next »

'And now, we go to hell' - Avram Grant

Post categories:

Dan Walker | 13:17 UK time, Monday, 28 May 2012

You can hear Avram's Journey on BBC Radio 5 Live from 20:00 BST on Tuesday, 29 May.

Avram Grant's story is an incredible one. We know him as the quietly spoken man who took Chelsea to within a John Terry penalty of the Champions League title in 2008.

We know him as the boss at West Ham and the man who gave the passionate speech to Portsmouth fans on the brink of relegation and administration in 2010.

His own story - the son of a Polish Jew who married the daughter of an influential Iraqi lawyer who was forced to flee to Israel - is remarkable, but the history of his family is as rich as it is tragic, as heart-warming as it is heart-breaking and as inspiring as it is dark.

Grant was aware his father had survived the Holocaust, but knew very little of his previous life until an unforgettable night as a teenager in Tel Aviv.

Avram Grant sitting on a bench outside his grandfather's house

Avram Grant sitting on a bench outside his grandfather's house

"I'd never heard a scream like it," Grant tells me at our Warsaw hotel. He was 15 years old and on the balcony of the family home with friends. His father was asleep inside but weeping and wailing from his bed.

"I rushed to his room to see what was wrong. For once my mother was not there to calm him down. For the first time my father told me what really happened in his childhood, why he screamed each night in his sleep. Since that night I have always needed to know more."

Meir Granat had been born in the town of Mlawa, one of three million Jews living in Poland before the beginning of World War II.

In 1937, Meir's father, Avram, fearing something bad was going to happen, decided that the family had to leave Mlawa. He took his wife and nine of his 10 children on a three-year trek that would take them across Poland, via the Warsaw ghetto, and eventually to the remote region of Komi in Russia.

"I always wanted to ask my grandfather why he left here," Grant explains as we sit in the major's office in Mlawa waiting for the arrival of some family documents. "What did he see that others missed? What did he see that [then Prime Minister Neville] Chamberlain didn't? He went to great lengths to protect his family".

One child, Hertsel, was hidden in a monastery. Rachel and Estera were placed in an orphanage. The rest were hassled and harried around Eastern Europe. On one occasion the train they were on was stopped and two more of Grant's father's siblings - Koppel & Hannah - were taken away and never seen again.

"They both died in Auschwitz," Grant says with a heavy heart. "The Germans took the rest of my father's family, and many other Jews, to Russia. The train stopped again, but this time, when everybody got off, it just left them behind in temperatures as low as -40. They were all meant to die." Many did.

The former Chelsea boss continues: "They were forced to live in the forest. Each day my father would see new bodies on the floor - he was there for almost four years."

Grant's aunt Sarah, 15 at the time, was the first to die from eating poisonous mushrooms in a desperate search for food in October 1940.

"My father buried his sister with his own hands," he says. One by one the family passed away - crippled by the cold and hunger. "In total, my father dug a grave for his father, his mother and five other members of his family - all with his own hands. Imagine that? What was going through his head? I've been to this place, I had to go.

"People can get lost in the numbers. Six million killed seems incredible - too many to contemplate - but what fascinates me is how they survived day to day.

"What did they think about in the morning when they got up? How did they get by on a quarter of a potato every other day? How did they not just give up when they had no idea when it would end?"

That is what strikes you about Avram Grant - the need to know. There are huge sections of his family history that remain blank, but with each document he finds the past is being pieced together.

On his first trip back to Mlawa in 2000 he found the house where his father grew up. This time, as we were handed the papers by the town hall media officer, there was another discovery.

"My grandfather had a twin brother? This is incredible. I can't believe it," Grant bows his head and covers his eyes with his hands for a moment. "Last time I came here I cried like a baby but I'm stronger now. I need to ring my sister."

This has been the pattern for many years. With each discovery of a birth certificate, an address, a new relative, Grant rings his sister, then his last surviving uncle, then Avi - the son of his father's sister Estera, who is one 150,000 people buried in the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw.

"We now know where your grandfather lived. I can take you if you like," says Magda from the town hall.

On the way, she explains that the house remains unchanged from the 1930s. In fact, of all the houses we saw in Mlawa, only three are as they were 75 years ago - Grant's grandfather's house, his dad's house and the one next door. "It's almost like they were waiting for me," Grant says, as he fills a carrier bag of soil from his father's old backyard. "I will sprinkle this on his grave - it's Jewish tradition."

Walking through the house, Grant remembers everything from his father's description. "This is where my grandfather worked on making leather," he says, pointing at a shed. "And this is where I like to think my father played football, but I don't know for sure," he chuckled. "I'm the only one in my family who likes football."

Before we left Mlawa, there was one final poignant reminder of the family's grim past. In the town hall, we'd learnt that Grant's grandfather had another brother called Bunem, who had decided to stay in the town rather than leave in the late 1930s.

In the car he receives a phone call. "That's why my grandfather left," he exclaims as he finished the call. Bunem had been rounded up by the Germans. He, his wife, and their five children had all been taken to Auschwitz and been gassed. "My grandfather's plan was a crazy one, but at least some survived. My father had to bury more than half his family, but if they hadn't left Mlawa I would not be here today."

The following day we travelled to Auschwitz ourselves. Grant could have flown but chose to go by train. He continues: "It's a journey I feel I had to make. The last time members of my family were on a train to Auschwitz it was very different - crammed into a carriage and certainly no cup of coffee." As we step off the train he breathes deeply and whispers to me: "And now, we go to hell."

What strikes you about Auschwitz is the size of the place and the silence, almost as though it's designed to make you stop and think. There are no birds in the sky - almost no noise at all. Nearby Birkenau was simply a killing machine - home to four giant gas chambers, each of which was brutally efficient and could asphyxiate 2,000 people at a time. Their business was death.

The Nazis destroyed much of the camp as they fled, but the train line that delivered over one million people from all over Europe to their death is still in place. As you stare at the barbed wire and watchtowers that stretch as far as you can see, you can't help but be stunned by the scale of the crime.

As we stand by gas chamber two, Grant ruminates: "I wonder how they did it? How do you murder others and then go home to your family? How do you burn someone alive or clean up the bodies of children and then go back to your own children and tell them what you did that day?"

Many Holocaust survivors ask the same question. He continues: "My father grew up an orthodox Jew, but lost his faith during the war because of what he went through. I think it's easy to understand why. It's impossible to bury half your family and remain unchanged.

"I spoke to Roy [Hodgson] recently and I told him that when England come to Auschwitz during Euro 2012 I would love to be part of it and take them around. The players need to know what happened. We all need to remember, otherwise we'll soon forget the scale of the horror. No-one leaves here the same person. You can't.

Avram Grant by the grave of his father's sister Estera in the Jewish cemetery in Warsaw.

"I first came here in 1988 when I was manager of Hapoel Petah Tikva. The next day one of my team, the left-back, was unable to play. After standing in the gas chamber, he said 'boss, I can't do it'. I will never forget that. Thankfully the others were inspired and we won 3-0."

Each year he returns to Auschwitz with Holocaust survivors for the 'March of the Living', but his father has never gone back to Poland. "He couldn't face it," says Grant. "Too many bad memories."

Despite everything, Meir Granat remained a calm and gracious man until his death in October 2009. "He never hated anyone," Grant explains, almost in disbelief: "He always told me there were good people as well as the bad. He never held a grudge, never wanted revenge.

"To see him during the day you'd never know what he went through. I know because of the screaming in the night. I know because I knew my father. I can still hear him screaming sometimes. There are no words to describe the sound."

Grant puffs out his cheeks and a broad grin crosses his face. "You know these last few days have changed things - I know so much more than I did. I will never stop searching but I feel more peaceful about it all," he adds.

As we walk under the infamous Auschwitz gates that read 'Arbeit Macht Frei' (Work Brings Freedom), he again becomes emotional: "My own son, Daniel, came here last year. He called me from this point and asked what his grandfather would want him to do."

With tears in his eyes, Grant recalls: "I told him to look at the sky in this horrible place and smile. That's what he did. My father was always smiling, always seeing the best in people, always positive, always optimistic. I could never understand how."

That's what I will take from my trip to Poland with Avram Grant. I'll never forget the look on his face when he saw the birth certificates in Mlawa or the smile when he walked around the garden his grandfather played in as a child.

The images and silence of Auschwitz will stay with me forever but my enduring memory will be Grant's father, a man I never met but now feel I know so much about. If Meir Granat could be optimistic with all that he saw, surely we all can.

Avram Grant asked that any fees for the programme would be donated to a charity for Holocaust survivors.

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Excellent piece Dan. As much as we see footballers and managers on TV earning x amount of millions, it is easy to forget that they are still human beings and started out life in the same way.

    Also, following on from the Panorama documentary last night, it is totally baffling why a country like Poland, despite what it went through, has so much of a problem with racism and anti-semitism. It is exactly the same in Ukraine and Russia.

  • Comment number 2.

    Think this is one of the best articles ive ever read on here, quite an emotinal piece.

  • Comment number 3.

    great great article. having been to auschwitz myself and listened to almost deafening silence under the Arbeit Macht Frei sign, i know what was going through your mind. Also, I think it's great that England players will be going there and getting some history rather than being couped up playing on their playstations.

  • Comment number 4.

    A really brilliant piece, thanks!

    Agree totally with @derwaldmann - How can a country that has suffered so badly at the hands of racism be actively pursuing racially motivated violence come the Euro tournaments (so the documentaries tell us).

    It just goes to show that however atrocious a crime is, people will forget in time and eventually become as bad as those who perpetrated the original crimes against their previous generations.

  • Comment number 5.

    6 million reasons why we should never allow them to be forgotten

  • Comment number 6.

    What a truly inspirational article. More life reality like this please from the BBC, rather than some of what some people call 'reality' TV! Well done Dan Walker.

  • Comment number 7.

    Superb piece, Dan. Very moving.

  • Comment number 8.

    Good article

    #1
    Why is it baffling that there are a smalll minority of neo-Nazi's in places like Poland and Ukraine when there are neo-Nazi groups in the UK as well. We all know what that regime did against groups they considered sub-human: Jews, Slavs, Romanies, etc.

    As for the Panorama documentary, astonished that the BBC was so willing to point racist fingers at other places when UK football and society has had a long history of racial and sectarian antagonism towards groups such as black/asian, Irish Catholics and Romanies.

    And let's not forget that one team will be going to the tournament with a player facing charges of racism on the pitch.

  • Comment number 9.

    That is one sad story if i ever heard one. Tugged on my heart strings for sure.

    I hope one day Mr grant manages to find out more about his family, as he says, we should never forget what happened, those who forget the past are damned to repeat it as the saying goes.

    As nasty as the place is it is someone i would love to go, just to get a sense of what actually happened there.

  • Comment number 10.

    What an amazing story. When I lived in Poland I visited Auschwitz three times and while it is an awful place, it's very hard to get your head around what happened due to the sheer numbers. Human stories like this bring it all home, it's desperately sad that millions of stories could never be told.

  • Comment number 11.

    How can a country that has suffered so badly at the hands of racism be actively pursuing racially motivated violence come the Euro tournaments (so the documentaries tell us).
    ------------------------

    Which 'country' is 'actively' pursing racially motivated violence in Euro 2012? None that I'm aware of.

    Neither the Polish or Ukrainian governments are pursing these policies at all

  • Comment number 12.

    Best piece you've ever done, Dan.

    I live in Poland but never been to Auschwitz - Majdanek (near Lublin) was enough for me.

    Didn't see the Panorama show but read Sol Campbell's comments that are a little inflammatory. I've been here 10 years, been to matches where black players were on the pitch and never seen or heard any of the stuff mentioned. Similarly last month I spent a week in Kiev, and saw tourists of all nationalities and colours enjoying themselves with not a hint of trouble or police brutatlity. I honestly think this is all being blown up out of all proportion. If you behave yourselves you'll have no problems - the same as anywhere.

    My advice to all England fans is to go and enjoy yourselves....and hope we win!

  • Comment number 13.

    A great story, sad, profound and making you think.

  • Comment number 14.

    8.At 11:23 29th May 2012, Rob04 wrote:
    As for the Panorama documentary, astonished that the BBC was so willing to point racist fingers at other places when UK football and society has had a long history of racial and sectarian antagonism towards groups such as black/asian, Irish Catholics and Romanies.

    And let's not forget that one team will be going to the tournament with a player facing charges of racism on the pitch.
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Well said Rob.

  • Comment number 15.

    Great story, Great Manager had respect for him now have respect for his whole family

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    #8

    "And let's not forget that one team will be going to the tournament with a player facing charges of racism on the pitch."

    It is a sign of just how far we have come as a country that the player in question is actually facing a criminal investigation. It is a safe bet that not a single one of those awful 'fans' on Panorama last night will even have had a ticking off from the police.

    "UK football and society has had a long history of racial and sectarian antagonism towards groups such as black/asian, Irish Catholics and Romanies."

    So what happened in the past means we are not now allowed to try and ensure other countries don't make the same mistakes we made then??

    Pathetic

  • Comment number 18.

    The point of the Panorama programme was not that these groups of fascists exist; they exist everywhere, including the UK. The point was that the authorities are doing absolutely nothing about them!

  • Comment number 19.

    #8

    What would you suggest then Robo? We say absolutely nothing and don't allow the BBC to show the footage they took? Are we now not allowed to criticise countries with obvious and overt racism?

    Next you'll be telling me that it's all a conspiracy and that those scenes didn't actually take place.

  • Comment number 20.

    Superb article - well done, Dan.

  • Comment number 21.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 22.

    Dan, this is a superb piece of journalism and should be the main article in the sports blog section. Please email a copy to Mcnulty, perhaps he can learn how to write something insightful.

    @ 12 Travellinbob. You need to watch the footage before commenting. The particular scenes Campbell was referring to, are without a doubt, the worst thing I've ever seen at an organised sporting event. It hasn't been blown out of proportion and is further evidence of UEFAs ineptitude at allowing the games to be held in the Ukraine.

    Visiting Auschwitz is a truly humbling experience and imparts a different perspective on life, something which the over-inflated egos of millionaire football players could do with.

  • Comment number 23.

    "Dan, this is a superb piece of journalism and should be the main article in the sports blog section. "


    This ^^^^^^

  • Comment number 24.

    1.At 10:56 29th May 2012, derwaldmann - 22-01-2011 wrote:
    Also, following on from the Panorama documentary last night, it is totally baffling why a country like Poland, despite what it went through, has so much of a problem with racism and anti-semitism. It is exactly the same in Ukraine and Russia.
    _________________________

    It is baffling, and quite frankly I'm embarrassed to see it given that many of those peoples' relatives died fighting to protect them from that oppression.

    I think the loosening of free speech / introduction of religion has helped encourage this and begin to divide the societies. Certainly I know from my relatives who lived in the old days say that people were "more together" and were in the same position. I think the Gov need to intervene more and take more punitive action / more education.

  • Comment number 25.

    19.At 11:47 29th May 2012, derwaldmann - 22-01-2011 wrote:
    #8

    What would you suggest then Robo? We say absolutely nothing and don't allow the BBC to show the footage they took? Are we now not allowed to criticise countries with obvious and overt racism?

    Next you'll be telling me that it's all a conspiracy and that those scenes didn't actually take place.
    __________________________

    So would the BBC release the same journalistic piece if the Euros were to be held in Italy, Spain, or Portugal?

  • Comment number 26.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    Now u can see why avram is chilled and never gets his knickers In a twist. Winning games of football and media pressure will be a walk in the park for a guy like him.

    His dad is a truly sad case.

  • Comment number 29.

    brilliant article

  • Comment number 30.

    @22 Rujzamein.

    If you read my comment again, I never said racism didn't exist in Poland, Ukraine or anywhere else. It does. But I have never seen any evidence of it in Poland, at football grounds or elesewhere, nor did I see evidence of it in Kiev last month. That is not in any way denying its existence and it should not be used to prevent any country from hosting this tournament or any other. If it were, then international sport would cease to exist. Every country in the world has racist individuals, and these two countries are no different to the UK in that respect.

    In the case of the Euros, it is being overplayed in the media, and I reserve the right to comment thanks very much. I'm praising Dan's superb piece, and making the point that Poland and Ukraine are not the devil's countries that certain news outlets make out. If that offends, my friend, then I apologise.

    I stand by every word I wrote.

  • Comment number 31.

    I find it ridiculous that a JT comment is moderated even though the man has a court date but comments about wayne rooney and his late night meeting with someone grand mother is not modded!!

  • Comment number 32.

    Thats because JT is on a mods back in his Chelsea Kit.

  • Comment number 33.

    Complain about this comment (Comment number 27)
    Comment number 28.At 12:16 29th May 2012, Readitandweep wrote:

    Not he was a sad case but what happened was tragic...but even more impressive is Avram himself. What a great representation of his whole family he is, such dignity and grace in the face of all that has happened to them. Good luck for the future Mr G

  • Comment number 34.

    Well said yajustdonsavethose, why ruin an emotional and well written article with ignorant comments which aren't related to this topic!

  • Comment number 35.

    So what happened in the past means we are not now allowed to try and ensure other countries don't make the same mistakes we made then??

    Pathetic
    -------------------------

    Was it about lecturing to other countries about 'our' experience, lessons and practice, and how the UK has tried to deal (only very recently I might add) with neo-Nazi groups, endemic racism and sectarianism.

    Or was it just yet another piece finger pointing at the 'bad' behaviour of foreigners?

    #19

    Are we now not allowed to criticise countries with obvious and overt racism?
    -------------------

    See my comment above!

  • Comment number 36.

    Great article Dan, very moving and very well told in the light of the recent news about resurgent anti semitism. I visited and travelled within the Ukraine with some extended family members 2 years ago to "trace our roots" and get a feeling of how our Jewish ancestors coped with life there in the pre-war years. We did not see or witness any current overt signs of anti-semitism but on the other hand did not see much acknowledgement about the suffering caused by the Nazis and Jew haters. This was unlike the city of Berlin which can't do enough to tell the story of these awful times and whose people do their utmost to counter any surge in modern day anti-semitism. What needs to be remembered is that these awful things only happened a generation ago.

  • Comment number 37.

    Great article Dan. Nicely and sensitively written piece.

    Avram Grant is a true gentleman of football. Was disappointed he didnt stick with us when we dropped - although I doubt we could have afforded him - as I felt he really cared for the club.

  • Comment number 38.

    31.At 12:23 29th May 2012, King Red wrote:
    I find it ridiculous that a JT comment is moderated even though the man has a court date but comments about wayne rooney and his late night meeting with someone grand mother is not modded!!

    ______________________________________
    you're comment was not moderated because of JT your comment was moderated because you called whole polish nation racist

  • Comment number 39.

    So would the BBC release the same journalistic piece if the Euros were to be held in Italy, Spain, or Portugal?
    --------------------------------

    Not at all and I can remember no piece on racism in the run-up to WC in the USA either !!!

  • Comment number 40.

    @16, maybe its about time you read a history book or at the very least a wikipedia page before you make disgustingly abhorrent and ignorant remarks. The Holocaust involved the ethnic cleansing of 6 millions Jews and countless other 'undesirables'. The mass shootings of men, women and children by Einsatzgruppen death squads, mass pogroms conducted by local populations armed more frequently with clubs covered in barbed wire than 'relatively humane' firearms, deaths of attrition due to to exhaustion, disease, starvation and blistering cold, and last but certainly not least, mass gassings. So while your sweeping generalisations comparing the actions of National Socialism with Israeli government policy might win you friends after a few beers with similarly ignorant would be intellectuals down the pub, they aren't particularly welcome here.

  • Comment number 41.

    @derwaldmann - 22-01-2011
    I agree , very difficult to understand the symptoms of antisemitism in Poland, especially that out of 3 mln Jewish population before WW2 only 10,000 perceive themselves as Jews now. Of course the problem is complex and 1 comment will not explain it, but refering to yesterdays documentary I would say people who display antisemitic and racist approach are strongly related to the "ultras" group of football fans or rather antifans as we call them here. Same time we have a number of players from Israel entering our Ekstraklasa league since 2-3 years. Majority of society condemn such behavior, they go together with brutal , abusive language attacks, and most of them take place in their sectors of the stadiums. Clubs started to fight against it few years ago with medium effects (it should be cut off as once in England), and government is very strong against it, what origined strong political antigoverment activity of these groups. Generally yes, there is a problem, and it's visible as these guys are loud, well organized, visible on match days. On the other hand this is a big exaggeration to point on Poland (i'm speaking for my country only, don't know the situation in Ukraine) saying "you are racist, antisemitic and homophobic nation" just basing on the opinions of extreme ultra groups of fans... I would never downplay this phenomenon, I do not like it just as probably many of you, but I would bet that making such a documentary basing on interviews with Milwall fans or Lazio Rome as an example would bring very similar effects. Think it over and let us work on our problem with these hordes. Big respect to Avram Grant, I always perceived him as a sad crow , but he seems to be a very nice open person. The story is incredible and I'm sorry his family suffered and experienced such violence in my country..

  • Comment number 42.

    39.At 12:34 29th May 2012, Rob04 wrote:
    So would the BBC release the same journalistic piece if the Euros were to be held in Italy, Spain, or Portugal?
    --------------------------------

    Not at all and I can remember no piece on racism in the run-up to WC in the USA either !!!
    _____________________

    That's what grinds my gears about the beeb. It's a separate agenda. Like the racism in Russia piece is simply there because UK failed with its 2018 WC bid.

    People fail to realise that:
    a) West European countries were involved in the slave trade and as a consequence, they have had relations with Africans for over 300 years at least. Eastern european nations have remained largely closed off to Africa up until the last 50-100 years so it's unrealistic to expect 300 years worth of tolerance & education to be crammed in to 50-100 years.
    b) There are more ethnic groups in russia alone than there are in Europe. It has taken years for these relationships and understanding to develop. People often overlook this important fact when they judge a nation based on their own code of conduct.

  • Comment number 43.

    The majority of racists are probably that dim that they don't know what the holocaust is/was. It is just an education issue. Us English conducted the slave trade before Britain developed as a country and its education system.

  • Comment number 44.

    Great article Dan, brings attention to the things that really matter in life... Sometimes we forget football is just a game. The effects of that game can be huge, but not as significant as what Avram Grant and his family went through. Respect.

  • Comment number 45.

    One the one hand you could think what is this doing on the sport website. On the other hand, I'm glad it is because us sport fanatics might not have read it otherwise.

    I often look back at the 2008 semi v Liverpool and recall the outpouring of emotions for Lampard. However, another image of that night is when the final whistle blew and Grant fell to his knees, arms aloft in triumph, he had become his own man by taking Chelsea into uncharted territory and on his big coat was a black armband.

    Us fans went crazy with it all but the following day Grant travelled to Auschwitz, to pay his respects. His dignity has often been cast aside and ridiculed over the years and I really feel, to his utmost credit, that he doesn't care a jot because he has a better sense of perspective than most of us.

    Us modern westerners take so much for granted it's embarrassing at times.....

  • Comment number 46.

    42
    Agree with your comment. Also worth noting that nearly all of Africa was part of the French and British Empire's in the early 20th Century, and since the Colonial age, have had a easier passage into France and Britain.

  • Comment number 47.

    38.
    At 12:33 29th May 2012, whatawonderfullworld1984 wrote:

    31.At 12:23 29th May 2012, King Red wrote:
    I find it ridiculous that a JT comment is moderated even though the man has a court date but comments about wayne rooney and his late night meeting with someone grand mother is not modded!!

    ______________________________________
    you're comment was not moderated because of JT your comment was moderated because you called whole polish nation racist
    =============================================================
    I didnt call any nation racist, what i said was if they are racist towards the british then things in england scotland and wales wouldnt be so comfortable for the poish and ukrainians living in the uk.

    I didnt accuse anyone of being racist, maybe you read the post wrong!

  • Comment number 48.

    Dan, this is brilliant. Thanks for sharing, thank Avram too. Not what I was expecting to read today but I am so glad I did.

    Lest we forget.

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 50.

    @16, maybe its about time you read a history book or at the very least a wikipedia page before you make disgustingly abhorrent and ignorant remarks. The Holocaust involved the ethnic cleansing of 6 millions Jews and countless other 'undesirables'. The mass shootings of men, women and children by Einsatzgruppen death squads, mass pogroms conducted by local populations armed more frequently with clubs covered in barbed wire than 'relatively humane' firearms, deaths of attrition due to to exhaustion, disease, starvation and blistering cold, and last but certainly not least, mass gassings. So while your sweeping generalisations comparing the actions of National Socialism with Israeli government policy might win you friends after a few beers with similarly ignorant would be intellectuals down the pub, they aren't particularly welcome here.

    Excellent comment. Re the slave trade etc I'm not sure that lack of education is the key issue. I think a lack of compassion is a greater want. Remember that those who abuse power and people are often 'smarter' than the average man/woman.
    Re the Palestinian issue, a lot of the abuses towards them have been committed by Hamas to further their bloodthirsty ideology....

  • Comment number 51.

    42 ESG

    I agree, the Beeb is very selective about what it publishes. However, I find it even more ridiculous that people are more annoyed about that and not about the racism and anti-semitism in Poland/Ukraine

  • Comment number 52.

    What a wonderful article.

    I myself visited Auschwitz and Birkenau earlier this year with my husband who is half-Polish. His uncle was incarcerated there and survived to tell the tale. Suffice to say, I left in floods of tears.

    I have a lot of time for Avram Grant, both as a football manager and a man. Where modern football seems to have lost all perspective, Avram has not lost his. His dignity when in charge of Portsmouth and West Ham, where chaos surrounded him every day, was remarkable. I'm not a Pompey fan but I know those who are and they have nothing but good words to say about the man they call "Uncle Avram".

    There are 6 million reasons whiy this shameful episode of European history should never be forgotten. May they all Rest in Peace.

  • Comment number 53.

    I really hope that the England squad take the time out to visit Auschwitz and to gather some humility and respect from the experience. Avram Grant shows himself to be a thoroughly decent man who has managed to rise above the usual xenophobic feelings that less educated 'men' demonstrate. Stories like this are humbling beyond all belief - would it be too much for the mega-rich squad members to make an appropriate donation in the same mannner that Mr. Grant has?

  • Comment number 54.

    I hope I speak for the majority of fellow chelsea fans, Avram may not have been the best manager we've ever had, but I dont remember one that was more dignified, he was always a gentleman,I've always had respect for him as a man and I shed a tear with/for him when we beat liverpool in the champions league semi final.

  • Comment number 55.

    The best article I've read on this website for a long time and the BBC has some great contributors in Vickery, McNulty, Brassell and the like, so well done Dan Walker for trumping all of them! I've always had respect for Avram Grant as a manager and I had known parts of his tragic family history, but this piece shows the extent to which his ancestors suffered under such a traumatic and horrific time in Europe.

    I'll be listening to 5 Live tonight to hear the full programme and I do hope that if the England players go to Auschwitz, it can inspire them to a good performance in the Euros even though sometimes, some things are just bigger and more important, than football.

  • Comment number 56.

    51.At 12:56 29th May 2012, derwaldmann - 22-01-2011 wrote:
    42 ESG

    I agree, the Beeb is very selective about what it publishes. However, I find it even more ridiculous that people are more annoyed about that and not about the racism and anti-semitism in Poland/Ukraine
    _______________________

    I think people are intelligent enough to understand the problems in the Eastern European countries and appreciate that it is a problem.

    However they are clever enough to understand this does not present the whole of the population nor assume that the authorities are doing nothing about it. I think they also are clever enough to realise that the issue of racism is prevalent in other nations, yet there is no Panorama piece on that.

    For example, there was a racist incident last year between my club Kryljia Sovetov Samara and the Anzhi player Roberto Carlos. This was reported in the UK press. What was not reported was that the Samara authorities were able to identify the perpetrators and gave them lifetime bans from attending further matches. This gives the false impression that "nothing is being done about it". It's just more spin from the beeb I'm afraid.

  • Comment number 57.

    PS

    Excellent article Dan, makes a delightful and inciteful change to the usual tabloid tripe that other journalists write on this website.

    Just goes to show what an amazing person Avram Grant is. I have a lot of respect for him firstly as a person who conducts himself with the utmost professionalism and humility. He has also been an excellent manager, and while he may be seen / regarded as a failure in England, he has done wonders in Israel and has been part of their biggest successes so far.

  • Comment number 58.

    @16, @50 - I feel sorry for the palestinians too, however their plight is NOWHERE NEAR that of the jews at the hands of the Nazis. You also need to find out who came up with the great plan of displacing the palestinians from palestine, I think you will find that the UK and Americans dont come out of that one entirely smelling of roses, which goes some way to explain the emnity towards us, but I cant help but feel that we're going ever so slightly off topic here....

  • Comment number 59.

    I was in Auschwitz in February , your piece was a good one Dan and I enjoyed reading it and I am pleased the England football players will visit the site because it is a place like no other and for anyone with an ego , such a place makes you feel a lot smaller , more humble and thankful , which is no bad thing . I wish every college student in England went to that place . I had no idea of Grant's family history and I have more respect for him now as a man knowing is background .

  • Comment number 60.

    This is an excellent article. Grant always comes over as dignified and a "nice guy" of football.

    Whilst football is a sport that on the field ties different groups together sadly the scenes in Poland and Ukraine are replicated in every country. We might think it's an Eastern European thing but we see similar things in this country with fans identified and arrested this season for racial abuse.

    Spurs fans for years have been subjected to anti-semitic chants and one only needs to look at fans when Rangers and Celtic play each other, or when a minutes silence for Munich or Hillsborough is booed to know football does seem to bring out the worst in people. Even Holland which has one of the most educated populaces in Europe, sees anti-semitic chanting whenever Ajax play but this was never even discussed when they hosted the euros back in 2000. This is a problem with football fans in every country not just Poland and it needs to be dealt with across the board.

    It says more about modern football and it's commericialism that you can be docked points for financial "poor behaviour" but you can't be for poor fan or player behaviour at the game!

  • Comment number 61.

    This is a football blog, Dan.

  • Comment number 62.

    After reading this and being surprisingly moved by one of Dans it reminded me of a visit I made to Auschwitz/Birkenau and Terazin many years ago.
    It's a moving a thought-provokiing experience.

    I then start reading the comments. Sensible and related to the topic at hand as they start but then they move to comments on last nights Panorama programme.
    Not so bad and still somewhat relevant.

    Then they are more about which country is more racist than the next and how about JTs court case.

    Now at least they reflect the nature of the article and the mood in which is was intended.
    A sombre look at one mans journey finding pieces of his past and sharing it with Dan and the rest of us with the dignity and humility that has always been part of Avram's personality.

    As for the England team taking the time to visit Auschwitz/Birkenau, I think this would be an excellent idea and hope they do just that.

  • Comment number 63.

    Very well written blog and a very emotional piece to read. I will definately be finding the program on iplayer as well.

    It's a shame that the dicussion has turned to other matters, rather than appreciation of a interesting and stimulating article.

  • Comment number 64.

    History and especially World War stories have always fascinated me. This one did too. I am moved and respect Avram Grant and his sentiments. Good article Dan.

  • Comment number 65.

    Some people love to bash British society at any possible moment. We live in the most tolerant country in the world.

    Racism in the stands has long gone; Blacks, Asians, Whites stand side by side taunting other teams based on rivalries not skin colour.

    Pointing out the fact a group of asians got battered by their own fans in Ukraine is somehow seen as the BBC pointing fingers??!! Well yes fingers need to be pointed, this would never happen in an English stadium.

  • Comment number 66.

    Excellant article, I visited Auschwitz last year with my wife and it is something that will never leave you. People know what happened but nothing prepares you for the emotion of walking through the gates. I would encourage all decent people to visit.

  • Comment number 67.

    65.At 13:33 29th May 2012, wirral18 wrote:
    Pointing out the fact a group of asians got battered by their own fans in Ukraine is somehow seen as the BBC pointing fingers??!! Well yes fingers need to be pointed, this would never happen in an English stadium.
    _____________________

    Yep.........it would be the opposing team's fans......but that's ok??!

    It's not bashing British society, more the agenda that the Beeb seemingly have against the Euros.

  • Comment number 68.

    Brilliant article Dan got me very emotional

  • Comment number 69.

    I did history in school, and I agree I don't get how Poland can have groups like they do after what happend but then again some times I find it hard to grasp when religous people get predudice, and maybe rascist abuse if there black or of differen't ethnicity against them..but then give that kind of treatment to homosexuals (not all religions, I forget the name of the one I'm talking about).....On a similar subject Rush (a band) have a song called red sector A and as soon as I heard it I thought it reminds me of a concentration camp...so I read some of what neil had said about it, and it was baised losly on Geddys mums memories of her time in a concentration camp, his mother and father survived seperat camps....Interestingly enough the 1st nation to use concentration camps was the spanish!

  • Comment number 70.

    Nice one Dan. I visited Dachau and was humbled and overwhelmed considering it's past, and how my life is now! We need to remember we are whom we are today due to the sacrifices, suffering and pain of our collective grandparents and ensure it does not happen again.

  • Comment number 71.

    The situation is worse in Poland for definite. I have a Polish colleague who works with me and he says that while the EDL are basically a sick laughing stock in the UK, in Poland they would be a major party. It is getting better, but as with everything it takes time. It's a real shame because Polish fans are so passionate, it would be brilliant if they could channel that passion solely into football rather than racial nonsense.

  • Comment number 72.

    Many of the emotions Mr. Grant describes are felt by so many of us who had relatives murdered by the Nazis. I felt the same way when I visited Dachau in 1979, where my cousin was murdered while in solitary confinement in 1933. All of us stand as witnesses against those who deny it ever happened.

  • Comment number 73.

    #70, I was under the impression that we have a repeat of a nation hunted by another nation and this time it's poor Palestinians suffering from Israel.

  • Comment number 74.

    What a fantastic blog! It brought back so many memories of my school trip to Poland where we visited Auschwitz also. I'll never forget the silence. Not just at the gates to the camp but also on the coach trip back from there. Amazing if you consider we were all between 15 and 18. Not one word was said during the trip back to the hotel!
    I am amazed by some of the comments on here! Why does everything come down to finger pointing and stupid ill informed arguments?
    I for one will just be happy in the knowledge that I have just spent a small amount of my time reading a sports blog that is both emotional and informative which concentrates on the more important things in life rather than the usual load of tosh that comes from a number of supposed learned journalists.
    I believe that all racism from any perpetrator should be clamped down with the full force of the law wherever it originates from.

    Thanks again

  • Comment number 75.

    Moved.

  • Comment number 76.

    Every country on the planet has a degree of racism, i dont think we could denie that, but some countries its well beyond extreme, not so long ago south africa had horror stoeries daily, but with the build up to the world cup and especially during the comp things seemed to change and if im right south africa has become alot less toleratable towards racism since the comp. maybe the euros can to some degree do the same in Poland and the Ukriane. i dont think either country was as bad as South Africa was.

  • Comment number 77.

    73

    What has that got to do with the survivors of the Holocaust??

    You're using the most horrendous event in human history to make a political point that most of us are aware of, yet has no place in a blog like this, and you know it.

  • Comment number 78.

    Amazingly beautiful dan. I have also been to Auschwitz, it is such a memorable place and one that i will never forget. Football is a sport that should bring people together, i belive that Euro 2012 will do so for Poland and Ukraine.

    Lets get behind Roy!

    Thanks

  • Comment number 79.

    76

    "maybe the euros can to some degree do the same in Poland and the Ukriane."

    Absolutely. If it prevents racism from being tolerated in those countries, it will be worth it.

  • Comment number 80.

    It is really strange that BBC started that kind of campaign. Poland is not racist country by any means and the material from Panorama was picked with pre fixed idea of what it should show. Actually a few Polish football jurnalists were asked by BBC for interview IF they are so kind to confirm what was to be said....
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    Why ?
    This is very disturbing...
    And so low...

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    #79 derwaldmann - 22-01-2011

    Indeed. It's sort of carrot and stick I guess.

  • Comment number 83.

    Great piece Dan, The people here who say 'what about ukraine + poland and racisim, look at britains past with racism in football etc' are missing the point entirely.

    Yes most countries have elements of their past that they are not proud of, every country in the world has had some form of oppression against others in their history, no one can do anything about that now. What is important is the present day, england and english football is nowhere near as bad as ukraine or poland, we have developed and players and fans here can enjoy football without the fear of racism in the stands.

    The governing bodies of football are aware of the situation in ukraine and poland and awarding them the tournament is a disgrace when you have scenes inside of stadiums that have been obsolete in the UK for 30 years or more (if scenes like that have ever occured in UK football - Nazi salutes in the stands??)

    Poland and Ukraine are miles behind the rest of europe

  • Comment number 84.

    @69 "Concentration" camps have been around for centuries and have been used by most of the powers. Imperial Russia used them against Polish rebels. The US used them with native Americans, the British used them during the Boer war in South Africa and the Spanish like you say used them after their Civil War.

    But the difference is, whilst conditions in all these camps were generally terrible with little or no thought given to sanitation and the spread of disease killed thousands, the Nazis actually had "Death Camps" designed to kill people deemed not able to work including children. Off the top of my head I can only think of the Turkish Concentration Camps used for Armenians or Pol Pots Cambodian ones with anything as comparably evil.

  • Comment number 85.

    81

    So what you're saying is if you do a piece as good as this, you immediately have to do a piece about the Palestinians?

    Why?

  • Comment number 86.

    Having visited Auschwitz myself at Easter I fully share and understand your emotions Dan. If there really was a hell on earth this place must surely have been it. It remains a very sinsiter and eerie spot, especially Birkenau, the starkness of which is overpowering.
    It stands forever as a testament to man's capacity for inhumanity and depravity towards his fellow human beings but also as a lasting tribute to the victims and to the courage of survivors such as Avram Grant's father, who sounds like a quite incredible person.
    I really do hope that England's players will visit the camp. It would really give them some sense of perspective and maybe humility and make them appreciate how lucky and privileged they (and indeed all of us) are not to have lived in those times and places.
    I don't suppose John Terry's penalty miss in Moscow in 2008 has ever seriously kept Avram awake at night when set aside his family history.

  • Comment number 87.

    I visited Auschwitz in the mid 90's and even to this day i can remember the sick feeling i felt in my stomach as i walked around that surreal but dreadful place. As usual though the ill-educated on here try to link these events to modern day issues when really what happened there and elsewhere cannot be compared to any other atrocity simply because of the huge numbers involved and the time frame it took place in. I advise any of you who are commenting on this article without actually visiting these places to do so once in your lifetime because for me and many others there is no place on earth that can draw such emotions within people. The question i still have in my mind is not why the Nazis did it, but why it was allowed to continue when the Allied powers were fully aware of what was happening, the same Allied powers who decided to wash their hands with the Jewish problem after the war and set in motion the huge conflict that continues to this day in the Middle East.

  • Comment number 88.

    #83 brownz85

    (if scenes like that have ever occured in UK football - Nazi salutes in the stands??)
    -----------------------------------------------------------------------------
    I don't want to get silly, really I don't, but didn't Bosnich do just that salute TO fans not that many years ago?

  • Comment number 89.

    #85,

    What I'm saying is football should consist of football.
    It's simple.
    This is poor mind-manipulator's propaganda.

  • Comment number 90.

    Since the discussion has moved on from the article about Mr Grant's familiy, let me just caution those less knowledgeable about Central and Eastern Europe - Poland and Ukraine are different countries. The racism problem exists in both of them, but probably on a different scale. They are very different. it seems to me that the suprising effect of joint hosting of the Euros might be a weird Poland/Ukraine mix in some people's heads. No, they are not the same country. Neither Poland, nor Ukraine is a part of Russia. The concentration camps were built be the German Nazis, who occupied Poland. The Jews living in Poland were a part of multicultural society that lived on those lands for hundreds of years before the ww2. Hope that helps, the history of Eastern Europe is convoluted, but truly a fascinating subject of study.

  • Comment number 91.

    #83 "Poland and Ukraine are miles behind the rest of europe"

    And how do you know it? By watching specially prepared material?
    My link was removed, I guess BBC does not want to show how they "find" data....

  • Comment number 92.

    Just a wonderful and moving article. Thank you.

  • Comment number 93.

    85

    "This is poor mind-manipulator's propaganda."

    Are you seriously saying this is a piece of propaganda??

    It's a piece about how football is only a game compared to the real tragedies in life. It's a positive piece about a human being and it's about reconciliation. And you think it's "poor mind-manipulator's propaganda"

    I feel sorry for you man

  • Comment number 94.

    #93,

    you are really not worthy of a serious reply.

  • Comment number 95.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 96.

    83.At 13:58 29th May 2012, brownz85 wrote:
    _______________________

    I would read point a) in post #42 when you say "Ukraine and Poland" are way behind Britain. They are and there are obvious reasons for it.

  • Comment number 97.

    94

    Thank God for that!

  • Comment number 98.

    84.At 14:03 29th May 2012, RoyaltyinThePremiership wrote:
    Pol Pots Cambodian ones with anything as comparably evil.
    ____________________

    They weren't even camps mate.........just fields........and it was more brutal as they weren't really gassed, just beaten over the head. Pretty horrific in every sense of the word.

  • Comment number 99.

    #97,

    I thought for some God = cash.
    Leave God alone.

  • Comment number 100.

    98 ESG

    Actually Cambodia is an example of just what can be achieved. You're right, Pot was a monster, but in the end the desire for peace and freedom conquered even his crimes. Cambodia is now a country where many different tribes, not just the Khmer, live in relative harmony. Sure, the country is still poverty stricken, but with a burdgeoning tourist industry, they are getting there.

 

Page 1 of 3

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.