Árpád Weisz was a Hungarian top trainer who caused a furore in Italy in the 1930s. He won a total of three league titles with Internazionale and Bologna. And then he suddenly became a trainer of DFC in Dordrecht. Until the Jewish Weisz and his family were taken by the Germans in 1942 to Auschwitz concentration camp.
Until recently, a memorial plaque for Weisz, who died in 1944, hung in the canteen of DFC. However, the board recently decided to remove the plaque, to the amazement of archivist and former chairman Arie Heijstek. He is now looking for a new place in Dordrecht for the glass memorial plaque.
But before we get to the issue of the plaque, let’s consider the question: who was that forgotten top trainer Weisz? And how does a champion maker from Italy end up at a club in Dordrecht?
Árpád Weisz was a seven-time Hungarian international who had to end his career in 1926 due to a serious knee injury. He then played at Internazionale in Milan, where he then went to work as a trainer.
Weisz was way ahead of his time as a coach. He went on a study trip to South America, where he researched football in Argentina and Uruguay. Hailed for his tactical acumen, he was one of the first to be interested in data collection, wrote a book about football, and was reportedly the first coach to walk down the line in a tracksuit.
With Inter he became Serie A champion in 1930, as a 34-year-old coach, with the later legend Giuseppe Meazza as top scorer. As trainer of Bologna, he won the Italian title twice more in 1936 and 1937.
But a year later, Weisz was forcibly fired by Bologna. The fascist regime of dictator Benito Mussolini had passed the infamous racial laws in 1938, which prevented him from working as a trainer as a Jew.
From Serie A to DFC
The acclaimed trainer fled with his family to Paris, but then ended up as a coach in Dordrecht. Archivist Heijstek knows exactly how that came about. He came across Weisz’s sad story when he compiled an anniversary book for the 125th anniversary of DFC in 2008. Heijstek has an enormous collection of photos, letters and other documents from and about Weisz.
“He wrote a letter from Paris to Karel Lotsy, at the time a well-known football official in Europe, asking if he could help him,” says Heijstek. “Lotsy lived in Dordrecht and called his neighbor Willem van Twist, the then chairman of DFC. The club had no trainer and was in need of relegation, so Weisz was one of the lottery tickets.”
After payment of a deposit of one thousand guilders, a temporary work permit was granted by the government. On February 16, 1939, Weisz, his wife and two children were welcomed at Dordrecht station by DFC chairman Van Twist.
Dordrecht in ecstasy
The Serie A top coach then did what he came for: DFC, which had dangled at the bottom all season, was retained for the first division. “In the decisive last game of the season, DFC won 2-1 against UVV from Utrecht. In front of 12,000 spectators, a lot at that time”, says Heijstek.
Dordrecht was in rapture. The mayor and aldermen organized a reception for DFC the following day. But then the question arose: can he stay? got back to work, war broke out. “
“In the beginning of 1940 he still trained with the players every week, but it was not widely publicized. I could not discover him in photos from that time. So he was already very careful. an order from the German occupier that he was no longer allowed to work as a trainer. “
A year later, on 2 August 1942, Weisz was picked up by the Dordrecht police at half past five in the morning and taken to Camp Amersfoort, together with his wife Ilona and his children Robert and Klara, and eventually to Auschwitz. “It is incomprehensible that no one has reached out to help them,” says Heijstek.
Weisz’s wife and children were gassed shortly after their arrival in Auschwitz. He himself succumbed to the effects of tuberculosis after hard labor in the camp on January 31, 1944. Only 47 years old.
Commemorative plaque for Weisz
Then it became quiet around Weisz. Until Heijstek plunged into DFC’s anniversary book in 2006. The former chairman had a memorial plaque made for Weisz, which was unveiled in the DFC canteen in 2015. But now it no longer hangs there.
“When I was at DFC in March, I saw that the plaque was no longer there. I contacted the chairman and understood that it had been removed, without informing me, after the cafeteria was refurbished.”
The glass plaque turned out to have been moved to the boardroom, but Heijstek disagreed. He took him home. “Something like that should hang in a place where everyone can see it.”
The chairman of DFC, former professional football player Anne Evers, does not want to say much about the matter. “We have not removed the plaque, but moved it from the canteen to the boardroom because we think it is a more suitable place,” said Evers, without wanting to comment further.
A nice place in Dordrecht
Heijstek cannot reach it with his head. “Since 2009 there is a memorial stone in Bologna, where a special meeting is held every year on Remembrance Day. Since this year there is also one at Inter. And in Bari, where he was also a trainer, there is a road named after Árpád Weisz. “
At the former house of Weisz on Bethlehemplein in Dordrecht, four so-called stumbling stones were placed in 2018 in memory of the four family members. And Heijstek is working on a petition to build an Árpád Weisz path at the old DFC site.
Only a new place is needed for the plaque. According to the archivist, hanging back in the canteen is a thing of the past. “Then it should have happened before. It must be a public place, the town hall or a museum. A beautiful place in Dordrecht where everyone can see it, so that Árpád Weisz is not forgotten.”