Letters: Light on a Dark Past
Editor Seth Masia and authors Paul Hooge (“The Odyssey of Walter Neuron”) and Andreas Praher (“Skiing in Nazi Austria”) are deserving of enormous credit and thanks for finally helping bring to light in the November-December 2023 issue of Skiing History the long-ignored subject of National Socialism’s entanglement with the skiing and mountaineering communities of Austria and Germany, beginning in the earliest days of Nazism. Moreover, the virtual erasure from history of the strong Jewish presence in both those communities prior to the Aryan race laws and regulations being implemented starting in the ١٩٢٠s is also finally coming into focus.
(Photo above: Walter Neuron in Chamonix, 1940)
Of the many facts and stories related to these issues that researcher Jason Williams and I have uncovered in our 15 years of research (which will soon be the subject of a book tentatively titled The Snow Angel) is the crusade in the 1920s and ’30s of Austrian Alpenverein officer Eduard Pichl to eliminate the historical record concerning Jewish free-climbing progenitor Dr. Paul Preuss (acknowledged by Reinhold Messner as perhaps the greatest mountaineer in Austria’s history), the Alpenverein’s close association with Hitler going back to Munich prior to the failed 1923 beer hall putsch, the life-saving ski and mountaineering escapes to Switzerland and Bohemia organized by Jewish skiers in Germany and Austria in the 1930s, and the fact that British skier Sir Nicholas Winton (son of Jewish parents from Germany) used the pretext of a ski trip to the Czech-German border to organize the kindertransport program that saved the lives of hundreds of Jewish children and teens in Prague just prior to the start of the Second World War in Europe (the subject of a forthcoming major motion picture).
Some of those older children ended up returning to Europe as elite combat troops in the US 10th Mountain Division. These stories need to be told and remembered. By assisting in that process, Skiing History is fulfilling a vital service not only as a repository of historical data, but as an important torch illuminating both the proud legacy—and the occasionally not-so-proud deviations from
egalitarianism—that marks the story of skiing around the world.
Charles J. Sanders
Briarcliff Manor, New York
The November-December edition of Skiing History published my article “Pan-American Championships,” discussing the ski competitions between the Esquiadores Yanquis from the U.S. and South American skiers for the Championship of the Americas from 1937–1950. There was great hope that the competitions would continue to further connect skiing in North and South America.
Despite the good will developed between the skiers from the two continents, World War II prevented future reciprocal visits. Only one more Pan-American Championship was held after the war. No attempts were made to continue the Pan-American Championships, even though interest in Alpine skiing grew substantially on both continents. During the short time the championships were held, they showed that skiing is a way to open bridges between different countries.
We omitted mention in the November-December issue of the vintage fashion show in our overview of the upcoming Skiing History Week in Park City, Utah, March 20-23, 2024. One of the week’s most popular events, the fashion show is scheduled for the bar to open at 5 pm, with the show at 5:45 pm, on March 20, at the Alf Engen Museum.