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German soccer praised for acknowledging Nazi past

Written by: Staff

BAD BOLL, Germany, Apr 8 (Reuters) German soccer should be applauded for acknowledging how it failed to stand up to the Nazi regime, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said today.

''Soccer failed - along with industry, the banks, the churches and the rest of German society,'' Schaeuble said at a conference ''Soccer under the Swastika''.

Schaeuble said it was welcome, if overdue, that the German soccer federation (DFB) was discussing its Nazi past and the post-war cover-up of its collaboration.

''Soccer took a long time to face up to that past. But it's better late than never. It is a liberating experience. We can still learn from that past.'' After decades of denial about its support for Adolf Hitler's Nazis and refusal to allow historians into its archives, the DFB finally reversed course at the turn of the century.

It held a two-day conference in the southern town of Bad Boll to discuss that concealed past. About 100 soccer officials, scholars and journalists took part at a church retreat.

''This process of coming to terms with the past has to continue,'' said Schaeuble, who is also responsible for sport.

''We need to do this for ourselves, not anyone else.'' Germany is hosting the World Cup starting on June 9 and the DFB commissioned a book ''Fussball unterm Hakenkreuz'' (Soccer under the Swastika) in 2005 that unearthed details about its support for the Nazis.

''We can't turn a blind eye to the past,'' said Theo Zwanziger, co-president of the DFB. ''We want to know the truth.

''There will always be those who say this is too late now or this is a tactic before the World Cup.'' ''But even if any of that is true, it doesn't matter,'' he said. ''The important thing is that we learn something for the future, to see the seduction of this criminal dictatorship.'' REUTERS PDS RK1818

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