Bernhard Carl “Bert” Trautmann, (1923 – 2013) was a German professional footballer who played for Manchester City from 1949 to 1964.
Brought up during times of inter-war strife in Germany, Trautmann joined the Luftwaffe early in the Second World War, serving as a paratrooper. He fought on the Eastern Front for three years, earning five medals, including an Iron Cross. In 1944, he was transferred to the Western Front, where he was captured by the British as the war drew to a close. Earlier, he had been captured by the Russians and the French Resistance, but escaped both times. With the war drawing to a close, Trautmann did not attempt a third escape.
As a volunteer soldier who had been subject to indoctrination from a young age, he was classified a category “C” prisoner by the authorities, meaning he was regarded as a Nazi. Trautmann, of only 90 of his original 1,000-man regiment to survive the war, was then transferred to a prisoner-of-war camp, near Northwich. He was soon downgraded to non-Nazi “B” status, after which he was taken to PoW camp in Lancashire.
Trautmann refused an offer of repatriation, and following his release in 1948, settled in Lancashire, combining farm work with playing goalkeeper for a local football team, St Helens Town.
“When people ask me about life, I say my education began when I got to England. I learnt about humanity, tolerance and forgiveness.”
Performances for St Helens gained Trautmann a reputation as an outstanding goalkeeper, resulting in interest from Football League clubs. In October 1949, he signed for Manchester City, a club playing in the country’s highest level of football, the First Division. Some Manchester City fans were unhappy about signing a former member of the Luftwaffe. In addition to this difficulty, Trautmann was replacing the recently retired Frank Swift, one of the greatest keepers in the club’s history. Though privately expressing doubts about the signing, the club captain, Eric Westwood, a Normandy veteran, made a public display of welcoming Trautmann by announcing, “There’s no war in this dressing room”. Season ticket holders threatened a boycott, and various groups in Manchester and around the country bombarded the club with protest letters. Manchester boasted a sizeable Jewish community and 20,000 demonstrated against City’s new signing before Dr. Altmann, the communal Rabbi, appealed for the German player to be offered a chance, reminding everyone that an individual should not be punished for his country’s sins.
“Thanks to Altmann, after a month it was all forgotten,”… “Later, I went into the Jewish community and tried to explain things. I tried to give them an understanding of the situation for people in Germany in the 1930s and their bad circumstances. I asked if they had been in the same position, under a dictatorship, how they would have reacted? By talking like that, people began to understand.”… “I volunteered when I was 17. People say ‘why?’, but when you are a young boy war seems like an adventure. Then, when you’re involved in fighting it’s very different, you see all the horrible things that happen, the death, the bodies, the scariness. You can’t control yourself. Your whole body is shaking and you’re making a mess in your pants.”… “Growing up in Hitler’s Germany, you had no mind of your own. You didn’t think of the enemy as people at first. Then, when you began taking prisoners, you heard them cry for their mother and father. You said ‘Oh’. When you met the enemy, he became a real person. The longer the war went on, you started having doubts. But Hitler’s was a dictatorial regime and you couldn’t say what you wanted. In the German army, you got your orders and you followed them. If you didn’t, you were shot.”… “I kept nothing from the war; I don’t have my Iron Cross any more.”
Trautmann made his first team debut on 19 November against Bolton Wanderers, and after a competent display in his first home match, protests shrank as fans discovered his talent. He continued to receive abuse from crowds at away matches, which affected his concentration in some early games.
City’s match against Fulham in January 1950 was Trautmann’s first visit to London. The match received widespread media attention, as most of the British press were based there; several leading sportswriters watched Trautmann in action for the first time. The damage caused to the city by the Luftwaffe meant former paratrooper Trautmann was a target of hatred for the crowd, who yelled “Kraut” and “Nazi”. City were struggling in the league, and widely expected to suffer a heavy defeat but a string of saves from Trautmann meant the final score was a narrow 1–0 loss. At the final whistle, Trautmann received a standing ovation, and was applauded off the pitch by both sets of players.
Over time, Trautmann gained acceptance through his performances in the City goal, playing in all but five of the club’s next 250 matches.
Manchester City had a strong season in 1955–56, finishing fourth in the league and Trautmann, won the FWA Footballer of the Year Award, the first goalkeeper to win the award. Two days later, Trautmann stepped out onto the Wembley pitch for the match that would gain him worldwide acclaim.
The 1956 FA Cup Final was contested between Manchester City and Birmingham City at Wembley Stadium in London on Saturday 5 May 1956. The match was watched by a crowd of 100,000 and a television audience of five million.
In the 75th minute, Trautmann, diving at an incoming ball, was knocked out in a collision with Birmingham’s Peter Murphy in which he was hit in the neck by Murphy’s right knee. No substitutes were permitted in those days, so Trautmann, dazed and unsteady on his feet, carried on. For the remaining 15 minutes he defended his net, making a crucial interception to deny Murphy once more. Despite his injury, he continued to play, making crucial saves to preserve his team’s 3–1 lead. No further goals were scored, and the referee blew for full time. As the players left the field, the crowd sang a chorus of “For he’s a jolly good fellow” in tribute to Trautmann’s bravery. Roy Paul led his team up the steps to the royal box to receive Manchester City’s third FA Cup. Trautmann’s neck continued to cause him pain, and Prince Philip commented on its crooked state as he gave Trautmann his winner’s medal. Three days later, an examination revealed that Trautmann had broken a bone in his neck. He had dislocated five vertebrae, the second of which was cracked in two. The third vertebra had wedged against the second, preventing further damage.
“Wherever I go, people always ask about my neck. I still have pain if I make unexpected movements of my head. But I was very lucky: surgeons told me I could have died or been paralysed.”
Trautmann played for Manchester City until 1964, making 545 appearances. On 15 April 1964, he ended his career with a testimonial in front of a crowd officially numbered at 47,000, though the true figure was estimated to be closer to 60,000. Trautmann captained a combined Manchester City and Manchester United XI against an International XI.
After his playing career, he moved into management and later as part of a German Football Association development scheme. In 2004, he was appointed an honorary Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for promoting Anglo-German understanding through football.
Trautmann died at home in Valencia, Spain, on 19 July 2013, aged 89.
Wikipedia: Bert Trautmann
Wikipedia: 1956 FA Cup Final
Guardian: Bert Trautmann: from Nazi paratrooper to hero of Manchester City
Άρθρα στα Ελληνικά:
Τρελοποδόσφαιρο: Ένας Γερμανός στο Μάντσεστερ
iefimerida: Μπερτ Τράουτμαν: Το πρωτοπαλίκαρο των Ναζί που λατρεύτηκε στην Αγγλία