Hitler’s Germany Dropped Ball

rudiball-1ger-Roemer

Left : RUDI BALL, on his major debut for Germany at the 1929 European Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

Right : ERICH ROEMER, shown here in the sweater of Schlittschuhclub Berlin, played 47 games (6 goals) for Germany in all competitions between 1927 and 1934.

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Knowledgable neutral observers at the 1934 IIHF World Championships most certainly would have noticed the omission of star forward RUDI BALL’s name from the roster of contemporary European power GERMANY for the annual ice hockey tournament held in Milan, Italy, that year.

After all, the 23-year-old right wing’s six goals at Prague twelve months earlier had ranked third among all players at the 1933 World Championships. At the 1932 Winter Olympics in the United States, the small but swift Ball had posted a hat trick in the crucial final match with Poland and, overall, was involved in five of seven German goals for the bronze medal-winning squad. Clearly, the still quite young Ball had proven himself to be an impact player for Germany.

In fact, since Ball first skated for Germany at the European Championships in Prague, only left wing GUSTAV JAENECKE (13 goals) had scored more often for the German national team at major international events than his linemate, Ball (11 goals), from 1929 thru 1933.

The combination of Ball and Jaenecke, who also skated together on the same forward line with Schlittschuhclub Berlin in the German domestic league until 1932, accounted for 24 of the German national team’s 38 goals scored (63%) at the five major international tournaments contested from 1929 to 1933 for Aussenkapitan (player-coach) ERICH ROEMER.

With these facts in mind, it would have been easy for the contemporary, knowledgable neutral observer in Milan to have wondered — had the German coach Roemer, after all the seasons on the blueline as a tough-but-skilled defender for both club and country, perhaps taken a stick to the head at some point that now somehow hampers his mental capacities?

The decision to drop Rudi Ball from the national ice hockey team in all likelihood, however, had absolutely nothing to do with Erich Roemer.

By the time of the Milan tournament, the 29-year-old Roemer was in his eighth season for the national side and had also served as Germany’s coach since 1929. As a key member of the traditional domestic powerhouse Schlittschuhclub Berlin, for whom he was also appointed player-coach in 1930, Roemer had already registered seven German league championships. At the 1930 World Championships, in only his second season serving as Aussenkapitan for the national team, the defenseman scored three goals in five games as Germany stormed to the European title while finishing second overall.

It was, of course, Roemer who was in his first season as German player-coach when the 18-year Ball first made his debut for the national team at the 1929 European Championships in Prague, Czechoslovakia.

ADOLF HILTLER, who had been appointed Chancellor by the aging President of the German Weimar Republic, PAUL VON HINDENBURG, on January 33, 1933, and his Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party) were well under way with what became known as MACHTERGREIFUNG (“seizure of power”) — the complete takeover of Germany’s government — by the time the first puck was dropped in Milan for the 1934 World Championships.

Shortly after Hitler’s historic appointment, the Nazis began a very public policy in Germany of persecution of the Jewish people. On April 1 in 1933, all Jewish businesses including shops, stores, doctors and lawyers were officially boycotted. Just six days later, the so-called Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service — the banning of Jews from government employment — was passed.

Things, of course, would only get worse for the Jews in Germany and, later, the rest of Europe, as well, in the years to follow.

1934 was Rudi Ball’s first season skating for the EHC St. Mortiz club in Switzerland after having left Schlittschuhclub Berlin. Ball’s two older brothers, also Schlittschuhclub players, made the move to Switzerland that year, as well, never to play in Germany ever again. Gerhard, the oldest of the Ball trio at 30 that season, was an accomplished goaltender for the mighty Schlittschuhclub Berlin and had made a few appearances with the German national team in his career. 

It was also the last year for Erich Roemer with the German national team. After defeating Switzerland 2-1 in the third place match at the World Championships in Milan, the Germans claimed a second European title since 1930 under Roemer. The veteran defenseman, who had forced overtime with a long-range goal five seconds from the end of regulation against the Swiss, played and coached his final game for Germany in the Italian Alps in 1934.

Roemer would continue to play with Schlittschuhclub Berlin until 1939, but his departure, highlighted by Ball’s absence, marked the end of the most successful period for Germany in international ice hockey competition and the beginning of an era with serious sinister overtones.

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