The death match is a foot­ball match played in Nazi-occu­pied Kyiv in the sum­mer of 1942 between the Sovi­et and Ger­man teams. A num­ber of foot­ball play­ers from Kiev were shot; rumored to have refused to lose the meet­ing.

death match in Kyiv

The entry is relat­ed to the place: Kyiv

Before talk­ing about myself death matchLet’s delve a lit­tle into the back­ground. In 1941, when the Ger­mans suc­ceed­ed in cap­tur­ing Kyiv, a large group of foot­ball play­ers remained in the cap­i­tal of Ukraine. These were Niko­lai Kli­menko, Igor Kuz­menko, Niko­lai Korotkikh, Mikhail Gon­charenko, Vik­tor Sukharev, Niko­lai Tru­se­vich, Vladimir Bal­akin, Mikhail Mel­nik, Mikhail Putistin, Mikhail Sviri­dovsky. The play­ers were involved in the con­struc­tion of defen­sive struc­tures and could not sub­se­quent­ly get out of the siege. Dur­ing the fas­cist occu­pa­tion, famine pre­vailed in Kyiv. But through an acquain­tance, the play­ers man­aged to get a job as work­ers at the bak­ery No. 1. We worked as a team — just like we once played. In order to dis­tract from hard work and not lose their sports skills, every day after work the foot­ball play­ers played in the fac­to­ry yard and prac­ticed a lot. Although the Ger­mans seized more and more Ukrain­ian land, the play­ers did not part with the hope that the ene­my would be defeat­ed and they would still be able to play for Dynamo Kiev.

The guys named their new team “Start”. But every cit­i­zen of Kiev knew who they were. After all, before the war, Dynamo Kiev played just as bright­ly as they do today. The Nazis also knew this, but for the time being they did not touch it, not see­ing any threat in the play­ers. A year lat­er, in the sum­mer of 1942, the Ger­man com­mand decid­ed to diver­si­fy the cul­tur­al life of the cap­tured cap­i­tal and opened a “Ukrain­ian” sta­di­um on Bol­shaya Vasylkivs­ka Street. How­ev­er, Ukraini­ans were not allowed to enter. Foot­ball was a game for pure-blood­ed Aryans.

Most like­ly, it was pre­cise­ly with the aim of demon­strat­ing the strength of the Aryan nation that the Ger­mans decid­ed to hold a series of foot­ball match­es in which Ger­man play­ers would oppose the best teams from for­eign­ers. They just remem­bered the “Start” com­mand. And Ukraini­ans were allowed to come to the sta­di­um, which had been closed before. Let them look at the defeat of their for­mer idols.

The first game took place on June 5, 1942. The dec­o­ra­tion of the grand open­ing of the sta­di­um was a foot­ball match. “Start” defeat­ed the Ukrain­ian team “Rukh” with a score of 7: 2. The rest of the games with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of “Start” were held at the sta­di­um “Zenith”, which is on Kerosin­naya Street

June 21 “Start” — the team of the Hun­gar­i­an gar­ri­son — 6:2.
July 5 “Start” — the Roman­ian team — 11:0.
July 12 “Start” — a team of mil­i­tary rail­way work­ers — 9:1.
July 17 “Start” — mil­i­tary team “PGS” — 6:0.
July 19 “Start” — “MSG.Wal.” (Hun­gary) — 5:1.
July 26 “Start” — “MSG.Wal.” — 3:2.

Then the Flakelf team (team of Ger­man anti-air­craft gun­ners) played against the Sovi­et foot­ball play­ers.

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The first meet­ing took place on August 6, 1942. “Start” won with a crush­ing score of 5:1.

death match posterafisha2

Three days lat­er, the Ger­mans staged a rematch, putting togeth­er a rein­forced team. Before the start of the game, the play­ers greet­ed each oth­er. The Ger­mans: “Heil!”, the peo­ple of Kiev: “Phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion — hel­lo!”. The first goal was scored by the Ger­mans. Then Ivan Kuz­menko equal­ized the score with a long-range shot, and Makar Gon­charenko scored two goals in the first half. The sec­ond half was held in an equal tough fight. The Ger­mans scored two goals and equal­ized the score, but then the “Start” pulled out a 5:3 vic­to­ry. It was this fight in the Sovi­et Union that lat­er became known as death match, at the end of which the play­ers were alleged­ly shot. It was said that before the match, a Ger­man com­man­der, who was watch­ing the match, entered the lock­er room of Dynamo foot­ball play­ers. And in a harsh form, threat­en­ing with camps and exe­cu­tion, he ordered to lose.

Behind the fence, on the right side, there was a dress­ing room, the door of which was open, and I went inside. In the room were: N. Tru­se­vich, putting on a sweater, A. Kli­menko was already in uni­form, eat­ing bread, break­ing off pieces, and anoth­er one, whom I did not know, was lac­ing up his boots. At that moment, an offi­cer came in and kicked me out of the lock­er room. What he talked about with the play­ers will remain a secret for­ev­er. O. Yasin­sky.

Per­haps things were a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Just for the 25th anniver­sary of the Vic­to­ry, at the sug­ges­tion of the KGB, the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the CPSU and per­son­al­ly Leonid Brezh­nev, pro­pa­gan­da was launched to restore his­tor­i­cal jus­tice. Then the title of Hero of the Sovi­et Union was posthu­mous­ly award­ed to NKVD sabo­teur Ivan Kudra, who died in the Kiev under­ground. After lengthy inves­ti­ga­tions, the play­ers of the Start team were also reha­bil­i­tat­ed, who after the war were sum­moned for inter­ro­ga­tion by the KGB for a long time almost as trai­tors to the moth­er­land. Now they are heroes. Dynamo play­ers N. Tru­se­vich, A. Kli­menko, I. Kuz­menko and M. Korotkikh were posthu­mous­ly award­ed the medal ”For Courage”, and the sur­viv­ing play­ers of the ”Start”: B. Bal­akin, N. Gon­charenko, N. Mel­nikov, M. Pustynin, V. Sukharev and N. Sviri­dov were award­ed the medal ”For Mil­i­tary Mer­it”.

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The invaders, antic­i­pat­ing their defeat on the foot­ball field, did not want to humil­i­ate their army. There­fore, the match was orga­nized at the small sta­di­um “Zenith”, locat­ed far from the city cen­ter. But despite the plans of the Nazis, Kyiv fans filled the sta­di­um to capac­i­ty — they stood in the aisles, on the trees. This meet­ing evoked a surge of patri­o­tism among the Sovi­et peo­ple. It was not foot­ball pas­sions that raged at the sta­di­um. Every­thing turned as if there was a bat­tle between the teams of the Wehrma­cht and the Red Army. Most of the fans had some­one at the front. The sta­di­um roared, anti-fas­cist cries were heard. The Ger­mans did not like it, they arrest­ed many brawlers and fans, they fired from machine guns and pis­tols into the air …

But after the match end­ed, the Ger­mans did not arrest a sin­gle play­er. The proof is that after the foot­ball match ”Flakelf” — ”Start” the Kyiv team played two more match­es. One — with the same ”Flakelf”, which took place on August 9, 1942, and the sec­ond one – with the ”Rukh” team, which includ­ed work­ers from the Ukrain­ian author­i­ties and work­ers from local fac­to­ries. Both match­es ”Start” won. Foot­ball match­es ”Start” end­ed only in autumn, when it start­ed to rain.

So what real­ly hap­pened and where did the leg­end of the “death match” come from, accord­ing to which the entire win­ning team was alleged­ly shot by the Ger­mans?

Here is what Yu. Kras­nosh­chok said about this:

“Dur­ing the fas­cist occu­pa­tion, while work­ing at a tele­phone exchange, I heard from the Ger­mans, as well as from Ukrain­ian police­men, that the Dynamo team was arrest­ed not for win­ning the match, but because they, work­ing at the bak­ery No. 1, threw it into flour, from which baked bread for Ger­man orga­ni­za­tions in Kyiv, bro­ken glass. Many work­ers of the bak­ery were arrest­ed, includ­ing four Dynamo work­ers — Tru­se­vich, Kli­menko, Kuz­menko and Korotkikh. My acquain­tance of the state secu­ri­ty offi­cer lat­er told me about the same. Yes, and the for­mer chair­man of the Kyiv coun­cil Leon­ty Foros­tovsky in his book ”Kyiv under for­tune-telling occu­pa­tions” he does not write any­thing about the exe­cu­tion of the team.

It should be not­ed that out of the six­teen play­ers of Start, the occu­piers shot only four, and all of them were lieu­tenants of the NKVD. It just so hap­pened in Sovi­et foot­ball: the play­ers of the Loko­mo­tiv team were paid as dri­vers, the play­ers of Dynamo were paid as employ­ees of the NKVD. This was the main rea­son for their arrest. Who, if not offi­cers of the NKVD, could be sus­pect­ed of ter­ror­ism. But the four play­ers men­tioned were not involved in this sab­o­tage.”

Their rivals, Ger­man and Hun­gar­i­an foot­ball play­ers, came to the defense of the arrest­ed Kyiv Dynamo play­ers. Ger­man ath­letes still have the ideals of fair wrestling, because not so much time has passed since they orga­nized the XI World Sports Olympiad in Berlin in 1936. They did not believe that such tal­ent­ed foot­ball play­ers would throw glass into bread intend­ed for mil­i­tary hos­pi­tals, the wound­ed and med­ical staff, for women mobi­lized by the Nazis to work in the occu­pa­tion admin­is­tra­tion of the coun­try. And per­haps it would have been pos­si­ble to avoid the exe­cu­tion of Kyiv foot­ball play­ers. But after the arson of the sports equip­ment fac­to­ry ”Sport”, where sleds for the Ger­man army were being repaired, the Gestapo shot more than half of the work­ers in this small fac­to­ry and liq­ui­dat­ed 200 hostages in the Syrets camp. Four Dynamo play­ers also got into this group …

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case about death match, played by foot­ball play­ers of Ukraine and Nazi Ger­many in the sum­mer of 1942, ini­ti­at­ed by the pros­e­cu­tor’s office of Ham­burg back in 1974, was recent­ly final­ly closed by inves­ti­ga­tors. Accord­ing to the press sec­re­tary of the Ham­burg pros­e­cu­tor’s office Rüdeger Bag­ger, the com­mis­sion of inquiry thor­ough­ly stud­ied the data pro­vid­ed not only by the Ukrain­ian side, but also the mate­ri­als seized from the film crew of the first Ger­man tele­vi­sion chan­nel ARD

“Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Ger­man jus­tice had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to speak with wit­ness­es who were still chil­dren dur­ing the match,” the radio sta­tion quot­ed Bag­ger as say­ing. Ger­man inves­ti­ga­tors man­aged to find out the cir­cum­stances of the death of Ukrain­ian play­ers. Rüdeger Bag­ger explained: “It was pos­si­ble to find out that the play­ers Niko­lai Tru­se­vich, Ivan Kuz­menko and Alek­sey Kli­menko died a long time after the game, or rather, in the spring of 1943 in a con­cen­tra­tion camp on Syrets. They were shot at the direc­tion of the camp com­man­dant. unre­lat­ed to the out­come of that game.” To prove the exis­tence of the SS offi­cer who threat­ened the play­ers still failed.

In 1965, the Pre­sid­i­um of the Supreme Sovi­et of the RSFSR award­ed the sur­viv­ing par­tic­i­pants in the death match with medals “For Mil­i­tary Mer­it”. The dead were award­ed medals “For Courage”. Thus, a foot­ball vic­to­ry was equat­ed to a mil­i­tary feat on the bat­tle­field. And at the Dynamo sta­di­um in Kyiv, a mon­u­ment ded­i­cat­ed to the feat of fear­less foot­ball play­ers was erect­ed.

memorial death match