The Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary (MAZSIHISZ) and Hungarian football club Ferencváros Torna Club (FTC) paid tribute to István “Potya” Tóth, the legendary football player and coach of Ferencváros, who died as a martyr in 1945.
Tóth, who also played for the Hungarian national team, took part in saving Jews during World War II as part of the resistance movement. In recognition of his deeds, and on the 76th anniversary of his death, his name was written on the marble slab of saviours in the Raoul Wallenberg Holocaust Memorial Park of the Dohány Street Synagogue, in the presence of his descendants.
MAZSIHISZ president András Heisler thanked FTC president Gábor Kubatov for the mission of promoting tolerance that the club carries out.
Heisler recalled a personal story: his uncle was shot in the forehead into the Danube by the Arrow Cross but survived and after World War II he moved to Israel. The uncle was a big FTC (“Fradi”) fan and in spite of all circumstances he managed to to attend football match of his favourite club in 1944. Heisler also recalled 2018 match between FTC and Maccabi Tel Aviv, when Kubatov stood firmly against all forms of racism.
In his speech, Mr. Kubatov emphasised that “sport teaches us all about everything. Also things that are not taught in schools or at home. Things that we don’t think about when we desire the victory. FTC is committed to promote that no form of exclusion can be tolerated.”
“We are happy to be part of another noble cause. Our club has been consistently fighting against exclusion in the past 10 years, that is why we have joined the initiative of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) last year, which we declared on the club’s website, as you have already heard,” Kubatov added.
“Sport is one of the greatest teachers in the world. It teaches us to be prepared, to fight, to face the reality and that you must strengthen the weak and that the desire for victory has a limit since you cannot do anything to win. Not everything.”
“István “Potya” Tóth was an excellent sportsman, an ingenious coach and a great man. He did what he learnt from the sport: to help weak and hunted people. People that were excluded from fair play rules,” he concluded.
Yacov Hadas-Handelsman, ambassador of Israel to Hungary stated that István “Potya” Tóth had been a hero who also empowered Jewish players. “Without him, FTC would have not been able to score such a lots of victories. This man was a beacon in the darkest times of humanity. He helped Jews knowing that he put his life on risk.”
Chief Rabbi Péter Kardos, a well-known “Fradi”-fan, said mourning prayer, then went on to explain that for a long time, for many decades it had been a taboo topic to discuss István “Potya” Tóth’s deeds.
“Fradi fans did not mention his name or what he did. They were afraid. During the 1950’s communist regimes there was no place for a man who was a Fradi player, who moreover saved Jews.”
Chief-Rabbi Kardos prayed: “Let his name be united with those who live forever and this plaque shall be goldened by the thankfulness and gratitude of the Hungarian Jewish people.”
Péter Szegedi, a sports historian paid tribute to the deeds of István “Potya” Tóth. István “Potya” Tóth’s grandchild and his two great-great-grandchildren were also present at the commemoration.
István “Polya” Tóth as football player won two championship titles and two Hungarian Cups. As a coach he won three championship titles and three Hungarian Cups.
Serving in the auxiliary corps of the Ministry of Defence’s Aviation Office during the Second World War he saved hundreds of people. He sheltered his countrymen in his home at Telepes street, for which he was arrested in 1944, and on February 6, 1945, 5 days before the breakout attempt of Buda, he was executed without trial by the Arrow Cross.
The memory of his heroic death is now not only commemorated on a plaque in the Buda Castle, but here at the Wallenberg Memorial Park as well. And what is most important, he lives on in our memories as well. As an example of human greatness which can even lead the way for our children.
“Let his name be united with those who live forever and this plaque shall be goldened by the thankfulness and gratitude of the Hungarian Jewish people.”
Click here for the photo gallery of the commemoration