Finnish group sorry for demoting Jewish runner in ’38 race


(JTA) — Finland’s Amateur Athletic Association apologized for stripping a victory from a Jewish athlete during a national competition in 1938.

Abraham Tokazier in a 100-meter race at Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium crossed the finish line in first place, a photo from a local newspaper showed. Tokazier was placed in fourth, however, and a Finnish runner, Aare Savolainen, was named the winner.

The photo was reprinted recently in the Finnish Press.

The judges offered no explanation for relegating Tokazier to fourth, the French news agency AFP reported.

“Any manipulation or distortion of results is shocking and against basic sporting values,” said association chair Vesa Harmaakorpi in a statement issued Sept. 18. “The judges clearly made a mistake in the 1938 meet. I would like to offer a humble apology to the athlete and his relatives on behalf of the Finnish Sports Federation.”

Makkabi, the main Jewish sporting club in Finland, has long requested that the federation publicly acknowledge the demotion. International rules do not allow results to be adjusted after time has passed, according to the association. At the time, the results were judged with the naked eye.

Ari Bensky, a vice president of the World Union of Maccabi sports clubs, told Yle News that it was “a step in the right direction, but until the result has been corrected, we don’t see the matter as resolved.”

He added, “The fact is that everyone knows it was manipulation for political reasons — it was decided not to award him the win. They could not let a Jewish boy win at that time. There is a very important moral point here — to get the records corrected and to change the results.”

Finland was scheduled to host the Olympics in 1940, but the Games were canceled due to World War II.

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