Swimmer Judith Deutsch Is Born United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

September 18, 1918

Champion swimmer Judith Deutsch is born in Vienna, Austria.

Most Austrian athletic clubs ban her because she is Jewish, so she begins swimming with a Jewish club, Hakoah Vienna. Between 1933 and 1935 she sets every Austrian freestyle record at middle and long distances, and the Austrian Sports Authority names her 1935’s Outstanding Female Athlete. She is awarded the Golden Badge of Honor in 1936 as one of the nation’s top three athletes.

She is chosen to represent Austria in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. But she joins swimming teammates Ruth Langer and Lucie Golder in refusing to go, saying she will not compete “in a land which so shamefully persecutes my people.” After being suspended from competing in Austria for joining top Jewish athletes around the world in boycotting the Olympics, she immigrates to Mandatory Palestine. Austria expunges her titles and records from the books, but she becomes a national champion in Israel, where her married name is Judith Deutsch Haspel. Austria reverses its sanctions and apologizes to her in 1995.

A recipient of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame’s Pillar of Achievement, Deutsch Haspel dies in Herzliya in 2004 at age 86.