Otto Herschmann

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Otto Herschmann
Otto Herschmann.jpg
Personal information
Born(1877-01-04)4 January 1877
Vienna, Austria
Died14 June 1942(1942-06-14) (aged 65)
Izbica concentration camp
Occupationswimmer, fencer, lawyer, and sport official
SportSwimming and fencing
Club1.W.A.S.C., Vienna (Austria) / Wiener AC, Vienna (Austria)
Achievements and titles
Olympic finals1896, 1912

Dr. Otto Herschmann (4 January 1877 – 14 June 1942) was a Jewish Austrian swimmer, fencer, lawyer, and sports official.[1]

Herschmann won a silver medal at the initial modern Olympic Games, the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, in the men's 100-metre freestyle event. He also won a silver medal at the 1912 Summer Olympics, in the men's team sabre event in fencing. Herschmann is one of only a few athletes who have won Olympic medals in more than one sport.

He served as President of the Austrian Olympic Committee from 1912 to 1914. Herschmann was then President of the Austrian Swimming Federation from 1914 to 1932.

During the Nazi era, Herschmann was persecuted because he was Jewish. The Nazis arrested him in Vienna and deported him in 1942 to the Sobibór extermination camp, and then to the Izbica concentration camp, where he was killed.


Herschmann was Jewish, and was born in Vienna, Austria.[1][2][3][4] He was affiliated with the 1.W.A.S.C. in Vienna, and the Wiener AC in Vienna.[4]

Olympic swimming career[edit]

Herschmann first competed at the initial modern Olympic Games, the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, at the age of 19 in the men's 100 metres freestyle swimming event.[1][3][4][5] On 30 March, he and the other swimmers were taken by boat into the Bay of Piraeus to compete in the open sea.[4] The competitors swam from a starting line between two buoys, through a course marked by a number of floating hollow pumpkins, to a red flag finish line at the shore.[4]

Herschmann placed second and won a silver medal, with a time of 1:22.8, 0.6 seconds and half a metre behind the winner, Alfréd Hajós, as the other swimmers trailed far behind.[4][6][7][8][9][10][11] ranked Herschmann as tied for the second-best swimmer of the 1890s, behind Alfréd Hajós.[12] In 1904, he wrote Wiener Sport, which was published by H. Seemann.[13]

Olympic fencing career[edit]

In the 1906 Summer Olympics, Herschmann competed in Athens in individual sabre, but did not medal.[4] He returned to Olympic competition at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, competing as a member of Austria's sabre fencing team at the age of 35, 16 years after he first won a medal.[1][10] On 15 July he won a silver medal in the team competition.[1][9][10][11][14] In so doing, he became one of only a few athletes to win Olympic medals in more than one sport.[1][15][16][17]

Other Jewish fencers who participated in the 1912 Olympics included Hungarian gold-medal winning sabre fencers Dr. Jenő Fuchs, Dr. Dezső Földes, Lajos Werkner, and Dr. Oszkár Gerde, and Austrian silver-medal winning sabre fencer Albert Bogen.[11]

Athletic administrative posts[edit]

At the time he won his fencing medal, Herschmann was serving as President of the Austrian Olympic Committee, a position that he held from 1912 to 1914.[1][18] He is the only person to win an Olympic medal while serving as president of a National Olympic Committee.[1][19]

Herschmann was one of Europe's top authorities in sports.[20][21] In November 1913, he traveled to various cities in the United States, including Boston, New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Chicago, to study US sports organizations and recruit trainers to work with Austrian athletes training for the Olympics.[20][22][23][24][25] That month, when he was visiting the U.S. as the Austrian athletic envoy, the Boston Athletic Association gave him a banquet, and in December 1913 the Board of Governors of the New York Athletic Club held a banquet honoring him.[26][27] He lauded the United States system for the quality of physical and mental training provided.[21][24][28] He noted in contrast to the European system, high-quality training was provided to all athletes, not only those who lacked natural talent.[21]

Herschmann served as President of the Austrian Swimming Federation from 1914 to 1932.[4][18]

Concentration camp and death[edit]

Herschmann was in private practice as a lawyer in the 1940s. He was persecuted during the era of the Nazis because he was Jewish.[18] Herschmann was deported from Vienna on 14 January 1942 to Izbica concentration camp in German-occupied Poland.[3][4][6]

Herschmann died on 14 June 1942 (or on 17 June) in Sobibór extermination camp in Sobibór, Lubelskie, Poland, most likely by being gassed to death.[3][4][10][18][29][29]


Otto-Herschmann-Gasse in Vienna, Austria

Herschmann was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.[3] On 7 November 2001 his hometown Vienna named a lane "Otto-Herschmann-Gasse" (Otto Herschmann Alley) in his honor in Simmering, the 11th District of Vienna.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Joseph M. Siegman (1992). The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. SP Books. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  2. ^ Jim Reisler (2012). Igniting the Flame: America's First Olympic Team. Globe Pequot. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Otto Herschmann". Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Otto Herschmann Bio, Stats, and Results | Olympics at". Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  5. ^ John Nauright, Charles Parrish (2012). Sports Around the World: History, Culture, and Practice. ABC-CLIO. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Nach 116 Jahren: Silber für Otto Herschmann". Kurier.At. 24 July 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  7. ^ Olaf Brockmann (12 July 2012). "Olympic Silver for Austria 116 years late" (in German). Kronen Zeitung. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  8. ^ "Otto Herschmann Olympic Results". Retrieved 7 April 2010.
  9. ^ a b Peter S. Horvitz (2007). The Big Book of Jewish Sports Heroes: An Illustrated Compendium of Sports History & the 150 Greatest Jewish Sports Stars. SP Books. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d Paul Taylor (2004). Jews and the Olympic Games: The Clash Between Sport and Politics – With a Complete Review of Jewish Olympic Medalists. Sussex Academic Press. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  11. ^ a b c Bob Wechsler (2008). Day by Day in Jewish Sports History. KTAV Publishing House. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  12. ^ "Swimming All Time Greats Top Swimmers of the 1890s". Archived from the original on 13 August 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  13. ^ Otto Herschmann (1904). Wiener Sport. H. Seemann. Retrieved 30 March 2013.
  14. ^ Leonard Greenspoon (2012). Jews in the Gym: Judaism, Sports, and Athletics. Purdue University Press. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  15. ^ Jewish Book World (2006). Jewish Book World, Volumes 24–25. JWB Jewish Book Council. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  16. ^ Uriel Simri (July 1973). Physical education and sports in the Jewish history and culture: proceedings of an international seminar at Wingate Institute. Wingate Institute for Physical Education and Sport. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  17. ^ Dr. Uriel Simri. "A historical view of Jewish men and women in sports and their participation". International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved 8 April 2013.
  18. ^ a b c d e "Archivmeldung: Simmering: Namensgebung für die Otto-Herschmann-Gasse" (in German). 11 June 2001. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  19. ^ Doug Lennox (2009). Now You Know Big Book of Sports. Dundurn. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  20. ^ a b American Athletes the Best Trained. The Reformatory Press – Iowa. Reformatory at Anamosa. 1913. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  21. ^ a b c "U.S. Athletics Best Trained". The Clinton County Times. 19 December 1913. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  22. ^ "Dr. Herschmann Sails". Christian Science Monitor. 3 December 1913. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  23. ^ American Physical Education Review; Physical Culture in America. American Physical Education Association. 1914. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  24. ^ a b "Praise for our Athletics; Dr. Otto Herschmann, Austrian Envoy, has Gathered Valuable Material During Tour". Boston Evening Transcript. 1 December 1913. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  25. ^ "Austria Sends Athletic Envoy". Spokane Daily Chronicle. 10 November 1913. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  26. ^ "Dr Herschmann Guest at B. A. A.; Deeply Impressed by Harvard Equipment. Austrian Olympic Commissioner Returns to New York Today. Examines Gymnasiums and Baths of the City". Boston Daily Globe. 26 November 1913. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  27. ^ "TO DINE DR. HERSCHMANN. – Austrian Athletic Envoy to be Honored by New York A.C. To-night". The New York Times. December 1913. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  28. ^ "Sports News Pot Pourri" (PDF). The Morning Oregonian. 6 December 1913. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  29. ^ a b Schaffer, Kay; Smith, Sidonie (2000). The Olympics at the Millennium: Power, Politics, and the Games. Rutgers University Press. pp. 60–62. ISBN 978-0-8135-2820-5.

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