ID Card: Mannheim Ice and Roller Skating Club
by Bruce Kipp
In the latter half of the 19th Century, roller skating became popular in Europe. Germany’s first roller-rink was built in Berlin in 1876. As roller skating evolved from a recreational activity into a sport, roller skating clubs were formed in cities and towns and competitions were held.
The German national body for roller skating sports, the Federation of German Roller Sport Skating Clubs, was founded in 1911 in Leipzig. That same year, the first German roller figure skating championship was held in Stuttgart. During the 1920s and 1930s, Germany hosted a number of European and World Championships in roller hockey, roller speed skating, and roller figure skating.
As part of the Nazi program to reinvigorate the German people, the party launched nation-wide sports and physical fitness programs. In 1933, Hitler appointed SA-Gruppenführer Hans von Tschammer und Osten as National Commissioner for Sports (Reichssportführer) and charged him to bring all German sports activity under Nazi control. To this end, he took control of the existing national body for sports and physical fitness, the German National Committee for Physical Training (DRA), and vested it as the supreme controlling authority of all German sports organizations. In July 1933, the civilian DRA was replaced by the government controlled German National Physical Training Union (DRL). Within a short time all amateur, semi-professional and professional sport groups lost their independence and became specialty groups in the DRL.
The Mannheim Ice and Roller Skating Club (Mannheimer Eis- und Rollsport-Club — MERC) was formed in 1936, as a branch of Mannheim’s Rowing Club. Not having a facility of its own, they skated at a variety of locations. In the spring of 1938, they skated at the Rhine-Neckar Hall in Heidelberg until the Friedrichspark Ice Skating Stadium (Eisstadion am Friedrichspark) in Mannheim was built in February 1939. In June 1943, an Allied air raid destroyed the Friedrichspark Ice Skating Stadium, putting an end to ice skating and roller skating activity in Mannheim.
The MERC was part of “Specialty Group 13” (Fachamt 13: Eis- und Rollsport). In December 1938, Adolf Hitler issued a decree that reorganized the DRL and renamed it National-Socialist National League for Physical Training (Nationalsozialistischer Reichsbund für Leibesübungen —the NSRL). By 1 April 1939, the NSRL consisted of nearly 45,000 sports clubs and associations with some 3.5 million active members.
This member’s identification card from the Mannheim Ice Skating and Roller Skating Club is composed of gray, medium card stock about 12cm x 9cm in size. Its vertical, postcard-style, format consists of an obverse (front) and a reverse (back). The reverse (not shown) is blank. It was issued to 31-year old Karl Apfel, a resident of the Mannheim suburb of Neckarau.
In 1939, MERC formed an amateur ice hockey team to participate in the German league. In its very first season the team reached the quarter-finals before being defeated. They repeated this achievement in 1941. The MERC team reached the semifinals in 1942 and 1943 only to have the remaining matches canceled due to wartime restrictions on the home front. In June 1943, an Allied air raid destroyed the Friedrichspark Ice Skating Stadium and so put an end to ice hockey in Mannheim for the remainder of the war.