Some people have amazing lives. Some people die far away from the place they were born and take life journeys they did not expect, in some cases crossing ideological borders. Bert Trautmann is someone like this and Catrine Clay has told his story in this excellent book.
Trautmann was most famous for continuing to play in the FA Cup final match despite having broken his neck. In considerable agony he joined his victorious team mates in collecting the cup for Manchester City. This was 1956 and England forgave Trautmann for being a German; he was a ‘good German’ and ‘our German’. What this book shows, though, is that it was quite a journey from his birth to a life in post- war Britain.
He was a true believer in the Hitler Youth and as a boy he welcomed a fight. He took part in the war as a loyal German and a loyal Nazi and he was a prisoner of war in Britain following defeat. He stayed here, refusing the offer of repatriation, and settled in Lancashire. He played for a non- league side as a goalkeeper before Manchester City showed an interest in him. At the time, City was a team in the First Division (the highest at the time) so he was in a prominent position.
Catrine Clay shows that the perception of modern times that Germans were duped by a corrupt regime is not correct. Many Germans were willing to fight because Hitler had saved their country. Trautmann’s war record is not easy reading. Re-education of POWs by the British may have been effective and he did have to cope with a certain amount of hostility when he first came to play for City in 1949 but it is best not to forget his early years when assessing his whole life. Catrine Clay has done an excellent job in this book which shows that sport and international relations are closely bound.