A darker side to the Trautmann legend
Bert Trautmann's place in Manchester City folklore was secured on May 8th, 1956, when an x-ray revealed that he had played the final 17 minutes of City's 3-1 victory over Birmingham in the FA Cup final at Wembley three days earlier with a broken bone in his neck.
The City goalkeeper had suffered the injury diving at the feet of the Birmingham inside left, Peter Murphy, yet made several saves in the minutes that followed. For the former German paratrooper, who had earned five military medals fighting for the enemy in World War Two, it was the moment that completed a journey to acceptance that had seemed impossible when 20,000 attended a demonstration opposing City's decision to sign him in 1949.
His life story was told by Alan Rowlands in a biography first published in 1990 and updated in 2005. Rowlands drew attention to Trautmann's involvement with the Hitler Youth movement and his evident commitment to Germany's cause but somehow managed not to diminish his standing in the eyes of City fans.
Now a new version of the Trautmann story, written by television producer Catrine Clay, addresses some of the questions Rowlands left unanswered. It is based on many interviews with Trautmann. now aged 86, and is written sympathetically, yet presents a portrait that many admirers may find less appealing.
Indeed, in his review in The Times, Howard Davies, who is the director of the London School of Economics when not indulging his passion for Manchester City, admitted that, while interesting, it was a book he wished he had never read.
"My father told me that Trautmann was a good German, not a Nazi... a gentle giant who never hurt a fly," Davies wrote. "The only problem is that none of the above description of his life is true."
According to Clay, Trautmann was an enthusiastic member of the Hitler Youth and volunteered for the Luftwaffe at 17, later witnessing the killing and burying of Jews in the Ukraine. Captured by the British on the Western Front, he wound up at a prisoner-of-war camp in the Manchester area, where he was classified as a Nazi supporter.
Clay, who produced her first BBC documentary in 1989 and has contributed several films to the Timewatch series, many dealing with aspects of Nazi Germany, does not mention Trautmann's signing for Manchester City until page 273, which means that the status of Trautmann's Journey: From Hitler Youth to FA Cup Legend as a sports book is questionable.
Nonetheless, many football fans will find it irresistible. It is published on April 1st by Yellow Jersey Press.
Buy Trautmann's Journey: From Hitler Youth to FA Cup Legend
See also: Trautmann by Alan Rowlands.