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SILOAM SPRINGS, Arkansas (June 18, 2019) – Dr. Kevin Simpson, John Brown University department chair and professor of psychology, helped establish a memorial plaque at the MŠK Zilina Football Stadium in Slovakia to commemorate the more than 250 Jewish forced laborers who helped build it.

 

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Teaching at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia as the 2018-2019 Fulbright U.S. Scholar, Simpson discovered in reading the "Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945 (Volume III)," researching in the Slovak National Archives, and reviewing survivor testimonies and short histories, that 250 Jewish forced laborers helped construct the stadium's grandstands between 1940-1941 and 1943, under the supervision of the Hlinka Guard.

 

Work on the football stadium began in late 1940 and opened for the first match on Aug. 10, 1941.

 

Over 75 years later, on May 19, Simpson along with Club President Jozef Antošík unveiled a memorial plaque at the stadium that states, "The MŠK Zilina football club honors the memory of more than 250 Jewish forced laborers deprived of their civil and human rights based on the racial law, who between 1941 and 1943 built the foundation for the western tribune of this stadium. Let's stand together against antisemitism and racism in football!"

 

"This is the first plaque in all of Slovakia to link sports history with this wartime history," Simpson said. "I am so gratified to be part of this project, a lasting recognition for a group of people relentlessly pursued and persecuted so many years ago."

 

In 2016, Simpson published his first book titled "Soccer Under the Swastika: Stories of Resistance and Survival during the Holocaust" that reveals the powerful role football played during World War II through long-forgotten memoirs and testimonies. Simpson’s book integrates his two courses, the social psychology of the Holocaust and sport and exercise psychology. 

 

Simpson returned from his teaching fellowship in Slovakia in May. Visit jbu.edu/simpson to learn more.

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