Nakache, Alfred : Jews In Sports @ Virtual Museum

Nakache, Alfred

swimming, water polo

Country Represented:

Years Competed:
1936, 1948

Olympic Info:
Nakache is one of only two Jewish Olympians to compete in the Games after surviving a concentration camp (the other is Ben Helfgott). A freestyle swimmer, Nakache competed for France at the 1936 Berlin Olympics in the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. In the preliminaries, the French team won its heat in 9:21.7 minutes with Nakache swimming the second leg. They advanced to the finals and finished fourth, just missing a medal.

Nakache returned to the Olympics twelve years later at the 1948 London Games (there were no Games in 1940 or 1944 due to World War II) as a member of France's swim and water polo teams. Alfred competed in the 200-meter breaststroke and finished second in his qualifying heat with a time of 2:50.7. He advanced to the semifinals, but no further after finishing last in his heat with a time of 2:59.1.

Nakache also played for the French water polo team at the London Games. They defeated Greece (7-1) and tied Egypt (3-3) to advance to the final round. They finished in sixth place overall after tying Sweden in the fifth-place game (Sweden finished ahead of them because of goal differential).

Career Highlights:
Between 1936-1946, Nakache won the French 100-meter freestyle six times, the 200-meter freestyle four times, and the 200-meter breaststroke four times. In 1938, he won a silver medal at the European Championships as a member of the 4x200-meter freestyle relay. When the Nazis occupied France during World War II, his swimming career, and his life, were put in jeopardy.

In 1941, after defeating the German champion Joachim Balke, enroute to setting a World and European breaststroke record (2:36.8), a French journalist wrote: "The Jew Nakache should not be allowed to hold any European titles because he is Jewish." His opponents worked to keep Nakache from competing in German-occupied France. Other French swimmers withdrew from national competitions in support of Nakache, but in January 1944, Alfred, his wife and their two-year old daughter were arrested and deported to Auschwitz.

Of the 1,368 men, women and children in their death camp convoy, only 47 survived. His wife and daughter perished. In August, 1946, less than one year after being liberated from Auschwitz, Nakache swam on the French 3x100 Relay Team that established a world record of 3.19.9. Only one month later, the Frenchmen lowered their relay mark to 3.12.3, in Marseilles. A member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Nakache was the subject of a French documentary in 2001 entitled Alfred Nakache, the Swimmer of Auschwitz.

Birth and Death Dates:
b. Nov. 1915 - d. 1983

Constantine, Algeria

Use links below to navigate through the olympics section of Jews In Sports.

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Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, by Joseph Siegman (Washington, D.C.: Brassey's, 2000)
encyclopedia of JEWS in sports, by Bernard Postal, Jesse Silver, and Roy Silver (New York: Bloch Publishing Co., 1965)
New York Times, August 3-14, 1936
New York Times, August 7, 1948