Country  Germany
Founded 1933
Folded 1945
Replaced by Oberliga
Level on pyramid Level 1
Domestic cup(s) Tschammerpokal
Last champions Dresdner SC

A Gauliga (German pronunciation: [ˈɡaʊˌliːɡa]) was the highest level of play in German football from 1933 to 1945. The leagues were introduced in 1933, after the Nazi takeover of power by the Sports office of the Third Reich.


The German word Gauliga is composed of Gau, approximately meaning county or region, and Liga, or league. The plural is Gauligen. While the name Gauliga is not in use in German football anymore, mainly because it is attached to the Nazi past, some sports in Germany still have Gauligen, like gymnastics and faustball.


The initial 16 districts of the Gauliga in 1933.

The Gauligen were formed in 1933 to replace the previously existing Bezirksligas in Weimar Germany. The Nazis initially introduced 16 regional Gauligen, some of them subdivided into groups. The introduction of the Gauligen was part of the Gleichschaltung process, whereby the Nazis completely revamped the domestic administration. The Gauligen were largely formed along the new Gaue, designed to replace the old German states, like Prussia and Bavaria, and therefore gain better control over the country.

This step came as a disappointment to many more forward thinking football officials, like the German national team managers Otto Nerz and Sepp Herberger,[1] who had hoped for a Reichsliga, a unified highest competition for all of Germany, like the ones already in place in countries like Italy (Serie A) and England (The Football League). Shortly before the Nazis came to power, the DFB started to seriously consider the establishment of such a national league. In a special session on 28 and 29 May 1933, a decision was to be made on the establishment of the Reichsliga as a professional league. Four weeks before that date, the session was cancelled, professionalism and Nazi ideology did not agree with each other.[2] With the disappointing performance of the German team at the 1938 FIFA World Cup, the debate about a Reichsliga was reopened. In August 1939, a meeting was to be held to decide on the creation of a league system of six Gauligas as a transition stage to the Reichsliga, but the outbreak of the Second World War shortly after ended this debate, too.[2] In reality, this step was not taken until 1963, when the Bundesliga was formed, for similar reason, after the disappointing performance at the 1962 FIFA World Cup, .[3] It did, however, reduce the number of clubs in top leagues in the country considerably, from roughly 600 to 170.[4]

Beginning in 1935, with the re-admittance of the Saarland into Germany, the country and the leagues began to expand. With the aggressive expansion politics, and later, through the Second World War, Germany grew considerably in size. New or regained territories were incorporated into the Third Reich. In those regions incorporated into Germany, new Gauligen were formed.[5]

With the outbreak of the Second World War, football continued but competitions were reduced in size as many players were drafted to the German Wehrmacht. Most Gauligen split into subgroups to reduce travel, which became increasingly more difficult as the war went on.

Many clubs had to merge or form Kriegsgemeinschaften (war associations) due to lack of players. The competition became increasingly flawed as the list of available players to a club fluctuated on a weekly basis, depending on who was where at a time.

The last season, 1944–45, was never completed, as large parts of Germany were already under allied occupation and the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945 ended all sports competitions, the last official match having been played on 23 April.


Unlike most leagues today, where income is generated from sponsors and TV in addition to ticket sales, the Gauliga teams relied on ticket sales as the exclusive source of income. But while in today's leagues the hosting teams keep the cash from the ticket sales, this was handled differently in the Gauligen. In the regular season, in cup matches or other competitive matches, the money was shared between the German Football Association, who received 5% of the income, the hosting club and the hosted club. In particular, the hosting club received 10% for using their ground and 5% for administrative costs. The remaining 75% of the matchday income were shared between the two clubs. These relations changed for the play-offs for the German championship. Here the matches were usually played on neutral ground, therefore 15% of the income were allotted for renting the ground, administrative cost and travel cost for the teams. The remaining income was divided equally between the clubs and the DFB. For the semi-final and final matches, yet another distribution key was applied. In the semi-final, teams received 20% of the net income (that is, after rent, administrative and travel costs had been deducted) and in the final their share was reduced to 15%.[6]


While some areas took until 1947, to restart football competitions, in the south of Germany, a highest league was formed soon after the Nazi collapse. The new Oberligen took the place of the Gauligen from 1945, when six new leagues were gradually formed in what was left of Germany:

Influence of the Nazis in football

With the rise of the Nazis to power, the German Football Association came fully under the party's influence. All sport, including football, was controlled by the Reichssportführer (Reich Sports Leader) Hans von Tschammer und Osten. In 1935, the newly established German cup, the Tschammerpokal, now the DFB-Pokal, was named after him. The Nazis prohibited all workers sports clubs (Arbeiter Sportvereine) and, increasingly so, all Jewish sport associations. Jewish clubs were immediately removed from all national football competitions in 1933 and had to play their own tournaments. From 1938, all Jewish sport clubs were forbidden outright.[7]

Additionally, clubs with strong connections to Jews were punished and fell into disfavor, like Bayern Munich, who had a Jewish coach (Richard Dombi) and chairman (Kurt Landauer).[8] After the annexation of Austria in 1938, FK Austria Wien, another club with strong Jewish ties, suffered from prosecution and many of the club's leaders, like its chairman Emanuel Schwarz, had to escape to survive the Nazi regime.[9] Apart from those two clubs, the VfR Mannheim, VfB Mühlburg, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, Stuttgarter Kickers, Eintracht Frankfurt and FSV Frankfurt had all benefited in their pre-1933 success from a strong Jewish membership in the clubs and found themselves initially unpopular with the Nazis. Even though Jews were soon removed from all these clubs, some retained a more open-minded attitude than others and continued to be out of favor with the Nazis. The players of Bayern Munich for example were heavily criticized for greeting their former chairman Landauer at a friendly at Servette Geneva in Switzerland.[10]

The Nazis were, however, interested in furthering sport, especially football, as success in the sport served their propaganda efforts. Hans von Tschammer und Osten specifically ordered that players from former workers' sports movements be integrated in the Nazi-approved clubs, as the Nazis could not afford to lose the country's best players. Upon his orders, teams were not selected by political criteria, but by performance criteria.

Despite this, the number of active players and clubs declined in regions like the Ruhr area, where the workers' movement was traditionally strong.[11]

The fact that some famous players, like FC Schalke 04's Tibulski, Kalwitzki, Fritz Szepan, and Ernst Kuzorra, had less-than-German-sounding names and were mostly descendants of Polish immigrants, was ignored by the Nazis. On the contrary, players like Szepan successfully represented Nazi Germany in the 1934 and 1938 World Cups.[12] Jewish players like the two former internationals Gottfried Fuchs and Julius Hirsch were not as welcome. Fuchs, who had scored an incredible 10 goals versus Russia in 1912, migrated to Canada, while Hirsch died in Auschwitz.[10]

In occupied territories

The Nazis' position to football and its clubs in the occupied territories varied greatly. Local clubs in Eastern Europe, such as Polish and Czech clubs, were not permitted to compete in the Gauligen. The situation was different in Western Europe, where clubs from Alsace, Lorraine, and Luxembourg took part in the Gauliga system under Germanised names.

Clubs with a Czech majority, while part of the German Reich, played out their own national, Bohemia/Moravia championship in this time, parallel to the German Gauliga Böhmen und Mähren, but were racially segregated.[13]

German championship

The winners of the various Gauligen qualified for the finals of the German championship, held at the end of season.

From 1934-38, the system was straight forward, as the 16 Gauliga champions were allocated in four groups of four teams. After a home-and-away round, the winners of the four groups played a semi-final on neutral ground. The two winners of the semi-finals went to the final to determine the German champion.

In the years 1939, 1940, and 1941, the number of groups was extended to compensate for the additional Gauligen created.

From 1942, the competition was played in a single-game knock-out format due to the worsening situation in the war.

While FC Schalke 04 was by far the most successful club in this era, however in 1941 the title went to Austria with Rapid Wien. Also, a Luxembourgian club, Stade Dudelange (renamed FV Stadt Düdelingen), managed to reach the first round of the championship and cup in 1942.

German championship finals under the Gauliga system

Year Champion Runner-Up Result Date Venue Attendance
1944Dresdner SCLSV Hamburg4-018 June 1944Berlin70,000
1943Dresdner SCFV Saarbrücken3-027 June 1943Berlin80,000
1942FC Schalke 04First Vienna FC2-05 July 1942Berlin90,000
1941Rapid WienFC Schalke 044-322 June 1941Berlin95,000
1940FC Schalke 04Dresdner SC1-021 July 1940Berlin95,000
1939FC Schalke 04Admira Wien9-018 June 1939Berlin100,000
1938Hannover 96FC Schalke 043-3 aet
4-3 aet
26 June 1938
3 July 1938
1937FC Schalke 041. FC Nuremberg2-020 June 1937Berlin100,000
19361. FC NurembergFortuna Düsseldorf2-1 aet21 June 1936Berlin45,000
1935FC Schalke 04VfB Stuttgart6-423 June 1935Cologne74,000
1934FC Schalke 041. FC Nuremberg2-124 June 1934Berlin45,000

German cup finals under the Gauliga system

The German Cup competition was first played out in 1935 and ceased in 1943, only restarting again in 1953. During the Third Reich, it was called The von Tschammer und Osten Pokal.

Year Winner Finalist Result Date Venue Attendance
1943First Vienna FCLSV Hamburg3-2 aet 31 October 1943Stuttgart45,000
1942TSV 1860 MunichFC Schalke 042-0 15 October 1942Berlin80,000
1941Dresdner SCFC Schalke 042-1 2 October 1941Berlin65,000
1940Dresdner SC1. FC Nuremberg2-1 aet 1 December 1940Berlin60,000
19391. FC NurembergSV Waldhof Mannheim2-0 8 April 1940Berlin60,000
1938Rapid WienFSV Frankfurt3-1 8 January 1939Berlin38,000
1937FC Schalke 04Fortuna Düsseldorf2-1 9 January 1938Köln72,000
1936VfB LeipzigFC Schalke 042-1 3 January 1937Berlin70,000
19351. FC NurembergFC Schalke 042-0 8 December 1935Düsseldorf55,000

List of Gauligen

Map of Nazi Germany showing its administrative subdivisions, the Reichsgaue

Original Gauligen in 1933

Gauligen formed through subdivision of existing leagues

Gauligen formed after German expansion

Map of Nazi Germany showing its expansion 1938 -1945

Clubs in the Gauligen from annexed territories

Three of the Gauligen contained clubs from regions occupied and annexed by Germany after the start of the Second World War in 1939.

The Gauliga Elsaß was completely made up of French clubs from Alsace, who had to Germanise their names, like RC Strasbourg, which become Rasen SC Straßburg.

In the Gauliga Westmark three clubs from the French Lorraine region played under their German names:

In the Gauliga Moselland, clubs from Luxembourg took part in the competition, including:

In the Gauliga Schlesien, later the Gauliga Oberschlesien, a number of clubs from Poland played under their German names:

Gauliga timeline

This timeline shows the length of time periods certain Gauligen existed. Note however, that all Gauligen were severely restricted after 1944 and none finished the 1944-45 season. Due to the German military collapse, information on the last season is generally limited, especially in the occupied areas.

See also

In popular culture

Das große Spiel (The big game), a movie about a fictitious German football team, Gloria 03, directed by Robert Stemmle, released in 1942. The scenes at the final were filmed at the 1941 German championship final Rapid Wien versus FC Schalke 04.[14]

Further reading


  1. „Fußball ist unser Leben“ - Beobachtungen zu einem Jahrhundert deutschen Spitzenfußballs (in German) author: Peter März, publisher: Die Bayerische Landeszentrale, accessed: 24 June 2008
  2. 1 2 Sport und Kommerzialisierung: Das Beispiel der Fußballbundesliga (German) Article on the Bundesliga and its predessesors, accessed: 20 April 2009
  3. Karl-Heinz Huba. Fussball Weltgeschichte: Bilder, Daten, Fakten von 1846 bis heute. Copress Sport. (German)
  4. Soccer in the Third Reich: 1933-1945. The Abseits Guide to Germany. Accessed 14 May 2008.
  5. Fußball, by Tait Galbraith. Accessed 15 May 2008
  6. "Meisterschaft, Pokal, Pflichtspiele", Saale-Zeitung (in German), p. 6, 1933-08-07
  7. Jewish Teams Worldwide at Accessed 15 May 2008.
  8. German Jews and football history European Jewish Press, 4 July 2006, Accessed 15 May 2008
  9. Fußball unterm Hakenkreuz - »Wer's trotzdem blieb« - die Austria (in German) author: David Forster and Georg Spitaler, published: 10 March 2008, accessed: 24 June 2008
  10. 1 2 „Fußball ist unser Leben“ - Beobachtungen zu einem Jahrhundert deutschen Spitzenfußballs - Juden und Fußball (in German) author: Peter März, publisher: Die Bayerische Landeszentrale, accessed: 24 June 2008
  11. Dietrich Schulze-Marmeling. "Fußball unterm Hakenkreuz". ak - Zeitung für linke Debatte und Praxis. Accessed 15 May 2008. (German)
  12. Dirk Bitzer, Bernd Wilting. Stürmen für Deutschland: Die Geschichte des deutschen Fußballs von 1933 bis 1954. Campus Verlag, pp. 60-64. Google Books. Accessed 15 May 2008 (German).
  13. Bohemia/Moravia and Slovakia 1938-1944. Accessed 31 May 2008.
  14. Goethe Institut - Das große Spiel accessed: 24 June 2008

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 9/22/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.