Alfred Schiff

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Alfred Wilhelm Schiff (born December 23, 1863 in Berlin ; † January 31, 1939 there ) was a German archaeologist and sports official and historian of the Jewish faith. His idea of ​​the Olympic torch relay was implemented by Carl Diem .

Live and act

After graduating from high school in 1881, Alfred Schiff studied archeology at the universities of Heidelberg , Strasbourg and Berlin . During his studies in 1881 he became a member of the Strasbourg fraternity Germania . On the occasion of the ceremonial unveiling of a marble bust on the 80th birthday of Ernst Curtius in the Museum of Olympia on April 19, 1895, Schiff spoke on behalf of the younger Berlin students of the archaeologist and excavator of Olympia. In 1900 and 1901 he took part in the excavations of the Sieglin expedition in Alexandria . He received his doctorate from the University of Rostock under Gustav Körte in 1905 . He took part in excavations in Athens and the Greek islands . As a longstanding board member of the Archaeological Society of Berlin, Schiff was involved in the lively scientific exchange between archaeologists, ancient scholars, scholars from other disciplines and other interested parties.

At the first modern Olympic Games in Athens, Alfred Schiff worked as referee and supervisor for the German team and in 1904 was one of the founding members of the “German Reich Committee for the Olympic Games”, one of the forerunners of the National Olympic Committee . From 1920 until his dismissal in April 1933 for racial reasons, he worked in various functions, most recently as administrative director, at the University of Physical Education in Berlin.

The Olympic flame first burned in the Amsterdam stadium in 1928 . Schiff then further developed this fire symbolism for the games in Berlin . Schiff evaluated antique gem, vase and relief pictures with depictions of torch-bearers and compiled relevant ancient sources.

The fact that Schiff was the source of the idea for the implementation of the torch relay is proven by a memorandum written by himself on the ancient torch relay, in which he summarized his research results for Diem. Entries in Diem's ​​diary also express this.

For the preparation of the games in Berlin in 1936, Diem got his friend, although he was Jewish, paid jobs for the organizing committee and was thus able to support him financially. For many years Schiff was Diem's ​​personal advisor. In particular, he advised him on all questions of ancient sports history and culture and revised Diems' diaries on issues of ancient sports. On Diem's ​​initiative, Alfred Schiff was entrusted with the planning and preparation of an exhibition on the history of physical exercise in antiquity, which was intended as an accompanying program to the Berlin Games. Under the title "Sport of the Hellenes" the special exhibition was shown from July to August 1936 in the Pergamon Museum. As with the Olympic torch relay, all references to the intellectual originator and organizer were deleted.

Alfred Schiff married Laura Hirschfeld on January 15, 1915 in Berlin. When Alfred Schiff died in Berlin on January 31, 1939, his wife and two daughters Sabine and Elizabeth had emigrated to England. Due to the persecution of the Jews by the National Socialists , his life's work was almost forgotten.


  • with Friedrich Hiller von Gaertringen : Grave relief from Andros . In: Annual Books of the Austrian Archaeological Institute in Vienna 6, 1903, pp. 93–98 ( digitized version ).
  • Alexandrian Dipinti . Leipzig 1905 (= dissertation, digitized version ).
  • The Central Institute for Education and Teaching . In: Kölner Universitäts-Zeitung . 2nd year, special issue, September 1920, pp. 4–7 ( digitized version ).
  • Fighting and training sites in ancient Greece . In: Franz Breithaupt, Carl Diem, Hans Sippel (Ed.): Stadium. The book of sports and gymnastics, gymnastics and games . Berlin 1928, pp. 409-419.
  • (Ed.): The German University for Physical Exercise 1920–1930 . Magdeburg 1930.
  • The marathon . In: Friedrich Mildner (Ed.): Olympia and physical exercises in the National Socialist state . Volume 1. Berlin 1934, pp. 41-45.


  • Stefan Lehmann : Sport of the Hellenes - The Berlin exhibition of 1936 and the Jewish archaeologist Alfred Schiff (1863-1939). In: Andreas Höfer , Manfred Lämmer , Karl Lennartz (eds.): Stadion Volume 29 (2003) special volume. Olympic Games · Olympic Games · Jeux Olympiques . Academia-Verlag, St. Augustin 2004, ISBN 3-89665-329-6 , pp. 199-220 ( digitized version ).
  • Who is who of the German Sport University Cologne. 2nd edition Cologne 2011, pp. 61–62 ( digitized version ).
  • Stefan Altekamp : Classical archeology in Nazi Germany . In: Helen Roche, Kyriakos Demetriou (Ed.): Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Brill's companion to the classics . Brill, Leiden 2017, pp. 289-324, esp. 296f.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ernst Elsheimer (ed.): Directory of the old fraternity members according to the status of the winter semester 1927/28. Frankfurt am Main 1928, p. 447.
  2. The Ernst Curtius bust in the Museum zu Olympia: Report for those involved in the foundation . Offizin W. Drugulin, Leipzig 1895, pp. 17–19 ( digitized version ) ..
  3. ^ Stefan Altekamp: Classical archeology in Nazi Germany . In: Helen Roche, Kyriakos Demetriou (Ed.): Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Brill's companion to the classics . Brill, Leiden 2017, pp. 289-324, esp. 296f.

Web links

Wikisource: Alfred Schiff  - Sources and full texts