Fritzi Löwy

* 1910 (Vienna) 1994 (Vienna) Austria
Fields of activity: Sportswoman
Author: Gerti Zupanich

Fritzi Löwy

Fritzi Löwy originated from a family with 12 children. Her mother was a catholic and converted to Judaism, the religion of her father. Fritzi joined Hakoah at the age of 12.  13 years old, she already became youth champion, aged 14 ½  (in 1925) Austrian swimming champion. In 1927 she set a European record on the 200 m distance. Latent anti-Semitism accompanied her childhood and youth.

The sports club Hakoah (Strength) had been established in 1909.

On the one hand, because Jewish athletes were increasingly refused admittance in other clubs, on the other hand, the intention was to strengthen Jewish self-confidence and to counter the stereotype that Jews were wimps physically and avoiding all physical strain. Many successful sportswomen came from the ranks of Hakoah. For members (5000 when it was closed down in 1938), athletes and guests Hakoah was

„… more than a sports club“.

In my opinion the „Danube Maidens“ (co Karen Propp), most of them swimmers in their teenage years, are sport heroines in times of anti-Semitism. They had to flee from the Nazis and thereafter lived in different countries all over the world. Hardly any of them wanted to return to Austria.

Judith Deutsch, Fritzi Löwy and Hedy Bienenfeld are three of these   heroines, which I want to introduce:

Despite her achievements for Austria as a top athlete, Fritzi, like other Hakoah athletes – soccer players, wrestlers, water-polo players etc.- was subjected to abuse and heckling during contests. The female swimmers were forced to ask wrestlers to escort them for protection. Fiercest competition to Hakoah was the “Erste Wiener Amateurschwimmklub “(E.W.A.S.K – First Viennese Amateur Swimming Club), with a strong inclination towards German nationalism and the Nazi movement.

… „Long before Hitler there was anti-Semitism – unfortunately. I also felt it very much in sports. And that was also the reason why one said: ”We have to stay on top”. “During the Danube championships ‘Across Vienna’, which I won 13 times, there were always some riots." “The newspapers, in particular ‘Reichspost’ and the Christian Socialist media wrote about me: ‘The Polish Jewess and the Hungarian Jew won the swimming championship ‘Across Vienna’. It is shame for Austria, for Austrian sportsmanship.” Fritzi in an interview 1988

Fritzi was secretary of the swimmers association, because at that time it was not customary to pay fees in sports. “I have a robust disposition, but I was never overly ambitious” she said in the interview with Gabriele Anderl. “I always let the club drag me out of the stables like a horse.” Through sports she was able to travel a lot and in spite of everything also encountered appreciation and esteem. In 1935 she finished her career. Younger girls like Judith Deutsch took over her place as top ranking swimmers.

1939 Fritzi Löwy fled to Milano, where she stayed till May 1944. Due to the increasing risk of being persecuted she escaped on foot to Switzerland and survived in various refugee camps. Many members of her family were murdered, among others three of her sisters, three nieces and two brothers in law.

1947 she expatriated to Australia, however, after two years she returned to Vienna. From then on she lived in a tiny apartment and withdrew more and more until her death in 1994.

The official Austria has completely forgotten about the former swimming champion.

That we know quite a bit about the times, when Fritzi Löwy was on the run and her later life, is due to a coincidence. In the mid 1990s 3 photo albums turned up on a flea market in Vienna and passed on to the collection “Women’s Heritage“ at Vienna University’s historical institute Another part of the sisters’ inheritance was found in Sweden and currently is the property of Vida Bakondy, who is writing her dissertation about Fritzi Löwy.

Author: Gerti Zupanich
Translation: Ulrike Rahmatian



Anderl, Gabriele: „Den Antisemiten zum Trotz“, Interview 1988, Falter 16/1994.

Bakondy, Vida: „Durch die Schichten des Vergessens“, in STIMME Nr. 81/2011

Pumhösl, Alois: „Vertrieben, vergessen und zurückgekehrt“,


Propp, Karen: The Danube Maidens“ in „… mehr als ein Sportverein“,         Studienvlg, 2009

Zilberman, Yaron, Documentary „Watermarks“, 2004, Trailer see

Photocredits: Fritzy Löwy, author unknown.

Source: part of inheritance Fritzi Löwy presently in private property of Mrs. Vida Bakondy and with her kind permission