Finland athletic association apologizes for demoting Jewish athlete in 1938

(JTA) — Finland’s Amateur Athletic Association apologized for taking a first-place victory away from a Jewish athlete during a Finnish national competition in 1938.

Abraham Tokazier ran the 100 meters in the competition at Helsinki’s Olympic Stadium. In a photo in a local newspaper the next day, reprinted recently in the Finnish Press, he can be seen crossing the finish line in first place.


Tokazier was named fourth place in the race, and a Finnish runner Aare Savolainen was named the winner. The judges offered no explanation for relegating Tokazier to fourth place, AFP reported.

Makkabi, the main Jewish sporting club in Finland, has long requested that the federation publicly admit to the switch, international rules don’t allow results to be adjusted after time has passed, according to the association. At the time, the results were judged at the time with the naked eye.

”Any manipulation or distortion of results is shocking and against basic sporting values,” said association chair Vesa Harmaakorpi in a statement issued Sept. 18. “The judges clearly made a mistake in the 1938 meet. I would like to offer a humble apology to the athlete and his relatives on behalf of the Finnish Sports Federation.”

“It’s a step in the right direction, but until the result has been corrected, we don’t see the matter as resolved,” Ari Bensky, who is also a vice-president of the World Union of Maccabi sports clubs, told Yle News.

“They are saying that they are sorry for the mistake of the judges. The fact is that everyone knows it was manipulation for political reasons—it was decided not to award him the win. They could not let a Jewish boy win at that time. There is a very important moral point here, to get the records corrected and to change the results.”

Finland was scheduled to host the Olympics in 1940. Those Olympics were cancelled due to World War II.