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Lilli Henoch

Track & Field Athlete, Hockey and Handball Player

born October 28, 1899 in Königsberg – killed 1942 near Riga

  • Ten-time German Champion (discus, shot-put, long jump, sprint relay)
  • Two-time Discus World Record Holder (1922: 24.90 meters, 1923: 26.62 meters)
  • Shot Put World Record Holder (1925: 11.57 meters)
  • Sprint Relay World Record Holder (1926: 50.4 seconds)

“The likeable Miss Henoch is the female Nurmi”, wrote an enthusiastic sports reporter, after Lilli Henoch captured four titles at the 1924 German Track & Field Championships in Stettin – solidifying her as a remarkable athlete. The reporter compared her to the Finnish running prodigy Paavo Nurmi, who is known for winning a total of nine Olympic gold medals and breaking 24 world records in the 1920s. Between 1922 and 1926, Lilli Henoch captured ten German championship titles in the shot put, discus throw, long jump and the 4 x 100 meter relay. Not only did she break four world records, but she was also one of the best German hockey and handball players. She was one of the athlethes who helped to gain female German Track & Field worldwide recognition and started the difficult way of social recognition and emancipation for female athletes.

Lilli Henoch’s sports career began in Königsberg. At the age of 19 she moved to Berlin and began training with the Berlin Sport-Club (BSC). Her hobbies would later influence her career. In 1926 she earned her degree in physical education and orthopedics from the Prussian College for Physical Exercise and earned a living as such until 1933. In the beginning of the 1930s, Lilli Henoch had already passed the climax of her physical achievement. She willingly took on a leadership position with the club and in January of 1933 she was entrusted with leading the club’s female athletics. A few weeks later, after the Nazis took over power, the sports club banned Lilli Henoch. Her name was published in the August issue of the club’s journal for the very last time; the most famous female athlete in the BSC’s club history – her name could be found under the section “Discharges and Cancellations”. 

Her activity in track and field, at the time, was sporadic. She formed a handball team with the Jewish Gymnastics and Athletics Club 1905, which became one of the best Jewish teams in Germany. Despite several offers to work as a trainer abroad, Henoch remained in Berlin. 

From 1933 to 1941 Lilli Henoch worked as a physical education teacher at the Jewish primary school on Rykestraße in Berlin Prenzlauer Berg. One particular place visited frequently by Jewish schools were the athletic grounds of the Jewish community in Berliner Grunewald, host of an annual school sports festival – the last one taking place in 1938 with 6,000 participants. Due to her expertise and her many years of experience, Lilli Henoch played an important role in the organization and the execution of the festival. She was, however, forced to give up her work following Kristallnacht on November 10, 1938. Lilli Henoch taught at a Jewish school on Choriner Straße until 1942 when authorities shut down all Jewish institutions. 

On September 5, 1942, Lilli Henoch and her mother were deported to Riga where there were both killed. 

Years later in 1993/1994, the city of Berlin named a street after Lilli Henoch in Prenzlauer Berg, in remembrance of it one of the city’s finest female athletes. 2003 the Spreewald primary school renamed their gym into Lilli-Henoch-Sporthalle am Winterfeldtplatz. Since 2004, BSC has carried out their tradition women’s sports festival in her name.

Berno Bahro



Ehlert, Martin-Heinz: Lilli Henoch, in: Bahro, Berno/Braun, Jutta/Teichler, Hans Joachim (Hg.): Vergessene Rekorde – Jüdische Leichtathletinnen vor und nach 1933, Bonn 2010 (2. Aufl.), S. 65–76.

Bahro, Berno: Lilli Henoch and Martha Jacob – two Jewish Athletes in Germany before and after 1933, in: Sport in History 30 (2010) 2, S. 267–287.

Ehlert, Martin-Heinz: Lilli Henoch. Fragmente aus dem Leben einer jüdischen Sportlerin und Turnlehrerin, in: Sozial- und Zeitgeschichte des Sports 3 (1989) 2, S. 34–48.