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Martha Jacob

Track & Field Athlete

born February 7, 1911 in Berlin – died September 13, 1976 in Cape Town (South Africa)

  • German Javelin Throw Champion 1929
  • English Record Holder in Discus and Javelin Throw 1933
  • European Maccabi World Union Champion in Discus and Javelin Throw (1933)
  • South African Javelin Throw Champion 1937

Martha Jacob was the first foreign trainer of the British Women’s National Track & Field Team. It took, however, a long time to get to that point. The Berlin native did not know her parents – both passed away before she turned one year old. She grew up with family members in a respected middle class environment. She joined the oldest Jewish German sports club Bar Kochba Berlin at the young age of five. She spent her time with learning gymnastics and dance. In 1924 she also joined the Berliner Sport-Club (BSC), where Lillie Henoch was also a member. It was with BSC that Martha Jacob discovered her talents in track and field, especially in throwing. 

In 1928 she changed her membership to the Sport-Club Charlottenburg (SCC) and began her studies at the German College for Physical Exercise (DHfL). She took part in the Olympic Games in Amsterdam in 1928, as part of an exhibition group with the DHfL. It was in a SCC jersey, however, that she celebrated her biggest successes. Along with various regional titles, she won the German championship in the javelin throw in 1929. This victory was followed by an appointment to the German national track and field in competition against Great Britain. She accepted an offer in 1931 to train the British women’s national team in preparation for the Olympics in Los Angeles. As a practicing Jew, Martha Jacob competed for the Jewish club Bar Kochba-Hakoah along side her starts for SCC. In 1932 she went on to win the German Makkabi-Kreises track and field championship in the discus throw.

In 1932 she ended her studies as a physical education teacher. Her career plans were destroyed when the Nazis came to power in 1933. As anti-Semitism in Germany became increasingly aggressive, and after the SCC implemented the rules of the “Aryan paragraph” in April 1933, she left Deutschland headed for London. There, she became the English discus throw champion, occasionally traveling to Germany to take part in Jewish sports festivals. 

In 1935 she started in the 2nd Makkabiah in Tel Aviv, an international Jewish sports event similar to the Olympics. At the tournament in Palestine she won three silver medals. In 1936 she visited Germany for the last time. Her decision to turn her back permanently on her home country was confirmed after the Gestapo interrogated her. Shortly thereafter, she immigrated to South Africa. In her new home she worked as a gymnastics teacher, while continuing to compete – and went one to become the South African javelin throw champion. Not long after arriving in South Africa, she met her future husband Barney Shore, with whom she had two daughters. She died in Cape Town in 1976. 

In 2008 the SCC dedicated a commemorative plaque to their former Jewish members. In 2014 the district of Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf named a square in her name – Martha-Jacob-Platz.

Berno Bahro



Bahro, Berno: Martha Jacob – „Ich habe mich dem Sport verschrieben“, in: Bahro, Berno/Braun, Jutta/Teichler Hans Joachim (Hg.): Vergessene Rekorde – Jüdische Leichtathletinnen vor und nach 1933, Berlin 2010 (2. Aufl.), S. 77–88.

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.