Silent Heroes of Football – Part 3

Saturnino Navazo, along with eighty thousand other POWs survived the harsh and brutal treatment thrashed out by the SS. Despite the callousness of the guards, there seemed to be some sort of soft spot in those hardened hearts. And that soft spot was for football and moreover for the Spanish midfielder’s dexterity and deftness . Navazo was released from heaving slabs of stone up the Stairway to Death to work in the kitchen peeling potatoes in order to better and benefit his performance on the field. From the depths of the dank, dark kitchens he created a network of solidarity and managed to slip out left overs to help give vigour, and doubtlessly hope to his fellow inmates.

The matches continued and so did the war when suddenly, Navazo’s life took another turn. This time in the way of a son whose screams, protests and doubtless to say, his blond hair kept him from the gas chambers. Siegfried Mier was the name of the son in question. The eleven year old Frankfurt Jew had lost his entire family to the Nazis but his tenacity prevented him from losing his own.

For some mysterious reason, he was put in the care of Navazo and for four long ardous years, Mier shadowed his guardian angel sharing laughter and tears. In May 1945, the American army liberated Mauthausen which meant that Navazo and Mier would go their separate ways. But Navazo’s big heart melted when the Frankfurt Jew begged to go with him. Navazo accepted and instructed the boy to simply repeat to the Red Cross authorities the following address, 49 Calle Don Quijote, Cuatro Caminos, Madrid.

And in that way, both man and boy left the horrors of Mauthausen behind and commenced a new life in Ravel in the vicinity of Toulouse where Navazo once again put on his football boots and played for Union Sportive Revenoise leading them to win the regional cup three consecutive seasons.

Mier spent a number of years with his guardian angel before he left his care to become a tailor and later a musican. His career took him to Ibiza where Navazo visited him each and every year until his death in 1986.

Navazo’s huge heart stopped beating upon returning from a shopping spree one day in late November. The Spanish midfielder, who had helped thousands of men survive hell and even give a spark of joy to the SS officers, sat down on a bench to rest and silently passed on to another world.