Daniel Prenn (1904-1991) – A little-known Jewish German tennis player

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by newmark401, May 12, 2011.

  1. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part I of VII

    Gottfried von Cramm, the outstanding German tennis player of the 1930s, really began to come into his own about halfway between the two world wars. At his best he was capable of beating anyone, including players such as Fred Perry and Don Budge. Von Cramm was lucky in that German players had been readmitted to overseas tennis tournaments in 1927, just a few years before he developed a world-class game, so he was thus able to hone his skills against the top foreign players. He was so good that it is hard to pick a better German tennis player in all of the years before 1939.

    After World War One German players like Otto Froitzheim, Oskar Kreuzer and the Kleinschroth brothers, Heinrich and Robert, were still good enough to win some of the tournaments they were allowed to play in, and the top two German players who came immediately after them, Hans Moldenhauer and Daniel Prenn, were excellent players, too. Moldenhauer, who won the singles title at the Germany Championships in 1926 and 1927, was killed in a road accident at the end of 1929, at the age of 28.

    In 1928, Daniel Prenn had dispossessed Moldenhauer of the German Championships singles title, beating him in the final match, 6-1, 6-4, 6-3, in a tournament with a good overseas entry. Prenn was not quite 24 years old at the time. In more ways than one Prenn had come a long way to reach the position of German number one. In his book "A Terrible Splendour" (2010), Marshall Jon Fisher wrote the following about Prenn:

    "Born a Jew in the Lithuanian city of Vilnius (then part of Russia) in 1904, he had grown up mostly in Saint Petersburg. Czarist Russia was no paradise for Jews. Even in the urbane, progressive Saint Petersburg, Jews were subject to extreme restricitions. There were quotas on how many Jews could practise the law, how many could be admitted to hospitals, and how many could be buried in city cemeteries. They could be expelled from the city at any moment on the slimmest of pretexts. And in the provinces millions of Jews perished in intermittent, bloody pogroms between 1821 and 1917.

    "Then things got worse. After the Russian Revolution in 1917,, it was clear that the Communists were no saviours of the Jews. Pogroms broke out again during the revolution and ensuing civil war, killing another 70,000 to 250,000 civilian Jews. Along with the Russian aristocracy, who were being hunted down and executed by the Bolsheviks, many Jews chose to emigrate. Prenn fled with his family, along with thousands of others, down the well-worn escape route: south to the Crimea, of which the White Army still had control, by ship to the Balkans, and the northwest by rail to Berlin.

    "Berlin had long had a reputation of tolerance toward political refugees, and in 1920, when the Prenns arrived, it was also a very cheap place to live. Half a million Russians fleeing the revolution settled in the German capital, 'imitating,' as [Vladimir] Nabokov wrote, 'in foreign cities a dead civilisation, the remote, almost legendary, almost Sumerian mirages of Saint Petersburg and Moscow, 1900-16 (which, even then... sounded like 1910-1900 B.C.).' [...]

    "Daniel Prenn and Nabokov might even have met at [the] Rot-Weiss [Lawn Tennis Club, in Berlin], which was probably the club that gave the impecunious literary genius playing privileges based on his skill level. Nabokov had learned an elegantly expert game as a child in Russia, and though he was not a tournament player, he did a part of his living at times in Berlin by giving tennis lessons. [...] But Prenn was not like Nabokov; he was not a literary man, not to be one of those refugees heartbroken over a world lost, those whom the poet Nina Berberova recalled as 'all of us sleepless Russians wandering the streets until dawn,' dreaming of a return one day to a Russia that had finally come to its senses.

    "Instead, Prenn assimilated into German society and remained in Berlin even when the hyper-inflation of 1923-24 drove most of the Russian community to leave Prague for Paris. Tough-minded and scientific, Daniel flourished at the Charlottenburg Technical High School and worked after school at a sports shop, as money was scarce. He was an enthusiastic boxer and soccer player, and excelled at table tennis, but it was out on the tennis courts that he found his true métier. The red-clay rectangles turned out to be the perfect outlet for his innate combativeness, perhaps intensified by his obligatory role as an outsider. Though he never had the most graceful or powerful game, he was a clever strategist, 'seemingly inexhaustible', and became known as 'the most tenacious tennist in Europe.'

    "Roman Najuch, who had turned professional early and was one of the world's best players at the time, called him 'the fiercest competitor I ever saw... His iron will to win, cominbed with an astonishing power of concentration, was singular.' By 1929, Prenn had earned a graduate degree in engineering and the number one ranking in German tennis. And that same year he led the German team to its unlikely victory over England."
     
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  2. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part II of VII

    In the five years following his winning of the singles title at the German Championships, Prenn enjoyed more success on the tennis court, notably, as indicated above, in the Davis Cup. As Marshall Jon Fisher states, in 1929 Prenn was part of the German team which beat Great Britain in the European Zone of that team competition. The tie was held from July 12-14 on the clay courts of the Rot-Weiss Lawn Tennis Club, Berlin's premier tennis club at that time. The following report on that tie is taken from the July 20, 1929 edition of the British publication "Lawn Tennis and Badminton":

    "Germany defeats Britain

    "This tie, which was the final of the European group, was played on the grounds of the Lawn-Tennis-Turnier-Club, generally known as the 'Rot-Weiss' (Red-White), the colours of the club, in Berlin.

    "The British team, consisting of Henry W. Austin, Ian Collins and Colin Gregory (captain) and Pat Hughes, accompanied by Mr Henry A. Sabelli, secretary of the British Lawn Tennis Association, arrived in Berlin on Monday aftertoon, July 8, and were met at the 'Zoo' railway station by Dr Rau, the deputy referee, Dr Weiss, captain of the German team, Dr Heinrich Kleinschroth, Herr Gruber, secretary of the German Lawn Tennis Association, and others.

    "An invitation to an informal dinner at the Rot-Weiss Club was regretfully declined, the team feeling that it would be wiser to dine quietly at the hotel then go to bed. There was intensive practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; and spare time was devoted to visiting the Kaiser Schloss, the summer palace at Potsdam, and other points of interest.

    "The German team had been practising assiduously with the professional, Roman Najuch, attached to the Rot-Weiss Club, and appeared to be in good condition, although Daniel Prenn appears to carry more weight than he can do with comfortably. The general impression in German lawn tennis circles was that the result would be a four to one or at the worst a three to two win for Germany, the doubles match being looked upon as a gift for Ian Collins and Colin Gregory. This confidence was based mainly on the change of surface from grass to hard, especially as the German players are familiar with the rather slow surface of the centre court at the Rot-Weiss Club.

    "The patient, deliberate methods of Hans Moldenhauer, and the soft, but rather more guileful strokes of Prenn are admirably suited to the court. It appears to be useless to attempt to play a forcing game unless it is allied with steadiness and accuracy, and this became quickly apparent on the first day of the tie, when Gregory played Prenn and only succeeded in winning eight games in the three sets played." [Final score: 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.]

    "Prenn is a defensive player of the highest class, with an admirable backhand stroke, with which he brings off sharply angled passing shots. Gregory was so woefully inaccurate that Prenn did not have to exercise the great retrieving powers of which he is possessed. The match was a poor one, and must have given a false impression of the much higher standard of which both players are capable. Bad as this was, worse was to follow, for Austin only succeeded in winning nine games from Moldenhauer..." [Final score: 6-4, 6-2, 6-3; however, Great Britain won the doubles match to narrow the score to 2-1 when Ian Collins and Colin Gregory beat Heinrich Kleinschroth and Heinz Landmann, 6-4, 6-2, 6-0.]

    "On Sunday afternoon an enormous crowd gathered to see the concluding stages of a tie which had so far borne a tame aspect, and it is safe to say that not one person in the vast assemblage was not prepared for what was to follow, although those who know their Gregory were aware of the possibility that he was capable of dealing witht the situation if he could only strike something approaching his Australian form. The scarcely hoped for reversal of form made its appearance, but not in the shape one anticipated.

    "It was as if a conjuror who everybody is certain will produce the usual rabbit out of a hat brings out something quite different. Gregory played Moldenhauer at his own game, returned everything slowly and accurately, and waited for his opponent to make the mistakes, of which he himself had been so prodigal when playing Prenn. Every now and then, always at the right moment, Gregory would pounce on the loose ball, or the just not perfect lob, and deal with them faithfully and summarily in the grand manner to which we are accustomed, and then would go back to his slowm patient game, teasing Moldenhauer into errors. The first ten games went to Gregory and there seemed no reason why he should ever lose a game..." [Final score: 6-0, 6-2, 6-3. The tie score was now 2-2 in matches.]
     
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  3. newmark401

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    Part III of VII

    "Everything was now again in the melting pot, and the odds were in favour of Britain bringing off a great victory after facing the forlornest of forlorn hopes. A quarter of an hour was spent in sprinkling and brushing the court for the final and decisive match.

    "Austin won Prenn's service to lead 2-1, then increased his lead to 3-1. Austin lost the next game, making a number of errors, but won his own service to lead 4-2. A long game followed in which deuce was called a number of times and Prenn won that and then took Austin's service, equalising at 4-4, but Austin won the next two games, winning the first set at 6-4.

    "In the second set, Austin reacted somewhat and Prenn got a lead of 5-1, finally winning the second set at 6-2. The real struggle took place in the third set. Prenn got a lead of 3-1, Austin got to advantage against the service and a very long rally ensued which Austin was rather lucky to win with a net-cord. Austin levelled matters at 3-all and won the next game to lead 4-3 after the score had been called 40-0 against him. An unfortunate incident took place in this game. Advantage was called to Austin and during the rally for the next point a shot from Austin pitched on the baseline. An excited spectator called 'out' and Prenn, thinking the linesman had called, made no effort to take the ball. The umpire called game to Austin, whereupon there was some hissing and booing. The umpire was firm, explained that there had been no call from the linesman, and after a little more noise, the game went on.

    "Austin now led 4-3 and with his service to follow had a great chance of consolidating the third set and a 2-1 lead in sets which would probably have been decisive, for Prenn was feeling the effect of the heat and his great exertions in defending against Austin's continuous attack. It was the crucial moment of the match, had Austin known it, but in any event he should have made every effort to win this game. A little more enterprise at the net might have turned the scale, but he could never make up his mind to go right in. Prenn was lobbing very well, Austin was generally in two minds and took the middle course of hanging about on the service line in order to avoid being lobbed. In this position he could not put the ball away, another lob would come up which forced him to the baseline and the rally started all over again.

    "Prenn now had the advantage, both moral and material. He had checked his opponent's recovery and had the advantage of serving. He won the game to lead 5-4 and subsequently the set on Austin's service, 6-4. Prenn showed signs of wear and tear during this set. He was very slow in going to his place and there was always a wait of two minutes of more while Prenn was mopped by his captain or the professional, Najuch, who was sitting in a front seat of the west stand just behind the umpire's chair. Austin wasted no time, and chafed considerably at Prenn's deliberate methods.

    "Prenn is a thorough good sportsman and was simply following the usual practice on the Continent; there is no suggestion that he was intentionally trying to gain time or to put off his opponent, but there was no result. Prenn continued to be slow. Austin returned to court exactly to time after the ten minutes' rest, Prenn was two minutes late, a small matter, perhaps, but the rule should be adhered to.

    "Austin led 2-0 and 3-1 [in the fourth set]. Prenn won a game full of long rallies and made a great and successful effort to win Austin's service, but the latter then won Prenn's service to lead 4-3. In the next game the score was called 15-40 on Austin's service, but he played up well to win the game for a 5-3 lead. At this point Austin showed signs of great fatigue or slight cramp, but he just lasted enough to win the fourth set at 6-4.

    "The crowd was by now greatly excited. The match had already lasted two-and-a-quarter hours and the fortunes of the game had undergone many fluctuations. In the final set Austin started well by winning Prenn's service, but then lost his own and early in the third game fell down heavily in attempting to get up to a drop shot by Prenn. He appeared to have hurt his thigh and was incapable of making any serious effort to return the ball for two or three games. Prenn was almost done for himself, the nervous strain and a tender heel had sapped his energies, but he never lost his accuracy or his power of retrieving.

    "Austin struggled on, but it was obvious that he was dead beat, and the climax came when at 5-1 and 30-0 against him he fell down with cramp. After a moment's hesitation he was carried to the umpire's chair and a few minutes later the umpire announced that Austin could not continue on account of cramp and that the match was awarded to Prenn.

    "Thus ended a remarkable tie in which the chief honours were carried off by Prenn and Gregory. The former, who is a Pole [Lithuanian] by birth, is chiefly remarkable for his retrieving powers, a very good backhand passing shot and a capacity for drop shots second to none. His accuracy is amazing; time after time his shots hit the sidelines or baseline. On his own court he is extremley difficult to beat, on grass he would be at least 15 worse..." [Final score: Daniel Prenn beat Henry Austin, 6-4, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 1-5, 0-30, retired]

    This was an excellent result for Prenn, the other members of the team and German tennis in general. However, the following week Germany was easily defeated, 5-0, by the United States, in the Inter-zone round of the 1929 Davis Cup, which was held from July 19-21, also at the Rot-Weiss Club in Berlin. In both of his singles matches Bill Tilden, then aged 36, crushed both Daniel Prenn and Hans Moldenhauer without losing a set.
     
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  4. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part IV of VII

    Almost exactly three years later Germany repeated its feat of 1929, beating Great Britain in the Davis Cup once again, this time in the semi-final of their European Zone tie, which was held at the Rot-Weiss Club from July 8-10. The British team included Fred Perry, Henry "Bunny" Austin and Pat Hughes; the German team included Gottfried von Cramm, Daniel Prenn and Walter Dessart. The following report on this tie is taken from "Lawn Tennis and Badminton" of July 16, 1932:

    "Germany beats Great Britain

    "Once again the German team, playing on their home court at the Rot-Weiss Club, Berlin, put a full-stop to our further progress in the Davis Cup. On Friday, July 8, Henry Austin opened against Daniel Prenn. The German first string ran off the first set without the loss of a game. In Austin's case this is not always an accurate pointer to the final result of a match, and a favourable estimate of the position seemed to find some support when Austin won a bitterly contested second set with a score of 10-8. Afterwards Austin, although fighting hard, could offer very little effective resistance and Prenn won the next two sets with the loss of only five games. The outstanding feature of this match was the use of the drop shot by Prenn. He must have made about forty of these, most of them scored outright, or if they were returned he won the point with a passing shot or a lob." [Final score: 6-0, 8-10, 6-2, 6-3]

    "In the next match, between Fred Perry and Gottfried von Cramm, there was only one man it. Perry swept his opponent off the court, losing only six games in the three sets played." [Final score: 6-1, 6-2, 6-3]

    "On Saturday Perry and Pat Hughes opposed Prenn and Walter Dessart. Perry was again in brilliant form and dominated the court. If Hughes had not been bothered with a bad wrist it is doubtful whether the Germans would have won a game, but, as it was, Hughes was feeling uncomfortable when serving and smashing, and the German team made a fairly respectable show, winning three games in the first set, four in the second and four in the third." [Final score: 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Great Britain now led by 2 matches to 1.]

    "On Sunday the two remaining singles were played. In the first of these Austin played von Cramm. The young German displayed better form than against Perry and quickly gained a lead of 4-1 in the first set. Austin was playing worse than against Prenn and served seven double faults in the first five games. From this point he improved somewhat and at 5-4 in von Cramm's favour he saved four set points, after which he [Austin] won the set, 7-5. Von Cramm had evidently been suffering from nerves, but he mastered himself, put on more pressure, and with Austin still serving any number of doubles faults he had no difficulty in winning the next three sets, in which Austin's total number of games was seven. [Score: 5-7, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2. The tie score was now 2-2.]

    "The excitement of the large crowd was now very great, and there was a tremendous outbreak of cheering when Perry and Prenn came on to the court for the deciding match. When Prenn had won the first two sets with the scores of 6-2 and 6-4 it seemed any odds on Germany winning. In the third set Perry led 2-0 at which point Prenn made a great effort and won the next three games. Then the reaction set in; Perry took the set at 6-3, Prenn making little or no effort in the last three games.

    "After the ten-minute rest, Perry won the fourth set without conceding a single game. This was surprising. Prenn did not appear to be in the least tired, but he seemed to have no fight left in him. In the deciding set, Prenn won the first game against the service, after which Perry went to 4-1 and actually had a point for the match on Prenn's service at 5-2. At this crisis Prenn appeared to get a new lease of life from some hidden reserve. He came up to the net on almost everything and won the remaining five games for set and match, the last two games with the loss of one point. All through this set the excitement of the crowd was intense, every point won by Prenn being loudly cheered. When the last point had been won there was a frantic outburst of delight, and Prenn's friends fell over each other in their endeavour to embrace him.

    "Perry played a fine match against a pastmaster of craft; what he lacked was that little bit of extra experience and coolness of head at the crisis which would have enabled him to get the better of his great opponent. In Prenn, Germany has a player of infinite cunning and resource, who fights to the last ditch and beyond. He enjoyed an advantage, perhaps in the fact that he had not been to Wimbledon and had practised assiduously for a fortnight before the match with a type of ball which is very difficult to control by those using it the first time."
     
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  5. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part V of VII

    The following week Germany easily beat Italy in the 1932 Davis Cup European Zone final, which was held in Milan from July 15-17. One week later the Inter-zone final between Germany and the United States was held at the Stade Roland Garros in Paris. The United States beat Germany again, though this time the margin of victory was only by 3-2. The German team included Gottfried von Cramm and Daniel Prenn; the American team was made up of Ellsworth Vines, Frank Shields, Wilmer Allison and John van Ryn. The following report on this tie comes from "Lawn Tennis and Badminton" of July 30, 1932:

    "United States win the Inter-zone final

    "The bare statement of America's victory by 3-1, and eventually 3-2, conveys no idea of the closeness of the fight. America was one down after the closeness of the fight in which Gottfried von Cramm beat Frank Shileds in four sets [7-5, 5-7, 6-4, 8-6]; and recovered to 1-1 when Ellsworth Vines beat Daniel Prenn [...]

    "As at Wimbledon Vines made a great impression on the spectators and scored many aces on his fast services. Prenn was thrown out of his stride at first, and when he did begin to get the ball back Vines's return, aided by his great reach, was too much for him. Prenn, however, fought gallantly and was quick to seize his chance when Vines temporarily lost his accuracy in the third set. Prenn in his turn put on more speed, and a remarkable change came over the game. The German won the third set as he liked to love and went on to lead 3-0 in the fourth set. The subsequent play of Vines, however, suggested that he had been giving himself a rest. He regained his usual speed and won six of the next seven games for the match." [Final score: 6-3, 6-3, 0-6, 6-4]

    "Germany placed their strongest doubles team in court on Saturday in an effort to win the match which was thought to be all-important - and rightly as it proved. But Prenn and von Cramm were no match for Wilmer Allison and John van Ryn in their best form and the United States gained the invaluable two matches to one lead by winning 6-3, 6-4, 6-1.

    "The luck of the draw favoured America for the third day, for her number one player Vines had the chance of deciding the tie at once against the German number two von Cramm and if he failed there was a further chance when Shields met Prenn. Suspense was not long delayed, for America won the first singles through Vines beating von Cramm by threes sets to one. Vines did not, however, have things all his own way, and the German started so well that spectators were prepared for a surprise. The American might easily have lost the match had he not been such an experienced player. Realising in the second set that his hard hitting and forcing tactics were not paying, he checked himself and sobered up his game to good effect. Vines served as many as nine double faults to von Cramm's two.

    "Von Cramm went away with a good lead of 5-3 in the first set due to his positioning and placing. He knew where every shot would come, and was there waiting for it. Vines steadied himself in the second set and the German was only allowed to win the first, sixth and eighth games. The third set produced a very even fight. The first four games went against service, but Vines took the next two to reach 4-2. It was then von Cramm's turn and by clever placing he overtook Vines to reach 5-4. Vines levelled on his service and took the lead through some great smashes. He once more lost his service, and the German drew level again at 6-6. German hopes rose when von Cramm won the next game to lead 7-6 and reached 30-all, but he then made the mistake of hitting too hard to gain the necessary two points, and the American won the next three games for the set.

    "In the fourth set Vines led 2-1 and 3-1, but von Cramm won the fifth game when Vines again hit out. Vines was then seen at this best and won the next two games to 5-2. He lost the eighth game eventually and in the ninth was 15-40 down to von Cramm, who was serving. Vines, however, drew up to match point, but was required to contest six further deuce calls before he placed his country in the challenge round through von Cramm netting. The score was 3-6, 6-3, 9-7, 6-3." [In the fifth and final match Prenn beat Shields, 6-1, 6-0, 6-8, 6-2.]
     
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  6. newmark401

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    Part VI of VII

    While Daniel Prenn was enjoying these and other successes on the tennis court, Germany was experiencing severe economic difficulties. There was mass unemployment and much political unrest. It was amid these conditions that the Nazis rose to power. After the federal election of 1932 the N-azi Party had the most seats in the Reichstag and continued to consolidate its power by various methods, including changing many of the country's laws. Jews in particular were singled out for special treatment. Daniel Prenn was one of those affected by a decree barring Jewish players from taking part in international tennis competitions. According to Marshall Jon Fisher in "A Terrible Splendour:

    "Already in April 1933 the German Lawn Tennis Federation announced, 'Non-Aryan players can no longer take part in international matches.' As if this weren't clear enough, the statement went on: 'The player Dr Prenn (a Jew) will not be selected for the Davis Cup in 1933.'

    "In one stroke Daniel Prenn's tennis career seemed to be over. Not only was he barred from the Davis Cup, but it was only a matter of time, he knew, before Jews were barred from all competition. Already the federation announced it was waiting for orders from above regarding whether it could enter Jewish players in individual tournaments, including the French and Wimbledon Championships. A stunned Prenn did manage to win the Austrian Championships just a few weeks after the pronouncement, and a leading Viennese newspaper wrote:

    "'Last year, when Prenn beat Austin and Perry and won for Germany its greatest victory over England, there was no German newspaper that did not exalt 'the Jew Prenn' in all possible ways... Today, these same papers write that Prenn can be no German, as he is Jewish... When on Monday Prenn, the new champion of Austria, took the trophy from President Miklas and held it overhead, great applause fell on the scene. Prenn on Monday won the tennis championship of Austria, but Germany lost this and much more.'

    "Daniel Prenn was Jewish by blood only. He was non-practising and non-religious, and in fact his wife Charlotte was Christian. But this mattered little to the new regime. Dr Theodore Lewald, the popular head of the German Olympic Committee, was forced to resign due to the fact that his father had been born Jewish and had been baptised over 110 years earlier.

    "The many prominent Jewish members of the Rot-Weiss Club were fast disappearing, and it was uncomfortabe for Prenn even to appear at his beloved old club. When King Gustav of Sweden visited Berlin that spring, he made a point of playing a public doubles match with his old partner. But that gallant gesture helped little. Nor did the letter Bunny Austin and Fred Perry, Prenn's victims at the Davis Cup triumph the previous year, wrote to the London 'Times':

    "'Sir, We have read with considerable dismay the official statement which has appeared in the Press that Dr D.D. Prenn is not to represent Germany in the Davis Cup on the grounds that he is of Jewish origin. We cannot but recall the scene when, less than twelve months ago, Dr Prenn before a large crowd at Berlin won for Germany against Great Britain the semi-final round of the European Zone of the Davis Cup, and was carried from the arena amidst spontaneous and tremendous enthusiasm. We have always valued our participation in international sport, because we believed it to be a great opportunity for the promotion of better international understanding and because it was a human activity that countenanced no distinction of race, class or creed. For this reason, if for none other, we view with great misgivings any action which may well undermine all that is most valuable in international competitions. Yours faithfully, H.W. Austin, Fred Perry.'

    "It was notably the only protest from the international community at all. Not only did the International Lawn Tennis Federation have no issue with member nations barring players due to race, but a few years later, when N-azi Germany took over Austria and Czechoslovakia, the ILTF bent over backward for them, voting in a new law allowing players from annexed countries to play for their conquerors.

    "Prenn had been uprooted by bloody revolution already once before in his life; perhaps for this reason he was one of the prescient Jews who left Germany while they were still able. By the end of the year [1933] he had made his decision. Already it was difficut; many countries had Jewish quotas, and the Nazis were not allowing anyone to take their money out of the country. But Prenn had a sponsor in London. Simon Marks, the millionaire head of the Marks & Spencer department stores and a big tennis fan, had befriended his fellow Jew on Prenn's visits to Wimbledon, and he made it possible for Prenn to emigrate. Leaving his family behind (his parents and younger sister were now living in Poland), Daniel Prenn fled yet another pogrom, and he and Charlotte sailed for England."

    [...]

    "He and Charlotte had settled down in Kensington, just five miles north of Centre Court [at Wimbledon], and with a loan from Simon Marks, the tennis-mad retail magnate, he'd started his own business: Truvox Engineering, produced of its own line of loudspeakers. He was doing all right, too, with five employees already. And now they had a baby on the way - just two months to go, in fact.

    "There hadn't been much time for tennis. He practised sometimes with the English players and was always available for social doubles with Marks; it was the least he could do to let the older man show off his 'ringer'. But the demands of a new business and a new life made it impossible to maintain the high level of play he had once practised. His first year here, 1934, he'd played Wimbledon, but lost badly in the first round to Frank Shields, whom he had crushed in the 1932 Davis Cup. 'The man without a country,' as the English papers hailed him, continued to play Wimbledon each year - they were kind enough to grant him entry on his past glory - and he'd gained back much of his form this year [1937], beating an American and two British players before falling to Frank Parker in the fourth round [6-4, 7-5, 6-2].

    "In the mixed doubles he played with the English girl Evelyn Dearman, and they made it all the way to the semis, losing a tight one to a French team [Yvon Petra and Simone Mathieu], 6-2, 9-7. But he knew his tennis days were far behind him. He was an English businessman now, soon to be a father and a British citizen."
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2011
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  7. newmark401

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    Part VII of VII

    Marshall Jon Fisher continues: "On his post-war visits to Wimbledon, as a player and later as a spectator, von Cramm often saw his old partner Daniel Prenn. A Jewish refugee, a clay court specialist in the land of lawn tennis, Prenn had made good in England. In 1938, knowing his friend was in a N-azi prison suffering the fate that he himself had escaped, Prenn played his next-to-last summer of serious tennis. He entered the singles, doubles and mixed doubles at Wimbledon. Although his best result was reaching the third round in the mixed, he played a highly competitive first round match in singles, winning the first two sets against another Englishman [Muray Deloford], succumbing only 6-4 in the fifth set. If he had won, in the second round he would have faced the number four seed: [Heinrich] Henner Henkel.

    "After losing in the first round again in 1939 [to John Olliff], Prenn finally turned completely from tennis to business. He brought Truvox Engineering through the war years, wondering all through the Battle of Britain, as the bombs rained down on London's rooftops and on Centre Court, whether he would have to make a third escape - or if a third escape would even be possible. By war's end his mother and sister Tamara had disappeared into the unfathomable hell of the Holocaust. (His father had died of pleurisy at the beginnig of the war.) But he had his son Oliver now, and his sister Betty, or 'Bobka', was was thriving in London as well, working for the BBC World Service. He turned his back on the past and poured all his energy into the future.

    "Truvox became a runaway success. In 1950, Prenn's first major acquisition of another loudspeaker company ended the era he later would describe as 'before my first Rolls'. He sent his son to Oxford and hobnobbed with the Queen as they watched his racehorses gallop. Though he didn't play tennis anymore, his son Oliver became Junior Wimbledon Champion in 1955 and played on the international circuit for a few years before joining the family business. Prenn later had another son, John, who in 1981 became world champion in rackets (a sport similar to squash, but played with a harder ball on a larger court).

    "Over the years von Cramm and others tried to get Daniel Prenn to return to Berlin and the Rot-Weiss Club for various events, but he refused. Finally, in 1984, the president of the Rot-Weiss Club, Wolfgang Hofer, won him over, and the eighty-year-old Prenn did pay a visit, watched some tennis on the courts he had once ruled, and palled around with Hans Nüsslein and Fred Perry. He loved seeing the old club, and old friends again, and he had done so in the nick of time, for not long afterwards he began to recede into the fog of Alzheimer's disease. The Jew born in Vilnius who fled the Russian Revolution, the German tennis champion who escaped the Nazis, died just before his eighty-seventh birthday, in 1991, a wealthy English gentleman."
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    Last edited: May 12, 2011
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  8. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Good story on an interesting player. Following some German books on this subject, Daniel Prenn was a Dr. His victory over Perry in that Berlin Davis Cup match was remarkable, i think, he won it on soft clay with some wondrous drop shots, and outlasted Perry, the player with probably the best stamina in the pre war years. Berlin and Hanover were the centers of German tennis. Froitzheim was the old master from the pre WWI years, who had battled Wilding and Brookes. His partner, Kleinschroth was imo a lefthander, and later DC captain. Roman Najuch and Hanne Nuesslein came from poor families and turned pro early on, which means: they gave tennis lessons for richer people at the Berlin clubs, and couldn't compete under the strict amateur rules (like Dan Maskell in Britain). Its sad, that many German players suffered through the **** regime. Dr. Prenn had to go into exile in Britain, van Cramm was imprisoned, and Henner Henkel, in the later 30s Cramm's partner, lost his life at Stalingrad.
     
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  9. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    I assume Daniel Prenn had a doctorate in engineering; hence the Dr D. Prenn.
     
    #9
  10. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    Mark, did the "Lawn Tennis" article include any stats for the five-setter between Prenn and Perry? If you could type out a few I'd really love to see them.
     
    #10
  11. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    I can't remember whether that article included detailed statistics of the match in question, and I don't have access to those old tennis magazines at the moment.
     
    #11
  12. krosero

    krosero Legend

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    No problem. I was interested in seeing some stats from Lawn Tennis because I have only seen a few, whereas I have tons of stats from American sources.
     
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