The Game of Their Lives
The Stories of Righteous Among the Nations Who Devoted Their Lives to Sport

Boris and Žarko Dolinar


Boris Dolinar First generation of table tennis players belonging to Club "Mladost". Winners in 1947: Žarko Dolinar, Otmar Kosi, Krešimir Horvat, Zdenko Uzorinac Žarko Dolinar, founder of "Mladost", world table tennis champion in doubles in 1954, second in singles in 1955, national team player 74 times, 12 times national champion Members of the ASTK "Mladost" Luka Bajakić, Lovro Ratković, Vlado Crnjak, Željko Hrbud and Žarko Dolinar at the reception after winning the national championships in 1957/58 Boris and Žarko Dolinar's parents: Dr. Jakob Dolinar, a judge, and Franjica Dolinar (née Fridrich), 1932 Judith, Žarko and Dina Dolinar, 1957 Zurich, Žarko Dolinar with Croatian scientist Prof. Leopold Ružička who won the 1939 Nobel Prize in Chemistry Žarko Dolinar (right) with Emil Zatopek, the legendary Czech long-distance runner who won three gold medals at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki Žarko Dolinar at his home in Basel, Switzerland, 2001 Žarko Dolinar at his home in Basel, Switzerland, 2002
Žarko Dolinar at his home in Basel, Switzerland, 2002

Žarko Dolinar (July 3, 1920 – March 9, 2003) lived in Zagreb and worked as a sports coach in various places, in particular at the Maccabi Sports Club run by the Jewish community in Zagreb. Dolinar was a very popular man after he won the silver medal in team competition and the bronze in singles at the International Table Tennis Championship in Cairo in 1939.

Following the German invasion of Yugoslavia in April 1941, and the implementation of anti-Jewish laws, Dolinar took advantage of his popularity and was welcomed everywhere, especially at Ustaša headquarters and municipal offices. During his visits to these offices he stole blank identity papers and seals. With his brother Boris, they created travel permits and identity papers for a large number of their Jewish friends.

One day in spring 1941, Dolinar met Geršon Apfel, one of his Maccabi students. Dolinar knew that Apfel and all his colleagues in Hashomer Hatzair were going to be deported to Jadovno within a few days. Thus, Dolinar took Apfel to his home, prepared a passierschein for him, and accompanied him to the train station from where a train would take him to the Hungarian-controlled area, where Jews still lived freely.

Žuži Färler (later Susanne Jelinek-Maider), manager of a fashion house, turned to Dolinar, who she knew from the Maccabi Sports Club, and asked for his help. Dolinar unhesitatingly transferred Žuži and her deaf-mute parents to his apartment, arranged documents for them, and, decided to personally escort the family by train to Sušak, which was in the Italian occupied zone. There, Dolinar helped them find accommodation and then returned to Zagreb.

Another Jew helped by Dolinar was Dr. Josef Deutsch, a Jewish refugee from Germany who fled to Zagreb, where he was arrested. Using his connections, Dolinar managed to have Deutsch released and assisted him in reaching the partisans.

Dolinar also helped Gustav Perl, a talented Croatian sportsman, to reach Tito’s partisans.

When the roundup of young Jews began in June 1941, the Dolinar brothers worked very hard to rescue as many young Jews as possible, among them the Mirosavljević brothers; Zora, Milo, and Milan Kabiljo; K. Stein and others.

Despite the fact that the authorities suspected the Dolinar brothers of assisting Jews, they refrained from arresting them although they did imprison their father for a period of time.

After the war Žarko Dolinar continued his sport career and earned eight medals in the World Table Tennis Championships. He was Europe's best player in the mid-fifties and the world's doubles champion in London (1954) and the singles vice-champion in Utrecht (1955). Dolinar was the first Croatian sportsman to win a world title. Throughout his career Dolinar designed and produced more than eigthy rackets.

Žarko Dolinar graduated from the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in 1949, and received a doctorate in 1959. Later he became a professor of biology in Basel University, Switzerland.

Žarko Dolinar was married to Judith Duić, whose family he and his brother Boris saved during the Holocaust. They have one daughter.

On September 8, 1993, Yad Vashem recognized Žarko Dolinar and Boris Dolinar, as Righteous Among the Nations.

Yad Vashem would like to thank Ivan Ivic, Prof. Radivoj Hudetz and HASTK "Mladost" for providing additional materials and background for this story.