Borussia Dortmund enjoyed one of their most successful eras during the 1950s. They clinched back-to-back German Championships and made their first ever venture into the European Cup under the guidance of Helmut Schneider.
The BVB had reigned dominant in their local division called Oberliga West, winning the division on four occasions between 1948 and 1953. However, they were unable to conquer the rest of Germany and came closest in a defeat to VfR Mannheim in the German Championship Final in 1949.
Former FC Koln manager Helmut Schneider was appointed Borussia Dortmund manager in August 1955. He succeeded Hans Schmidt, who despite winning the Oberliga West, lost out in the title race to FC Koln and Rot-Weiss Essen in his final two seasons in Dortmund.
Schneider had previously played for FC Bayern Munich during his playing career and also represented Germany on one occasion in 1940. He’d also managed Mainz, Greuther Furth, Mannheim, FC Koln and FK Pirmasens.
In 1953, Schneider’s FC Koln team lost the Oberliga West title to Borussia Dortmund. Joining Dortmund, the former German international was tasked with becoming the first manager in the club’s history to win the German Championship.
The ‘Three Alfredo’s’ played a key role in BVB’s domestic dominance and first European Cup campaigns. Preissler, Niepieklo and Kelbassa scored a combined 379 goals for Borussia Dortmund but only shared eight caps for West Germany.
After starting life in German football with modest ambitions, Borussia Dortmund established themselves as a forced to be reckoned with under Schneider. Here is the story of how Helmut Schneider transformed BVB from local champions to German champions in two seasons…
Laying Down the Foundations to Become German Champions
Schneider immediately made two key signings at the beginning of the 1955/56 Oberliga West campaign. Dortmund-born midfielder Helmut Bracht joined from SpVgg Herten and 20-year-old starlet Alfred Schmidt from SpFg Berghofen.
Schmidt would only finally wear the famous ‘Black and Yellow’ strip of Dortmund in Schneider’s second and final season, meaning the BVB faithful would have to wait another campaign until Schmidt could sparkle his magic.
Therefore, the ‘Three Alfredo’s’ took centre stage and shared 63 goals during the 1955/56 season. Priessler (17 goals), Kelbassa (22 goals) and Niepieklo (24 goals) played a vital role in pipping arch-rivals FC Schalke to the Oberliga West title by four points in 1956.
Borussia Dortmund were drawn into a group which contained Oberliga North winners Hamburger SV, Oberliga South runners-up VfB Stuttgart and Oberliga Berlin winners Viktoria 89 Berlin.
They began the German Championship with a home group match against VfB Stuttgart. Niepieklo scored twice to clinch the win and also rescued them from a surprise defeat to Viktoria Berlin with a 47th minute equaliser on Match Day 2.
Comprehensive victories against Hamburger SV (5-0) and Viktoria Berlin (6-0) followed in the next two games. Despite taking the lead via Alfred Kelbassa, Hamburg stole into a one-goal lead before the break and held firm to move level on points with BVB.
Fortunately, Borussia Dortmund had a significantly superior goal difference and eased to a 4-1 win over VfB Stuttgart to book their place in the German Championship Final against Karlsruher SC.
The Olympiastadion in Berlin hosted the event, which proved difficult for Borussia Dortmund in the early stages. Ernst Kukel gave Karlsruher SC an early lead inside ten minutes but the ‘Three Alfredo’s’ marked their names on the score sheet to give BVB a two-goal advantage with 33 minutes remaining.
Wilhelm Burgsmuller scored an own goal on 66 minutes but Schneider and his men in Black and Yellow battled to win the club’s first ever German Championship. This also confirmed Borussia Dortmund’s qualification for their first ever European Cup campaign.
Entering Europe & Defending the German Championship
Borussia Dortmund made their first appearance in the newly introduced European Cup in 1957. Spanish giants Real Madrid won the first ever European Cup in 1956, beating French outfit Stade Reims 4-3 in the final at the Parc des Princes in Paris.
The ‘Black and Yellows’ had achieved their goal of conquering Germany but competing against Europe’s most elite clubs was the pinnacle. They had the firepower of the ‘Three Alfredo’s’ and Alfred Schmidt in midfield to propose a threat to the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Red Star Belgrade.
They became the second club to represent Germany in European Cup, after Rot-Weiss Essen, who were eliminated by Scottish club Hibernian in the First Round. Whereas, Rot-Weiss Essen were immediately drawn into the First Round, Borussia Dortmund required a Preliminary Round tie against Spora Luxembourg to progress.
Spora Luxembourg took the lead on two occasions during the first half but were subsequently beaten by the Germans. Boreux netted a brace either side of Bracht’s equaliser to send the Luxembourgish side into half-time with a 2-1 lead.
Alfred Niepieklo equalised just nine minutes after the restart and Alfred Preissler scored twice in the final 30 minutes to give Borussia Dortmund a two-goal lead. Spora’s Marc Boreux completed his hat-trick in the closing stages to reduce the deficit and breathe hope of progression in the second leg in Luxembourg.
Borussia Dortmund would suffer a major setback after surprisingly losing the away leg in Luxembourg. Jeane-Pierre Fiedler and Leon Letsch scored for Spora to cancel out Alfredo Preissler’s equaliser.
Due to UEFA’s rules at the time, Borussia Dortmund and Spora Luxembourg required a play-off round to decide their fate. Fortunately, this battle was to take place back in Dortmund at the their home Stadion Rot Erde.
The BVB had finally discovered their rhythm in Europe after some concerning early teething problems. They swept Spora Luxembourg away in Dortmund with a comprehensive 7-0 victory on 16 September 1956.
They’d practically secured their spot in the First Round after only 36 minutes when Preissler’s brace and Simmer’s strike gave them a three-goal lead. Alfred Kelbassa grabbed a hat-trick in only 23 minutes and Wolfgang Peters also converted to book their ticket to Manchester to face the famous ‘Busby Babes’.
Manchester United had an impressive young group of players, who had the potential to win the competition. The likes of Dennis Violet, David Pegg, Bill Foulkes, Bobby Charlton and Duncan Edwards were just a selection of stars produced by the English giants during this period.
Unfortunately, the well-documented Munich air disaster in 1958 killed eight players, three staff members, eight journalists, two crew members and two other passengers. It was a tragic chapter in the club’s history but it makes it more upsetting knowing they had the potential to reign dominant both in England and Europe.
Seven of the Manchester United players starting against Borussia Dortmund in the first leg were killed in Munich. Right midfielder John Berry survived the crash but would also never play again as a result of his injuries.
On the night, the 75,568 spectators crammed into Maine Road watched Manchester United narrowly defeat Borussia Dortmund. In the first half, Manchester United were dominant, with Viollet scoring twice and David Pegg grabbing another to give them a 3-0 lead after only 35 minutes.
This should’ve been expected, as Manchester United won their second leg against Anderlecht by an astounding 10-0 score line in the Preliminary Round. Kapitulski and Preissler scored as BVB pursued a second half comeback but they eventually lost out despite vitally reducing the deficit.
Despite returning to the Stadion Rote Erde, Borussia Dortmund were unable to entertain their supporters to a victory. Instead a drab 0-0 draw confirmed their elimination and Manchester United would go onto lose to eventual champions Real Madrid in the semi-finals.
Borussia Dortmund successfully defended their Oberliga West title by beating Duisburger SV to the prize by two points. Despite the narrow margin, the ‘Black and Yellows’ had a superior goal difference of +23 compared to the runners-up.
They entered the German Championship as defending champions and automatically qualified for the group stage. FC Kaiserslautern sent out warning signs in the opening group match by beating Hertha BSC 14-1. Despite this, the BVB went onto win all three of their group matches to book their spot in the German Championship final against Hamburger SV in Hannover.
The 82,000 spectators in attendance were in for a treat in the opening 30 minutes of the German Championship final. Alfred Kelbassa gave the ‘Black and Yellows’ the lead on 16 minutes but Gerhard Krug equalised on 24 minutes.
Little under a minute after Hamburger SV levelled the score, Kelbassa struck his second of the game to regain Borussia Dortmund’s one-goal lead. This set the tone for the rest of the game as the BVB dominated proceedings, scoring another just moments after regaining their lead via Niepieklo.
It was a comfortable victory for the BVB, who grabbed a fourth with only 12 minutes remaining through Niepieklo once again. Borussia Dortmund were crowned champions of Germany for a second successive season and would once again be competing in the European Cup.
A Second European Adventure (written by Daniel O’Dowd)
Helmut Schneider surprisingly left Dortmund after only two seasons to return to his former team FK Pirmasens. Former FC Bayern Munich and Hamburger SV manager Hans Tauchert succeeded him on the following day,
Tauchert boasted vital European experience with his former club FC Saarbrucken. He guided them to the newly created Europapokal as a representative of the Saarland Football Association. Saarbrucken caused global shockwaves by defeating Italian giants AC Milan in an eventful 4-3 win at the intimidating San Siro.
Unfortunately, Tauchert’s dream of European success was abruptly ended in the second leg. AC Milan won comfortably by a 4-1 score line and eliminated the underdogs Saarbrucken from the Europapokal.
Borussia Dortmund would avoid having to qualify for the competition via a play-off round and were drawn directly into the First Round. Fortunately, they drew Romanian outfit CCA Bucharest rather than the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid or AC Milan.
The first leg took place in Dortmund and proved more difficult than the local supporters could’ve imagined. The score was level at half-time but Tiberiu Bone converted for the Romanians just five minutes after the interval to give CCA Bucharest a surprise lead.
Wolfgang Peters completed his hat-trick by scoring twice in quick succession just after the hour mark. Die Borussen had regained their lead and doubled their advantage through Alfredo Niepieklo just two minutes later.
The second leg in Romania ended is disastrous fashion with Borussia Dortmund requiring another play-off round. Niepieklo gave Dortmund an early lead but CCA Bucharest were 3-1 ahead by half-time. This score line would remain until the final whistle, meaning a play-off round was scheduled in Bologna, Italy.
CCA Bucharest scored in the latter stages of the first half to send both teams in level at the break. Alfred Kelbassa and Alfred Preissler converted in the second half to confirm Borussia Dortmund’s spot in the quarter-finals for the first time in history.
Tauchert would meet with AC Milan once again on the European stage. The BVB were heading towards defeat, after Carlo Galli gave the Italians’ the lead on the verge of half-time. AC Milan midfielder Bergamaschi’s own goal in the dying stages of the second half handed Die Borussen a vital lifeline in the second leg.
In Milan, Borussia Dortmund were completely torn apart by the Italians, who ran rampant in an impressive 4-1 victory. Preissler scored the only goal for the German side on the night and the BVB exited Europe with their heads in their hands.
However, in hindsight, it was a sign that they were just short of the quality it took to compete against the best teams in Europe. AC Milan went onto reach the final, where they were beaten by Real Madrid.
Dortmund entered their third European Cup campaign in 1963 and beat Benfica and Dukla Prague to reach the semi-finals. Inter Milan defeated them in the semi-finals but went onto win the European Cup.
Domestic success was subsided for European football and Borussia Dortmund slumped to a disappointing 5th place finish in the Oberliga West. This also meant that they didn’t qualify for the European Cup for the 1958/59 season.
Manager Hans Tauchert tragically died in Dortmund from a heart attack at the age of only 58 on 24 June 1958. The next chapter under Tauchert was never revealed but after a convincing display in Europe, it’s inevitable that it would have been a successful era…
successful era finished with a flourish
The German Bundesliga was on the verge of creation, meaning the old German Championship was set to become extinct. Two-time champions Borussia Dortmund entered the competition full of hope in 1962/63 that they could claim the last ever German Championship.
Hermann Eppenhoff failed to win the Oberliga West as Borussia Dortmund were beaten to the prize by FC Koln. Die Borussen had a superior goal difference due to the 77 goals scored in 30 matches but their leaky defence cost them nine defeats.
Despite finishing runners-up, Borussia Dortmund still qualified for the German Championship. The tournament started poorly for the ‘Black and Yellows’ as they suffered a 3-2 defeat against 1860 Munich and dropped points to Borussia Neunkirchen.
They won their remaining games, (3-2 and 1-0 Vs Hamburg, 5-2 Vs Borussia Neunkirchen and 4-0 Vs 1860 Munich), to climb the top of Group 2 and confirm their spot in the 1963 German Championship final.
Ironically, Borussia Dortmund lined up against Oberliga West champions FC Koln, who went unbeaten in the group stages and scored 29 goals in 6 matches. It was set to be a difficult challenge and the BVB were arguably underdogs on the day.
Dieter Kurat settled the nerves with the opening goal of the game inside nine minutes. Gerd Cyliax and Wilhelm Burgsmuller formed a solid partnership to keep out FC Koln’s lethal attacking line-up.
FC Koln were without their top goal scorer in the German Championship, which was striker Christian Muller. He scored nine goals in eight appearances and finished his career as FC Koln’s all-time highest goal scorer. However, his goal tally (158) was later exceeded by his namesake Dieter Muller (205) and Hannes Lohr (210).
Reinhold Wosab doubled their advantage shortly after the break and Alfred Schmidt, who was signed by Schneider in 1957, scored BVB’s third and final goal of the afternoon. Karl-Heinz Scheillinger popped up with a late consolation but the ‘Black and Yellows’ had their hands firmly on the German Championship.
The successful era which started with local success, expanded to national glory and exploded into European football finished with a flourish. The “Three Alfredo’s’ may have departed but a new generation was set to emerge in the inaugural German Bundesliga campaign. Stay tuned for Michael Hurtado’s coverage of Borussia Dortmund’s early German Bundesliga years…