In over a century of German football competition, champions were not declared in several seasons for various reasons. No champion was declared in 1904 due to the DFB's inability to resolve a protest filed by Karlsruher FV over their 1–6 semi-final loss to Britannia Berlin to determine which of these sides would face defending champion Leipzig in that year's final. Karlsruhe's protest was over the failure to play the match at neutral venue.
The national championship was suspended in October 1915 due to World War I. Limited play continued on a regional basis in many parts of the country, while competition was abandoned in other areas. Several regional leagues continued to declare champions or cup winners. The national championship was reinstated with the 1919–20 season that was concluded with a 2–0 victory by 1. FC Nuremberg over SpVgg Fürth in Frankfurt.
The 1922 final was contested by 1. FC Nuremberg and Hamburger SV, but never reached a conclusion on the pitch. The match was called on account of darkness after three hours and ten minutes of play, drawn at 2–2. The re-match also went into extra time, and in an era that did not allow for substitutions, the game was called at 1–1 when Nuremberg was reduced to just seven players and the referee ruled they could not continue. Considerable wrangling ensued over the decision. The DFB awarded the win to Hamburg under the condition that they renounce the title in the name of "good sportsmanship" – which they grudgingly did. Ultimately, the championship trophy was not officially presented that year.
Competition for the national title was maintained through most of World War II and was supported by the regime for morale. Play became increasingly difficult as the war drew to its conclusion due to manpower shortages, bombed-out stadiums, and the hardship and expense of travel. In the era's final championship match Dresdner SC beat the military club LSV Hamburg 4–0 on 18 June 1944 in Berlin's Olympiastadion. The 1944–45 season kicked off ahead of schedule in November; however, by March 1945 play had collapsed throughout Germany as Allied armies overran the country. Play was tentatively resumed in various parts of the now-occupied country in early 1946 and the postwar Oberliga structure began to take shape in the 1946–47 season; no national champion was declared from 1945 to 1947. In 1947–48, qualification play took place to determine Westzonen (Western occupation zones) and Ostzone (Eastern occupation zone) representatives to meet in a national final that never took place. 1. FC Nuremberg is recognized as the first postwar German national champion for its 2–1 victory over 1. FC Köln in the Westzonen final staged on 8 August 1948 in Mannheim. In the Ostzone, SG Planitz beat SG Freiimfelde Halle 1–0 on 4 July 1948 in Leipzig to qualify for the scheduled national final, but were denied a permit to travel to play the match by Soviet authorities.
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