Helene Mayer

Helene Mayer

Birth
Offenbach am Main, Stadtkreis Offenbach am Main, Hessen, Germany
Death 15 Oct 1953 (aged 42)
Heidelberg, Stadtkreis Heidelberg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Burial Unknown
Memorial ID 95158204 · View Source
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Helene Mayer (December 20, 1910 – October 15, 1953) was a world champion Olympic fencer who competed for Nazi Germany in the 1936 Summer Olympics, despite having been forced to leave Germany and resettle in the United States because she was of Jewish family background.

Helene Mayer had a Jewish father and was born in Offenbach am Main.

Mayer was named one of the top 100 female athletes of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated.


Mayer won a gold medal in fencing at the age of 17 at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, representing Germany, winning 18 bouts and losing only 2.

She finished 5th at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. She then remained in the U.S. in 1933 to study at the University of Southern California, earned a certificate in Social Work, and fenced for the USC Fencing Club.

In 1933 she learned that she had been expelled from the Offenbach Fencing Club as part of a Nazi purge of Jewish athletes. She had to leave Germany after Hitler's rise to power because her father was Jewish.

The Amateur Athletic Union then voted to boycott the 1936 Olympics, to be held in Berlin, unless Jews were allowed to take part in the German trials and compete for Germany in the Olympics. As a gesture of compliance, the German Olympic Committee invited Mayer to join the national team.

She accepted, hoping to be accepted back into German society, and returned to Germany to compete in the 1936 Summer Olympics, despite protests from the American Jewish community and other Jewish athletes.

She won a silver medal. Controversially, she wore a swastika and extended her right arm in the Nazi salute on the medal stand during the medal ceremony. This rankled many, but others explained that she was trying to protect her family. Although her Jewish father had died in 1931, her mother and two brothers had continued to live in Germany. Mayer considered herself German and wanted to represent her country, but she was not accepted back into German society.

She was one of a number of Jewish athletes who won medals at the Nazi Olympics in Berlin in 1936.

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  • Created by: .A
  • Added: 11 Aug 2012
  • Find a Grave Memorial 95158204
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Helene Mayer (20 Dec 1910–15 Oct 1953), Find a Grave Memorial no. 95158204, ; Maintained by .A (contributor 46575222) Unknown.