Helene Mayer
Helene Mayer was a world champion Olympic
Olympic Games
The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

Fencing, which is also known as modern fencing to distinguish it from historical fencing, is a family of combat sports using bladed weapons.Fencing is one of four sports which have been featured at every one of the modern Olympic Games...

 who competed for Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 in the 1936 Summer Olympics
1936 Summer Olympics
The 1936 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XI Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was held in 1936 in Berlin, Germany. Berlin won the bid to host the Games over Barcelona, Spain on April 26, 1931, at the 29th IOC Session in Barcelona...

, despite having been forced to leave Germany and resettle in the United States because she was of Jewish family background.

She was Jewish, and was born in Offenbach am Main.

Fencing career

Mayer was one of the top 100 female athletes of the 20th century.http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/siforwomen/top_100/83/

German Championships

Mayer was only 13 when she won the German women's foil
Foil (fencing)
A foil is a type of weapon used in fencing. It is the most common weapon in terms of usage in competition, and is usually the choice for elementary classes for fencing in general.- Components:...

 championship in 1924. By 1930, she had won 6 German championships.


Mayer won a gold medal
Gold medal
A gold medal is typically the medal awarded for highest achievement in a non-military field. Its name derives from the use of at least a fraction of gold in form of plating or alloying in its manufacture...

 in fencing at the age of 17 at the 1928 Summer Olympics
1928 Summer Olympics
The 1928 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the IX Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in 1928 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Amsterdam had bid for the 1920 and 1924 Olympic Games, but had to give way to war-victim Antwerp, Belgium, and Pierre de...

 in Amsterdam
Amsterdam is the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands. The current position of Amsterdam as capital city of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is governed by the constitution of August 24, 1815 and its successors. Amsterdam has a population of 783,364 within city limits, an urban population...

, representing Germany, winning 18 bouts and losing only 2.

She finished 5th at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games
Olympic Games
The Olympic Games is a major international event featuring summer and winter sports, in which thousands of athletes participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games have come to be regarded as the world’s foremost sports competition where more than 200 nations participate...

. She then remained in the U.S. in 1933 to study at the University of Southern California
University of Southern California
The University of Southern California is a private, not-for-profit, nonsectarian, research university located in Los Angeles, California, United States. USC was founded in 1880, making it California's oldest private research university...

, earned a certificate in social work, and fenced for the USC Fencing Club
USC Fencing Club
The University of Southern California Fencing Club has a long and colorful history. Founded in 1926, the Club has been home to a number of world class fencers and has won multiple championships. The USC Fencing Club is one of many U.S...


Berlin Olympics and controversy

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
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 rise to power, shortly before the beginning of World War II, because her father was Jewish.

The Amateur Athletic Union
Amateur Athletic Union
The Amateur Athletic Union is one of the largest non-profit volunteer sports organizations in the United States. A multi-sport organization, the AAU is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports and physical fitness programs.-History:The AAU was founded in 1888 to...

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

She won a silver medal
Silver medal
A silver medal is a medal awarded to the second place finisher of contests such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, and contests with similar formats....

. Controversially, she wore a swastika and extended her right arm in the Nazi salute
Hitler salute
The Nazi salute, or Hitler salute , was a gesture of greeting in Nazi Germany usually accompanied by saying, Heil Hitler! ["Hail Hitler!"], Heil, mein Führer ["Hail, my leader!"], or Sieg Heil! ["Hail victory!"]...

 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.

International competitions

In 1928 she won the Italian national championship.

She was the European champion in 1929 and 1931.

She was World Foil Champion in 1929–31 and 1937.

US Championships

Ultimately, she settled in the United States and had a successful fencing career, winning the US women's foil championship 8 times from 1934–46 (1934, '35, '37, '38, '39, '41, '42, and '46).http://www.fencingonfairfield.com/mayer_helene.htm

Return to Germany and Death

In 1952, Mayer returned to Germany, where she married and settled in Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

. Shortly after, she died of breast cancer
Breast cancer
Breast cancer is cancer originating from breast tissue, most commonly from the inner lining of milk ducts or the lobules that supply the ducts with milk. Cancers originating from ducts are known as ductal carcinomas; those originating from lobules are known as lobular carcinomas...

, two months before her 43rd birthday.

Hall of Fame

She was inducted into the USFA Hall of Fame
USFA Hall of Fame
This is a list of the members of the United States Fencing Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame itself is on display at the Museum of American Fencing, in Shreveport, Louisiana.-1963-1978:...

in 1963.http://www.fencingonfairfield.com/mayer_helene.htm


  • 1924: German Foil Champion
  • 1925: German Foil Champion
  • 1926: German Foil Champion
  • 1927: German Foil Champion
  • 1928: German Foil Champion
    • Olympic Gold Medal, Foil, German Team
    • Winner Foil, Italian National Championships
  • 1929: German Foil Champion
    • World Foil Champion
  • 1930: German Foil Champion
  • 1931: World Foil Champion
  • 1932: German Olympic Foil Team
  • 1934: U.S. Foil Champion
  • 1935: U.S. Foil Champion
  • 1936: Olympic Silver Medal, Foil, German Team
  • 1937: U.S. Foil Champion
    • World Foil Champion
  • 1938: U.S. Foil Champion
  • 1939: U.S. Foil Champion
  • 1941: U.S. Foil Champion
  • 1942: U.S. Foil Champion
  • 1946: U.S. Foil Champion

External links

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