Helene Mayer was a German fencer who first distinguished herself as German national champion at the age of 13. By 19, she had won Olympic gold (1928) and the first of three world championships. After the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics, she remained in the US, studied at USC and began a teaching career. Much has been written of her inclusion on the German team for the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, as she was one of only two Jewish athletes on the team – and both were half Jewish. There were several countries threatening to boycott the Games, among them the United States, if Germany followed through on their plan to exclude all Jewish athletes.
After the ’36 Games, Mayer returned to the US and to teaching at Mills College in Oakland, CA. From 1940 on, she took fencing lessons from her German home town (Offenbach en Main) clubmate, Hans Halberstadt. Hans escaped Germany in December of 1939 by boat from Rotterdam to New York, then by bus to San Francisco in January of 1940.
There is a great deal to tell about the lives of both of these fencers. I’ll write more as time allows. I’ll end here by sharing just a few of the photographs from the Archives.