The Billy Joel connections

Today is Billy Joel’s birthday and I was going to do a blog on his musical history, going back to the times when he joined a band called “Echoes”, aged 16, to the times when he joined the bands “the Hassles” and “Atilla”. But that I came across a story which connects Billy Joel with WWII , the Holocaust and a large German retail and travel company, and indirectly to 4 Olympic games and I thought that would make a much more interesting story.

Billy Joel was born William Martin Joel on may 9,1949 in the Bronx, New York, and grew up in Long Island. Billy’s father, Howard (born Helmut) Joel , a classical pianist and businessman, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, to a Jewish family, the son of merchant and manufacturer Karl Amson Joel.

Karl Amson Joel, started a business in household linens in 1927. The business was so profitable that he, his wife and their young son, Helmut, were able to move into an affluent area of Nuremberg. As Karl Joel’s business rose in prominence and the Nazis rose in power, the Nazis put their sights on eliminating the Joel’s and all other Jewish businesses.

After the rise to power of Nazism in 1933, Karl Amson Joel was increasingly discriminated against by the regional Nazi Party leaders, especially Julius Streicher, the founder and publisher of the virulently antisemitic newspaper Der Stürmer.

In May 1933, Der Stürmer ran a front-page article calling Karl a “Yid” and accusing him of underpaying and sexually harassing his workers. Billy Joel’s dad Helmut aka Howard was one of four Jews in his Nuremberg classroom; they were directed to sit apart from their classmates.

Karl Amson Joel moved his company to Berlin in 1934, where he rented a factory site in Wedding and installed new packing machines. The stitching department, however, had to remain in Nuremberg. As persecution increased (e.g. deliveries had to be marked with a “J” for Jude, or Jew), and Jewish firms became Aryanized (the forced expulsion of Jews from business life in Nazi Germany, Axis-aligned states, and their occupied territories. It entailed the transfer of Jewish property into “Aryan”hands), Joel was forced to sell his company in 1938 to Josef Neckermann.

For fear of further persecutions Karl Amson Joel moved to Switzerland in July 1938 and later to the USA, via Cuba.

Neckermann made his fortune as the owner of one of Europe’s largest department stores. His business made him director of a very successful mail-order company under the slogan Neckermann macht’s möglich (Neckermann makes it possible) and also a travel company.

Shortly after World War II, Neckermann was sentenced to one year in a military prison.

In 1949, Karl Amson Joel successfully sued Neckermann for compensation in a Nuremberg court. After eight years, the parties settled and the files were closed.

In 1957,Karl Amson Joel got a compensation of 2 million West German marks for his former company from Neckermann who at that time ran the most successful German mail order selling company.

As I said earlier on in this blog there is also a connection to 4 Olympic games, albeit indirect . Josef Neckermann was also a German equestrian and Olympic champion . He was one of the richest private citizens to have ever competed at the Olympic Games, and he did quite well, winning six medals in the dressage. Neckermann’s Olympics medals were as follows: 1960 – individual bronze, 1964 – team gold (both for the mixed German team), 1968 – team gold and individual silver, 1972 – team silver and individual bronze, all for West Germany.

Other members of Billy Joel’s family were killed during the Holocaust.

I could not finish this blog without at least including one of his many songs. This is my favourite Billy Joel song.

sources

https://www.sarahlawrence.edu/magazine/then-now/campus/outback.html

https://jewishweek.timesofisrael.com/stranger-no-more/

https://www.olympedia.org/athletes/12487

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Total War-Göbbels Sport Palast Speech

Like all delusional leaders, Hitler would not have been able to carry out his plans without having people around him that encouraged his delusional ideas.

Göbbels was without a shadow of a doubt Hitler’s most devoted henchman and enabler.

On February 18,1943 he gave his most famous speech in the Sport Palast in Berlin. The aim of the speech was to convince the German people of a Total war, statig that a total war would be a shorter war. At least that is what the banners over the podium said.

At this stage the tide of World War II was turning against Germany. Göbbels held his speech at the Berlin Sportpalast to a carefully selected audience of 14,000 party officials, war veterans, workers, and women. Millions of other Germans listened to the speech via radio.

Below is the English translation of the main part of the speech and also the recorded audio version of the speech.

2Let me, to establish what the truth is, ask a number of questions of you, my fellow Germans, which you must answer me to the best of your knowledge and convictions. When my listeners indicated their spontaneous approval of my demands of January 30, the British press the next day claimed that it had been a propaganda spectacle, and was not representative of the true mood of the German people.
Well, to this meeting today I invited a cross section, in the best sense of that word, of the German people. In front of me there sit, row on row, wounded soldiers from the eastern front, men with scarred bodies, with amputated legs or arms, men blinded in action who have come here with their Red Cross nurses, men in the prime of life whose crutches are standing in front of them. In between, I count as many as 50 wearers of the Oak Leaf Cluster and of the Knight’s Cross, a splendid delegation from our fighting front. Behind them, there is a block of armaments workers, from Berlin’s armored car factory. Behind them, there sit men from the various party organizations, soldiers from our fighting forces, physicians, scientists, artists, engineers, architects, teachers, officials, civil servants from their offices and studies, proud representatives of our intellectual life on all its levels, to whom the country at this time of war owes miracles of inventiveness and human genius. Distributed over the entire auditorium of the Sports Palace I see thousands of German women. Youth is represented, and so is venerable age. No estate, no profession, no age group was overlooked when our invitations went out. Thus I can properly say that facing me is a cross section of the entire German people, at the front and at home. Is that correct?

Then you, my listeners, are representing the nation at this moment. And it is you whom I would like to ask ten questions. Give me your answers, along with the German people, before the whole world, but particularly before our enemies.

The British claim that the German nation has lost its faith in victory. I ask you: Do you believe, with the Führer and with us, in the final, total victory of the German people? I ask you: Are you resolved to follow the Führer through thick and thin in the pursuit of victory, even if this should mean the heaviest of contributions on your part?

Second. The British claim that the German nation is tired of the struggle. I ask you: Are you prepared to continue this struggle with grim determination, and undeterred by any circumstance decreed by fate, to continue it with the Führer, as the phalanx of the home front behind our fighting armies, until victory is ours?

Third. The British claim that the Germans are no longer in a mood to accept the ever increasing amount of war work demanded of them by the government. I ask you: Are you, and the German nation, resolved to work ten, twelve, and if need be fourteen or sixteen hours a day, if the Führer should command it, and to give your all for victory?

Fourth. The British claim that the German nation is resisting the government’s measures of total war, that what the Germans want is not total war but surrender. I ask you: Do you want total war? Do you want it, if need be, even more total and radical than we are capable of imagining it today?

Fifth. The British claim that the German nation has lost its confidence in the Führer. I ask you: Is your confidence in the Führer more passionate, more unshakable than ever? Is your readiness to follow him on all his paths, and to do whatever is necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion, absolute and unlimited?

I ask you my sixth question. Are you prepared henceforth to devote your entire strength to providing the Eastern front with the men and materials it needs to give Bolshevism its mortal blow?

I ask you my seventh question. Do you swear a solemn oath to the fighting front that the country stands behind it, its morale high, and will give it everything necessary to achieve victory?

I ask you my eighth question. Do you, especially you, the women yourselves, want the government to see to it that German women, too, give all their energies to the pursuit of the war, filling jobs wherever possible to free men for action and thus to help their men at the front?

I ask you my ninth question. Do you approve, if necessary, the most radical of measures against a small group of draft-dodgers and blackmarketeers, who play peace in the midst of war, and mean to exploit people’s sufferings for their own selfish purposes? Do you agree that a person who interferes with the war effort shall lose his head?

As my tenth and last question I ask you: Is it your wish that even in wartime, as the party program commands, equal rights and equal duties shall prevail, that the home front shall give evidence of its solidarity and take the same heavy burdens of war upon its shoulders, and that the burdens be distributed equitably, whether a person be great or small, poor or rich?

I have asked you. You have given me your answers. You are a part of the nation; your response has thus shown the attitude of the German people. You have told our enemies what they must know lest they abandon themselves to illusions and misinformation. “

{Source of English translation: Joachim Remak, ed., The Nazi Years: A Documentary History. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969, pp. 91-92.}

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Sources

http://ghdi.ghi-dc.org/docpage.cfm?docpage_id=2428

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/goebbels-sportpalast/

https://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/goeb36.htm

The Jazz Standard the Nazis could not destroy.

I was reminded of this song while I was watching “the Man in the Castle”. So many musicians were murdered during the Holocaust Musicians like the talented composer Gideon Klein

The youngest Jewish composer murdered during the Holocaust, Gideon Klein was only 26 when he was murdered in the Fürstengrube sub-camp near Auschwitz. His oeuvre fuses Jewish themes with modern composition techniques. In 1940, he was offered a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London. This could have saved his life, but he was not allowed to travel from Prague.

Sources

https://www.dw.com/en/jewish-composers-who-died-during-the-holocaust-but-whose-music-lives-on/g-43567006

https://dirkdeklein.net/2018/07/19/captain-macheath-the-story-behind-mack-the-knife/

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David Friedmann;painting to survive-My interview with his daughter Miriam.

David Friedmann’s story is not just a story of dealing with the horrors of the Holocaust but also a story of a second chance and hopes despite immense grief and hardships.

The artist David Friedmann was born in Mährisch Ostrau, Austria (now Ostrava, Czech Republic), but moved to Berlin in 1911. In 1944, Friedman was separated from his wife and daughter, never seeing them again, and was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Friedman survived his internment at the extermination camp. After the war he married fellow survivor Hildegard Taussig. After living in Israel for five years, the family immigrated to the United States in 1954, eventually becoming citizens and settling in St. Louis, where he worked as a commercial artist for an advertising company, later retiring in 1962

But rather me telling his story ,it is much better if this story is told by someone who was very close to him. His daughter Miriam Friedman Morris.

I had some email correspondence with Miriam before the interview and had asked her a few questions. I would like to share her answers

I would like to know though how he felt from being a decorated artist during WW1 and a well established and a renowned artist in Berlin, to having to flee his adopted hometown in 1938 because of the rise of Nazism?

David Friedmann’s talent for portraiture played a central role throughout his career and saved his life during the Holocaust. His art weaves a tapestry of the joys and horrors he experienced, witnessed, and chronicled. My father’s works are imbued with an added sense of historical accuracy, one made all the more resonate by his firsthand experience of some of the most important events in the 20th century. Numerous catastrophic interruptions took him away from his art. David Friedman painted for his life—from the trenches of World War I, under threat of Nazi SS officers and through his postwar journey from Czechoslovakia to Israel and finally, the United States. His work exemplifies defiance in the face of persecution, loss and tragedy. His art would not be silent. My father’s artwork shines a light on a dynamic life crushed by the Nazis and his indomitable inner strength to paint again.

What kept him going even after his first wife and child had been murdered?

My father wrote a diary for me when I was born. He begins with the loss of his wife and child. He had to overcome his crippling grief to build a new life. I turned the pages and saw carefully placed photos and newspaper articles in-between text with pointing arrows. He wrote about his first postwar art exhibition in Jan. 1946 and befriending a young woman named Hildegard Taussig. I learned the courageous stories of two heroes, my mother and father.

Undoubtedly he used his art as a way of therapy, but aside of his art did he talk about the horrors he witnessed to you and your mother?

No, for my father, it was too painful. He had locked his feelings in a kind of jail and closed the door. My mother told some info about my father’s first family, but mostly I learned about his life from his art. After my father’s death, my father’s diary was transcribed. I learned a great deal more about his life and even found clues to help in the search for lost artwork. The lost pieces of a renowned painter and graphics artist confirm the brilliant career the Nazis could not destroy.

After his retirement from commercial art in the early 1960’s, he returned to the Holocaust. Disturbed by the fact that people were forgetting the Holocaust, my father believed it was his obligation to make an indelible statement to all humankind. He wanted to impress upon their consciousness the ruthless persecution, torment, and atrocities practiced by the Nazis, so that it would never happen again. His tortured recollections would be transferred to paper and show the dehumanization and suffering of the Jew under Nazi rule. There would be no imagery or symbolism; his art would show the reality that only a victim could produce.

“I wish everyone had to take a good look at the artwork. They have to look at what persecution under the Nazi regime was, and it can happen again, for in America to be a Nazi, to be a Communist is not prohibited. Against an evil world I will work further and try to put my feelings down on canvas or paper against antisemitism, against race hatred of all people.”

Some of the paintings of ” the Because They Were Jews!” exhibition haunt me and are very powerful.

This is the response my father would have wanted to never forget the Holocaust”

On August 29,1944 David Friedmann was put on a transport from Lodz to Auschwitz Birkenau.

Painting by David Friedmann(courtesy of Miriam Friedman Morris)

It is the duty of all of us to never forget the Holocaust, because it can so easily happen again.

Sources

https://chgs.elevator.umn.edu/asset/viewAsset/57fbe5ec7d58ae7d76557594#57fbe5ea7d58ae7d76557593

https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/last_portrait/friedmann.asp

https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn50039

https://www.visitnorman.com/events/testimony-the-life-and-work-of-david-friedman

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Hans Retzlaff-killed because he was gay.

Capture

The case of Hans Retzlaff is particularly sad, not only because he was killed in the concentration camp Sachsenhausen but also because he was disowned by his own Father.

Hans had already been in court in 1927 in relation to homosexual activities, which was a criminal offence in Germany at the time, according to paragraph 175  of the German criminal code(this paragraph was only completely deleted in 1994) It is believed he spent a few months in 1935 in concentration camp Lichtenburg Prettin, September to November 1935.

On November 3 1938 he was arrested again and was sentenced on January 4,1939 for “unnatural fornication”. He received further sentencing in February 1940.On September 5,1940 a Telex was sent from the Berlin Police about Hans, in which he was described as an “incorrigible homosexual”

175

On September 18,1940 the Police transported him to Sachsenhausen in just over 2 months later, on November 25, at 17.15 he died of an Pulmonary embolism and a chronic heart condition, at least that is what it said on the death certificate. The body was cremated, These causes of death were often put o the death certs even when a prisoner was executed, given the fact that the body was also cremated it sage to make the assumption that Hans was executed.

cert

 

The death cert  and another follow up document also state that the urn with his ashes could be requested from the crematorium authorities in writing, at own costs.

His Father however stated that he refused the estate of his deceased son and that he didn’t want anything to do with any of the matters relating to his son. Heh ad already been estranged from his son for years.

(document stating that the urn with his ashed can be retrieved within 4 weeks)doc2

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Sources

http://www.raunitz.de/sh_tote_opfer/h_retzlaff.html

https://collections.arolsen-archives.org/en/archive/1-1-38-1_100104402/?p=2&doc_id=4135831&tf_document_category=20406672|20472150|14539586|20332256|5075|24735180|5781|20407164|5456|26132683

 

Dora Gerson-Body lost or destroyed.

Dora

Dora Gerstein was a Jewish actress and singer  born  on 23 March 1899  in Berlin. She was murdered on February 14,1943 in Auschwitz. On one of the sites I used to do the research on Dora I noticed the line ‘Body lost or destroyed’.

Not only her body was destroyed but also her talent and beauty. Her short life is a poignant illustration how in a few years time, a poltical movement with a warped ideology impacted her life and ultimately caused her death.

In 1920 she starred in 2 silent films. Die Todeskarawane aka Caravan of Death and Auf den Trümmern des Paradieses aka In the Rubble of Paradise. She played the same character in both movies. The movies were based on novels by Karl May. Many Europeans have seen the Winnetou and Old Shatterhand westerns which were penned by Karl May. He was also admired by Albert Einstein  who said about him , “My whole adolescence stood under his sign. Indeed, even today, he has been dear to me in many a desperate hour.”

Ironically another admirer was Adolf Hitler who mentioned Karl May in Mein Kampf.

Between 1922 and 1924 Dora was married to the Actor/Director Veit Harlan. In less then 16 years after their divorce Harlan would become a pivotal figure in the Nazi propaganda machine. In 1940 he directed the anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda film Jud Süß.

Jud

To escape Nazi persecution she moved to the Netherlands in 1936, where she met her 2nd Husband Max Sluizer. The couple had 2 children  Miriam Sluizer born on 19 November 1937 and Abel Juda Sluizer born on 21 May 1940,only 11 days after Germany invaded the Netherlands.

Dora and her family were all transported to Drancy internment camp and from there they were deported to Auschwitz where they were all murdered on February 14,1943.

pass

Finishing up with one of Dora’s recordings “Vorbei”  an emotional ballad, reminiscing pre-Nazi Germany.

!They’re gone beyond recall
A final glance, a last kiss
And then it’s all over
under the frame of eternity
A final word, a last farewell”

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Sources

IMDB

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/110288165/dora-gerson

http://www.musiques-regenerees.fr/GhettosCamps/Camps/GersonDora.html

YouTube

 

Stella Goldschlag- Jewish collaborator.

stella

It is easy for me to be judgmental about Stella Goldschlag, but the fact is I don’t know what I would have done. However Stella did go beyond anything I would have done. Stella was boen in Berlin on July 10,1922 as the only child to a middle class Jewish family.

Although the family did observe all the Jewish holidays, they were German citizens. Her father was a World War I veteran.

But like any other Jewish family they were treated as lesser citizens with the arrival of the Nuremberg laws, and gradually their lives would become more and more perilous. After the 1938 November pogrom the family tried to leave Germany, but could not get the required visas.

In 1941, Stella married a Jewish Jazz musician, Manfred Kübler. They had met whilst  working as Jewish forced-labourers in a war plant in Berlin. In  1942, when the Berlin Jews started to be rounded up and deported to the concentration and death camps, Stella went underground, using forged papers to pass as a non-Jew , her blue eyes and blonde hair gave her an ‘Aryan’ appearance.

However in 1943 Stella, her husband and her parents were found out and arrested. Manfred was deported to Auschwitz.

In order to safe herself and her parents Stella agreed to start working for the Gestapo as Greiferin(catcher) to get the Jews who had gone in hiding, sometimes referred to as U-Boats.

Stella was very successful tracing her former schoolmates and handing their information over to the Gestapo, while posing as an ‘U-Boat’ herself. Some of Stella’s tricks to apprehend Jews in hiding included promising them food and accommodation, meanwhile turning them over to the Nazi authorities.

Although she was promised that her Parents would be safe they were also deported to Auschwitz, but initially were sent to Theresienstadt. They were killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau in October 1944. This did not stop Stella to continue working fort the Gestapo

On October 29,1944 she married a fellow Jewish collaborator,Rolf Isaaksohn.

They were granted a bounty of 200-300 Reichsmark for every Jew in hiding who was arrested with their help. Carrying a gun and papers identifying them as Gestapo agents, they were free to move about the city and did not have to wear the Yellow star .Initially, the Greifer HQ was located in the transit camp at Grosse Hamburgerstrasse but was lare on moved to  the pathology wing of the Jewish hospital.

On one weekend alone, Goldschlag helped the Gestapo catch 62 Jews.

After the war she went into hiding . however she was found and arrested by the Soviets in October 1945. She was sentenced to 10 years in detention.

arrest

After her detention she moved to Weset Berlin, where she was arrested and tried again, She was sentenced to 10 years , but due to the fact she already served time in Soviet detention the sentence was suspended.

Rolf died in 1945, I don’t know under what circumstances.

Stella committed suicide in  1994 by throwing herself out of the window of her apartment in Freiburg.

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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Sources

https://www.tracesofwar.com/articles/5158/Goldschlag-Stella.htm

https://www.aviva-berlin.de/aviva/Found.php?id=141669

http://www.holocaustchronicle.org/staticpages/421.html

https://historycollection.co/treason-12-historys-notorious-traitors/10/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tiergartenstraße 4

T4

Tiergartenstraße 4, may look like an ordinary German address. But is an address which is synonymous to unspeakable evil.

It was the address of a villa in  the Tiergarten or Zoo district in central Berlin.

T4 Villa

But more then that it was the headquarters of the Nazi “euthanasia” program ,the mass murder of disabled people and others, code named Aktion T4.

An estimated 300,000 people with disabilities were killed as a result of the T4 Aktion program. The definition of disability was very loosely used by the Nazis. Even a political dissident could be marked as disabled.

What often is overlooked is that the authorizing of  the euthanasia program was signed by Adolf Hitler and dated Sept. 1, 1939. The very same day as the Nazi regime invaded Poland.

Officially the program  ended in  August 1941 amid a welter of protests from many quarters of German society. But in reality the killing continued to the end of the war.

 

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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Sources

Britannica

gedenkort-t4.eu

All that is interesting.

Otto and Elise Hampel-Ordinary citizens.

Otto and Elise

Some people think that all Germans subscribed to the Nazi regime’s policies and that there was no resistance. But that is not the case, there were many who did resist the Nazi’s warped ideology. And they often paid dearly for it.

Otto and Elise Hampel were 2 ordinary people.

Otto Hampel  was born 21 June 1897  in Mühlbock, a suburb of Wehrau, now in Poland, but then part of Germany. He served in World War I and was later a factory worker.

Elise Hampel (nee Lemme)  was born 27 October 1903 in the Bismark area of Stendal.  She worked as a domestic worker and was a member of the National Socialist Women’s League.

They married in 1935, and were an ordinary working class couple going about their daily lives until November 1940 when Elise got the news  that her brother had been killed in the invasion of France.This changed , their attitude towards the Nazis in general, and Hitler in particular.

They would leave anonymous hand written postcards in Berlin  with messages encouraging people not to co-operate with the government, to refuse to serve in the German army, and not to donate to Nazi organisations like Winter Relief ,and attacking Hitler.Many of the postcards would have the heading “Free Press”.

free press 2

free press

Over a time span of more then 2 years the couple left more then 200 of these cards all across Berlin.

Although nearly all the postcards were immediately brought to the Gestapo, it took two years for the Gestapo to find the couple.

Eventually, by chance, the couple were caught and arrested in October 1942. Otto Hampel declared to the police police that he was “happy with the idea” of protesting against Hitler and his regime. The Hampels were sentenced to death on January 22, 1943 by the People’s Court for “Wehrkraftzersetzung-undermining military force ” and “preparation for high treason,” and executed on April 8, 1943.

Two ordinary people who displayed extraordinary bravery, because they knew that they could be caught every time they planted a card, and every card carried the death sentence.

memorialTheir Gestapo file was given to German novelist Hans Fallada, and the story of Otto and Elise Hampel  inspired his 1947 novel, translated into English and published in 2009 as Every Man Dies Alone (Alone in Berlin in the UK). The story was filmed in 2016 as Alone in Berlin.

 

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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Sources

History.org.uk

The Guardian

World of Wonder

Wikipedia

 

 

Helene Mayer-Caught between a Rock and a hard place.

Helen Mayer

The Olympic Games are the biggest sporting events in the world. But more then a sporting event is is also a political event filled with propaganda. This was never more clear then in 1936 during the Berlin Olympic Games.

1936

On July 26,1935,German sports commissioner Hans von Tschammer und Osten advised that no Jews would represent Germany at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He claimed that Jews had competed in the qualifying events but none made the grade. In November 1935 Germany would make a bit of a u-turn after  mounting international pressure and allow the half-Jewish fencer Helene Mayer onto the team.

In 1936 the Nazi politics which enabled the Holocaust were already in full swing, three years prior the first concentration camp, Dachau, had already gone in operation.

The first Jewish person to die in Dachau was Arthur Kahn, a 21-year-old Jewish German medical student had enrolled in Edinburgh University in Scotland, he had returned to , Germany to pick up his student records at the University of Wurzburg.He was killed on April 12 1933.

In the U.S, there were those who believed that the country should boycott the 1936 Olympics due to Hitler’s stand towards Jewish athletes and his obvious discrimination towards athletes of African-American descent.

Helen Mayer had already  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 became a national hero in Germany and was celebrated, with her photo plastered everyone. According to a profile in The Guardian, “She was tall, blonde, elegant and vivacious. The fact that she was tall,blonde and blue eyed were taken in consideration to include her in the Olympic squad.

In 1931, her father died of a heart attack. She finished fifth at the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, having learned, two hours prior to the match, that her boyfriend had died in a military training exercise in Germany.Two years later Helene Mayer lost her German citizenship. Luckily for her, she managed to enroll into Berkley and to compete for the USC Fencing Club.

In 1936, however, it appeared that the same people who stripped her of citizenship and humiliated her to the point of complete ostracization, wanted her to perform once again for Germany.

Reluctantly she decided to accept the invitation although she was caught between a rock and a hard place between her professional career and her dignity and pride.

Goebbels requested of the press that no comments were to  be made regarding Helene Mayer’s non-Aryan ancestry She won a silver medal in individual women’s foil. She gave a Nazi salute on the podium, and later said it might have protected her family that was still in Germany, in labor camps.

Helen

There are some who have called her a traitor. I don’t describe to that point of view, in fact I think what she did was heroic. She was safe in the USA but yet she decided to represent her country at the major sporting tournament, risking being imprisoned after the tournament and especially if she hadn’t won a medal. Although the politics of her country failed her she still felt German, she had no political agenda. And I believe she competed for Germany in the hope of securing better treatment for her family, who were still living in Germany. It is easy to judge when you are not put in that position.

At the end of the day she was used as a pawn of the Nazi regime and the International Olympic Committee.

After the Olympics, she returned to the United States and became a nine-time U.S. champion. She received citizenship in 1941 but returned to Germany in 1952.Where she married an old friend, Erwin Falkner von Sonnenburg, in a quiet May ceremony in Munich. The couple moved to the hills above Stuttgart before setting in Heidelberg where she died of breast cancer in October 1953, two months before her 43rd birthday.

fENCING

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Sources

The Guardian

Irish Times

Vintage News

Mashable