Milly Mogulof, Author . RDR Books $17.95 (253p) ISBN 978-1-57143-092-2

Mogulof competently documents the rise and fall of one of the greatest fencers of all time. Helene Mayer (1911–1953) was a three-time world champion and won a gold medal for Germany at the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. Born in Offenbach to a Christian mother and a Jewish father, Mayer was encouraged by her parents to fence competitively. Her success at the sport combined with her startlingly attractive appearance (she was a tall, blue-eyed blonde) to turn the young champion, nicknamed "the Golden He," into a German heroine. Mogulof explains that although Helene left her home in 1932 to study in California, the German government terminated her fellowship after Hitler's rise to power and she was expelled from the Offenbach fencing club because of her Jewish father. Friends helped her secure a teaching position in the U.S. A complex series of diplomatic maneuvers resulted in an invitation from the German government to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where she gave the "Heil Hitler" salute after winning the silver medal. According to Mogulof, Helene defended Germany upon her return to California and did not speak out against the extermination of Jews until after the war. Though Mogulof's writing is clear, her subject comes off as self-absorbed and nonreflective. It is never fully explained, for instance, whether Helene's reticence came from a lack of Jewish identity or concern for family members in Germany. Mayer eventually became a U.S. citizen but returned in 1952 to Germany, where she married an engineer shortly before she died of cancer. B&w illus. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/22/2002
Release date: 01/01/2001
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