Vail Symposium to present program on true story of Holocaust refugee |

Vail Symposium to present program on true story of Holocaust refugee

"Return to the Reich: A Holocaust Refugee's Secret Mission to Defeat the Nazis" was released in October. The book tells the true story of Freddy Mayer, a German-born Jew who fled to the United States with his family in the 1930s.
Special to the Daily

If you go …

What: Return to the Reich: A hero’s journey of vengeance and triumph

When: Sunday, Dec. 29. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; program begins at 6 p.m.

Where: Sebastian-Vail, Vail

Cost: $25 in advance, $35 at the door.

More information: Visit

In 1938, Freddy Mayer, a 16-year-old German-born Jew, escaped Nazi Germany with his family and fled to the United States — they were among the last German Jews to escape. However, Mayer’s story doesn’t end there.

The Vail Symposium presents Eric Lichtblau, author of “Return to the Reich: A Holocaust Refugee’s Secret Mission to Defeat the Nazis,” at 6 p.m. Sunday at The Sebastian Vail. The presentation in partnership with B’nai Vail will discuss Mayer’s story.

“When booking this program, we asked ourselves if this is a story that fits the season,” said Claire Noble, Vail Symposium program manager. “Freddy Mayer’s story is one of bravery, duty and ultimately triumph. Regardless of one’s spiritual beliefs, these are universal virtues that speak to all.”

Attempting to enlist the day after Pearl Harbor, Mayer was rejected as an “enemy alien” because he was German. He was soon recruited to the OSS, the country’s first spy outfit before the CIA, and returned to Europe as an American commando on a secret mission behind enemy lines in the Austrian Alps. With the help of a second Jewish refugee from the Netherlands and a Nazi defector, Mayer posed on the ground as a Nazi officer and a POW for nearly two months, collecting vital information that aided the Allies in seizing one of the Reich’s last battlegrounds.

Lichtblau chronicles Mayer’s journey in his nonfiction book, “Return to the Reich,” which Publishers Weekly called “a fresh and masterfully told WWII story” and Kirkus Review described as “an enthralling page turner.” As Lichtblau takes the audience through Mayer’s story, it will become clear how the story resonates with modern-day lessons about hatred, heroism and the contributions that refugees have made to America.

Support Local Journalism

About the speaker

Eric Lichtblau is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the best-selling author of “The Nazis Next Door” and “Bush’s Law: The Remaking of American Justice.”

Lichtblau was a Washington reporter for The New York Times for 15 years and a reporter for the Los Angeles Times for 15 years before that.

Lichtblau has also written during his career for the New Yorker, Time and other publications. He has been a frequent guest on NPR, MSNBC, C-SPAN and other networks, as well as a speaker at many universities and institutions.

His latest book, “Return to the Reich: A Holocaust Refugee’s Secret Mission to Defeat the Nazis,” was released in October.

For more information about the event, visit

Support Local Journalism