Recent Obituaries
In Memoriam Archive

Helped Troops Escape Nazis, Captured Vital SS Files.

Thomas Lamb Frazier ’42

A picture of Thomas Frazier

Delphine Parr Frazier ’44 and Thomas Frazier ’42

During the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944, hundreds of British and American servicemen found themselves trapped behind enemy lines. Tom Frazier's job was to get them out.

As an intelligence officer for the U.S. Army, he worked undercover in France and Italy to help stranded allied troops escape from the Nazis. He also obtained vital SS documents that became crucial evidence for the Nuremburg Trials of Nazi war criminals.

Thomas Lamb Frazier was born Ulrich Heinicke in 1921 in Germany and raised in Berlin, where he was known as Rikky. In 1937, at the age of 15, he escaped Nazi Germany, and followed his mother, stepfather, and brother Christoph Heinicke ’48, who had emigrated to Oregon. He maintained a lifelong connection with Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoeller, a hero of the German resistance, who had a profound influence on his early life.

Rikky earned a bachelor’s degree from Reed in history, and joined the U.S. Army in World War II. Thanks to his mastery of German and French, he was recruited into US intelligence services and was sent behind the German lines in France and Italy. Before leaving New York, Rikky was given 20 minutes to change his name; he scanned a Brooklyn phone directory for inspiration. ("Frazier was the name of the founder of our church in Portland and I was then planning to become a Unitarian minister.")

Behind German lines, he often operated alone, climbing the High Alps to keep lines of communication open between French and Italian partisans, and helping to bring out Allied soldiers and airmen. Amazingly, he located and managed to obtain a complete set of S.S. personnel files from a hospital in the Bavarian mountains--records that were later used to establish identity of war criminals in the Nuremberg Trials. For this he was decorated with the Bronze Star. 

Rikky also entered the Dachau death camp the night it was liberated, and kept the promise made to inmates that he would share the stories he heard from them. (He published his memoirs Between the Lines in 2001.)

After the war, he married Delphine Parr ’44, and returned to school, doing graduate work at the University of Washington, and the University of Chicago, receiving his master’s degree in social work at University of California-Berkeley in 1961. Most of his career was spent in the California Corrections Department, in the California Youth Authority, working toward making incarceration a constructive experience.

Both he and Delphine retired in 1977, and began teaching humanistic theories and providing workshops on transactional analysis in Europe. A massive heart attack in 1981 helped Rikky make peace with his life, he said, and "taught me again that love is at the core of existence and of human relationships." In the 1980s, the Fraziers expanded their work into India, and then to Russia and Eastern Europe. In 1996, they received the Hedges Capers Humanitarian Award for the "enormously selfless work they have done in many parts of the world to help the distressed."

Rikky's enjoyment of music, beginning first with the recorder at Reed and later with the guitar, enabled him to sing folk songs with people in many parts of the world. He also took great pleasure in his family cabin near Lake Tahoe.

"Reed has had a central influence on my life," he wrote in 1992, " from the touchstone theory of Matthew Arnold to our recent first visit to the temples of classical Greece. I could see Prof. Barry Cerf [English 1921–48] with his yellow, tattered lecture notes reading from the Odyssey, and professorial Rex Arragon [history 1923–62; 1970–74] with his slides of Delphi and Epidaurus. I was even more excited to see this in reality, and to discover it appeared exactly as I had first learned about it in 1938 in Eliot Hall."

He died November 5, 2004, in Stockton, California. Memorial services were held simultaneously in many locations around the world. Survivors include his wife, two sons and a daughter, three grandchildren, and his brother.

Appeared in Reed magazine: February 2005

comments powered by Disqus