KING (WOLFENSTEIN) was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1922. After
the arrival of Adolph Hitler's Nazis in 1938, Helga taught elementary
school classes for children who were no longer permitted to attend
public schools. In 1941, Helga and her mother were transported to
the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in North Bohemia. She survived
there working in a drawing office with painters, graphic artists and
architects. Her best friend and great love was the painter, poet and
writer PETER KIEN - best known posthumously for writing the libretto
that VIKTOR ULLMANN used to create the opera "The Emperor of Atlantis"
(known by the Theresienstadt inmates as "Death Abdicates").
Theresienstadt Concentration Camp was created by the Nazis as a showcase
for the benefit of international inspectors. The "healthy" atmosphere
was entirely fabricated and included a bank that printed worthless
money (pictured at right), a coffeehouse and a great deal of cultural
activity. Once the inspectors left, however, it was Nazi business
as usual. After the last performance of the Verdi Requiem, 5,000 inmates
were shipped off to the gas chambers at Auschwitz. Joining them were
Peter Kien and Viktor Ullman.
With the exception of one aunt and a grandmother, Helga's entire family
perished in the Holocaust. Before he was executed, Peter Kien gave
Helga a gift - a suitcase containing all of his Theresienstadt drawings.
Helga's mother (who was the "Matron of the Ghetto Hospital for Infectious
Diseases") hid the suitcase amongst her patients. Her mother died
of typhus attending to Helga's grandparents on the day of liberation.
Helga, who had also contracted typhus, survived.
In 1957, Helga King emigrated to the United States and married Eric
King, a naturalized American citizen from Czechoslovakia. In 1971,
the Memorial Terezin confiscated the suitcase containing Peter Kien's
drawings from the apartment of Helga's aged aunt in Czechoslovakia
who was terrorized by several men with a Communist agenda. Helga received
several letters from the Memorial Terezin informing her that the drawings
where to be used for one exhibition. She was forced to correspond
with the Terezin to insure the safety of her aunt. After the "Velvet
Revolution" Helga received a request from the Memorial Terezin requesting
that she donate the drawings. She refused, and more than 500 drawings
of inestimable value are still being held by them. Even though the
Terezin's attempt to challenge the testament of Helga's aunt (ten
years after her death) has been rejected by a Czech court, Peter Kien's
gift to Helga still remains in that country.
Helga King passed away in West Palm Beach, Florida in June 2003.