Contact: Victoria Castello
ELGA 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").
The 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.
E-mail: THE ART OF HELGA KING