Helga Wolfenstein King

Helga Wolfenstein King

contemporary & holocaust art

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Helga Wolfenstein King (1922 - 2003)

Before World War II
Helga Wolfenstein was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia in 1922. Even as a teen, she was a gifted artist, poet, and linguist. At the onset of the war, Helga's only sibling Renate married Dr. Fred Barber and moved to London, England.

Helga Wolfenstein (1940, age 18)
Helga Wolfenstein (1940, age 18)

During World War II
In November 1941, Brno's Jews received Nazi orders. They were to report for transport to the Czech Theresienstadt concentration camp. Czechs called the camp Terezin. Helga, her mother, one aunt, and their permitted hand luggage were crammed into one of those crowded cattle cars.

In Terezin, teenaged Helga was a draftswoman. She met her soulmate Peter Kien / Petr Kien. Although young himself, Peter was an accomplished Czech artist, poet, and writer. Peter heroically and lovingly used his influence in the camp to save the three women from a transport to the Auschwitz death camp. Tragically, he later found himself on a transport to Auschwitz where he died.

Sad Case of Repeatedly Looted Art
Before his own deportation, Peter gave Helga a suitcase containing 400-500 of his drawings and some writings. They hid the suitcase in Terezin's ghetto hospital for infectious diseases, where Helga's mother was matron. The purpose of this suitcase was to save these illicit artworks from destruction by the Nazis and to serve as a testimonial of their love. In the event of his death, Peter ceded them in full ownership to Helga.

After liberation (May 8, 1945), the suitcase stayed at Helga's aunt's apartment in Brno until the Communists confiscated it. Admitting that they are Helga's property but claiming them as national treasures, today's Terezin Memorial (Památník Terezín) has refused to return Peter's art works to Helga and her heirs.

In her many attempts to regain these pieces, Helga beseeched Holocaust museums of the world
and corresponded with Holocaust authors.
In his Holocaust book Böhmische Dörfer, author Jürgen Serke wrote extensively about Helga's relationship with Peter Kien.

Helga Wolfenstein King (2001)
Helga Wolfenstein King (2001, age 79)

You can see roughly 30 cherished pieces of Peter Kien's art that Helga possessed at the time of her death, here. Helga died trying to get the rest of Peter's dear tokens of love returned to her. Helga's daughter Judy would welcome advice or funds for the retrieval of these cherished and valuable pieces.

After World War II
After her release from Terezin in 1945, orphaned Helga moved to Prague. She worked as a commercial artist making movie posters and other advertisements. Her sister Renate and brother-in-law Fred sent for her, and Helga moved to live with them in Cyrenaica, Libya and London, England. Helga became a British citizen.

In 1957, nationalized-American Eric King, Helga's hometown friend, vacationed in London. In time, he wooed and won Helga's love. She left her beloved nephews and bustling London for sleepy, tropical Lake Worth, Florida. Helga and Eric married upon her arrival.

In 1959, Helga and Eric became the parents of Judy. Living mainly in Lake Worth, they also spent some time in Montauk, NY; Somers Point and Wildwood, NJ; and Pittsburgh, PA.

Helga went on to become a talented and professionally trained artist. Some of her strongest local influences were: Reuben Hale, Jim Houser, Patrick Archer, Gene Arant, and Paul Aho. Some of her favorite artists included: Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg, Morris Louis, Mark Rothko, Paul Klee, Willem de Kooning, Rufino Tamayo, and Gustav Klimt.

Allergic to turpentine, Helga painted in watercolor and acrylic. She drew in charcoal, sanguine lead, pastels, pen-and-ink, and graphite. She created mixed-media collages and works in fiber, mosaic, copper enamel, and ceramic. Her pieces grace private collections across the globe.

Not long after becoming a U.S. citizen,
Helga Wolfenstein King died in Florida in 2003.
Her husband Eric King died in Florida in 2009.
Her daughter Judy M. King, a photographer, calls Florida home.

© Copyright 2012-2024 Helga Wolfenstein King and her heirs. All rights reserved.