Helga Carden was born in Berlin in 1925. Her father was a World War One veteran, and her family was middle class. She spent her childhood summers with an aunt in Danzig, where she first encountered anti-Semitism. She attended a state school, where she received a secular and a Jewish education. Helga's life began to change as anti-Jewish sentiment built in pre-war Germany. She was forbidden to swim in public pools and was not allowed to participate in the gymnastics display for the 1936 Olympics. In 1937 Helga was expelled; she later attended a private Jewish school.
On Kristallnacht in 1938, Helga witnessed the burning of a temple and the destruction of a Jewish pharmacy. Her family discussed fleeing from Germany, but no country would accept them, due to her father's illness. In March 1939 Helga's parents arranged for her to flee to England aboard a Kindertransport train. Helga and 200 other children travelled by train and ship to England.
In London, Helga stayed with family friends for a week and was then taken in by a family. At 17, she left their home for nursing college. Helga later learned of her father's death in 1944.
After the war ended, Helga discovered that her mother had been deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto, in Czechoslovakia, where she had been forced to work in a plastics factory. She was reunited with her mother in 1947. Helga and her mother emigrated to Canada in 1957 and moved to the United States in 1961. Helga worked as a nurse, and later became an anaesthesiologist. She married in 1971. Her mother died the following year.
In this clip she reflects on the emotions she felt when preparing to leave her family behind.
Well, you know - I guess I was happy that I had a chance to leave. The day I left I knew that I would never see my father again. You know, his health was bad and I somehow knew he wouldn't survive. And, I was hoping to see my mother again - but I didn't know.
I started... you know... I tried not to cry and... my little dog was at the door when I left... and that upset me. From then it was a little difficult.