South Coast Woman Remembers Living Through Start Of Nazi Persecution Of Jews
She was just 10 years old when she experienced anti-semitism for the first time. Helga Carden was born in Germany, and was living there when Adolph Hitler, and the Nazi Party came to power in the 1930’s. She lived through one of the most horrifying events of the time, when the German government for the first time in effect sanctioned violence against Jews.
When she was 10, she and her other Jewish classmates were kicked out of public schools just because they were Jewish. Jews were banned from some stores and parks.
The Santa Barbara woman says at the time, she tried to make the best of the situation. She was an only child living with her parents in Berlin.
But, in November of 1938, what was discrimination, and hostility towards German Jews turned into outright violence. It was something which is now known as Kristallnacht, or the “Night of Broken Glass.” The Nazis used the assassination of a German diplomat as an excuse for two days of attacks on Jews, and Jewish businesses.
Carden says authorities did nothing to stop the attacks. The now 95 year-old woman says she remembers it like it was yesterday.
Kristallnacht is seen by many is the beginning of the Holocaust, which left six million Jews in Europe dead. During the two nights of attacks, 30,000 Jewish men were imprisoned, and seven thousand businesses and synagogues damaged or destroyed.
Carden says some Jews tried to flee German, but it wasn’t easy. Other countries wouldn’t take Jews unless they had a job, or money. In the 1930’s before the widespread use of concentration campus, and creation of the death camps, the Nazia would allow Jews to leave. But, they wouldn’t allow them to take their money, which made it hard for them to immigrate elsewhere.
Carden’s father was a World War One veteran who had ironically fought for Germany, and was too ill to move. Her mother wanted to stay with her husband.
But, they decided to get Helga out of the country through what was known as Kindertransport. Thousands of Jewish children from Germany, and other countries threatened by the Nazis were sent to foster families in Great Britain. She went to live in England.
Carden’s father died in German captivity. Her mother was sent to a concentration camp, where she was a slave laborer, but she survived the war.
Helga became a nurse in England. Then, she and her mother moved to Canada, and in 1962, to Los Angeles. She met her husband there, and was married for 25 years. After retiring, they moved to Santa Barbara.
Even at 95, the Santa Barbara woman is still active, working out every day. But, she says that she worries that current generations don’t know about Kristallnacht. The survivor says it’s important that people know about this part of history.
Carden says she was fortunate to survive the Holocaust when so many others did not. And, she believes that to forget past mistakes opens the door for history to repeat itself.