Helga Bernstein Relation (1924-2004)

Helga Bernstein Relation was born in Berlin, Germany, on February 24, 1924. She attended a public primary school and then a private Catholic school for lyceum (high school).

Helga’s father owned and operated a fabric wholesale business in Berlin. He worked primarily with silks, satins and velvets. Her mother was a respected seamstress in their community. 

Although changes began to take place as early as 1933, Helga’s family remained fairly comfortable and untroubled by the Nazi takeover of the city. However, after Kristallnacht, her parents knew they had to get out. They were able to secure a spot on a Kindertransport for Helga; it had been arranged that she would live with a friend of her father’s. The family originally planned to immigrate to Chile together, but arranging transport for all three of them was time consuming. Getting Helga out was a priority, and so in June of 1939, she boarded the train and went to London. She was 15.

Helga finished high school there and enrolled in a trade school to learn tailoring. She graduated and immediately enlisted in the English military. She was placed in an allied platoon where nearly every other member was also a Jewish refugee. Helga served from 1942 until 1945, and it is where she met her husband, Henry. He was with the US Air Force, and they met a dance in early 1944; they were married in October of the same year. Their son was born in England, and the couple settled in the United States in February 1946. Their daughter was born in 1949. They lived first in Vermont, then moved to Indiana after a year, and finally settled in Long Beach, California, where they would live for 35 years. Both of their children moved to Portland, Oregon in the early 1980s, with Helga and Henry following in 1988.