In 1938-39, Hungary annexed the area of Czechoslovakia in which Helen lived. After Germany occupied Hungary in 1944, Helen and her family were deported to the Uzhgorod ghetto. As Jews, they were soon transferred to various camps, where much of the family perished. Although at times Helen was too weak to walk, she and her older sister survived Auschwitz, forced labor at a camp munitions factory, and Bergen-Belsen.
And my grandfather also had a prayer shawl, a tallis, they call it. So they made these men put on these tallisim, these prayer shawls, and they told them to start praying. While they were praying, they started beating on them and they started cutting their beards. So my poor grandfather...and my...my mother had to watch that, while this was happening to her father, and she couldn't come to his rescue because, you know, you...you just get killed if you...if you go near there. So these poor old men had to endure the pain, not only the physical pain, but--the beating--but also the cutting of the beard. And my grandfather never saw himself without a beard. So he continued crying for a couple of days and my mother didn't know what to do with him. So she told...she gave him a scarf and he put it around his face and he tied...tied his scarf on top and then he put on his hat, you know. The older Jews in Europe wore these black hats. And that's how he walked around because he couldn't see...he couldn't accept himself without a beard.