The Story of Helga Lemer 1919 – 2021
Helga Lemer, née Kirsch was born in Berlin in November 1919. She was an only child of Felix and Gertrude Kirsch. Helga described her childhood as wonderful. She attended a non-Jewish school where she had non-Jewish as well as Jewish friends until Hitler came to power.
In 1934 Helga visited her father’s family in Schlochau where she heard Nazis marching and singing in the street a song with the words, ‘When Jewish blood splashes from knives.’ This was just the beginning.
After the Nuremberg Laws were introduced in mid-September 1935, Helga like other Jews were not allowed to take part in normal social activities. Discrimination against the Jews grew worse by the day until the terrible events of Kristallnacht in 1938 where Jewish property was ransacked and burned, and Jews were beaten on the streets.
In 1939 Helga’s mother encouraged her daughter to take a job as a domestic servant in England, promising to follow. However, their reunion never took place.
This presentation identifies how persecuted refugees both then and now are often forced to leave their homes and should be welcomed and supported. It is suitable for Year 6 and above.
Lesley’s Urbach tells this story on behalf of Helga’s family. Her presentation uses film testimony provided by Helga, family photos, historical photographs and brief excerpts from historical film.
Presented by Lesley Urbach
Since retiring from her work as a careers adviser, Lesley Urbach has graduated with an MRes degree in Jewish History and Culture from Southampton University, and co-founded the Remembering Eleanor Rathbone Group. She has been involved with Generation 2 Generation from its inception and is a co-chair of the planning committee and a trustee. Since 2014 Lesley has been befriending a young woman who came to Britain as a domestic slave, and between 2015-2020 helped support Syrian refugees in Barnet.
She tells the story of her mother and aunt who arrived in the UK on the Kindertransport, and the family left behind. She believes the persecution and murder of millions of Jews, as well as other minority groups, must be remembered and not relegated to a ‘detail of history’. Lesley also promotes the importance of standing up and speaking out against intolerance, bullying and the persecution of others.