Helen Konig was born in Strasbourg in December 1930. Living near the French-German border, Helen remembers frequent trips by her family to Germany to visit her mother’s family. She first experienced antisemitism on a trip to the park with her grandfather, when he was struck by a German citizen because he had asked if Helen could take her turn on a swing.

Following the invasion of Strasbourg, the French government evacuated all of their citizens and Helen’s family decided to flee. They assumed false identities, intending to escape to safety in Switzerland. They had to keep on the move and hid in a convent along the way. At the age of 13 years, Helen narrowly escaped deportation to Auschwitz, when her and her family were briefly imprisoned in Annemasse.

In 1950 in France, Helen met Leo Stein, a fellow refugee. They later married and decided to settle in Manchester. They had two children, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Helen still resides in Manchester.


“The new laws were decreed by Hitler and the Jews became second-class citizens. Most of them thought probably it’s only a phase, that it would pass.”

“…As we travelled, the van stopped, and I lifted the curtain in the van and I see a black Citroen and I see Germans going out. They came out with big Alsatian dogs, so we were panicky!”

“The Manchester community were welcoming when I came. We lived a Jewish life. Some people felt differently about their religion then, because of what happened during the war. They felt victimised; they had lost family. It didn’t change my Judaism.”