This is Helga Liné, looking back over her life:
An wise old 91 year lady in an apartment in Buenos Aires, with a bright mind and a bad back
A young contortionist in a circus in Portugal, and then a vaudeville artist
A young actor at 10
A young Jewish child, called Helga Lina Stern, fleeing Nazi Germany with her parents.
The gallery shows Helga Liné over time. Unfortunately, there are no photos from her time as a contortionist in a circus, and of her as a child.
Re-joining a family: bridging 70 years
November 2021 in Portugal, in a country house close to Monchique, a guest of the family of C and A looked at a family picture gallery. A small, yellowish photo of an extraordinarily beautiful young woman caught the guest´s attention. The foto is the first photo in the gallery above.
C and A are an elderly couple, widely travelled through the world, whose retirement place is Portugal. They live in Monchique, alone, and their children work in other parts of the world. A is British, and C is a born Brazilian with a German mother and a Brazilian father. C´s mother had left Germany to Brazil to flee the Nazis.
The guest, let's call him T, curiously asked who this beautiful young face was. "Oh, this is Helga", was the answer. "She is a relative of our family, but we have not heard from her since the Second World War. We do not know whether she is still alive. All we know is that she left Germany as a child and became an actress in Portugal. Her original name was Helga Lina Stern - it´s a Jewish name."
T had worked in Information Technology. In his view, nobody of that profile would be invisible on the web.
And surely, by searching for "helga stern actress portugal" a wealth of information became quickly visible, through photos, videos, articles and a Wikipedia entry. Now the question was: is she still alive?
So, C and T started a hunt to know whether she lived, and if so, where. It was not terribly difficult to find out. Youtube and Facebook provided the necessary tracking contacts.
Through several contact points at film festivals and film studios, they found the director of a movie that had shown her life and her career. He confirmed that Helga was still alive. And eventually, there were two telefone numbers, and permission to contact Helga.
Nobody replied to the phone call in Berlin. But Helga Liné replied from her apartment in Buenos Aires. Helga Liné was Helga Lina Stern.
A new connection between old relatives
This was the beginning of, as Helga eventually said, a new life for her. And it was a most unexpected discovery for C, who had never thought that tracking of her never seen relative might be so easy.
Helga Liné now lives alone in Buenos Aires, at age 91 in the year 2022, without a family. The only relative known to her was a granddaughter who lived in Switzerland, remote and with little contact to Helga. Helga did not know that she had any other living relatives. She was divorced, and her own daughter was already dead for many years.
The call from C in Portugal, out of the blue, connected her back to a time seventy years ago, and to a family that she had now known to have during all her adult life.
So, a lost family connection between two continents, reaching back seventy years was re-established from an old small bleached out foto, one of many in a foto gallery.
Since the reunion, C and Helga chat nearly every day, over voice and over video. C feels that she has a kind of a new mother (Helga is in the generation of her C´s mother). Helga, despite her age and her back which forces her to fly first class only, intends to come to Portugal to meet C in person.
Helga Stern, as a Jew, has never received German compensation until now
Helga is Jewish. But, for whatever reason, she never requested to receive compensation for the horrors of the Jewish population under Nazi Germany. Thus, she perhaps unknowingly, forwent half a life of compensation.
Now Helga has received a "symbolic" compensation of 2500 Euro, and she currently receives some medical benefits via the Tzedaka Foundation:
Tzedaka Foundation’s Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program (is) designed to meet the diverse needs of vulnerable and aging Nazi victims. Since the financial crisis of 1999-2002, the state health care system has virtually collapsed and cannot provide the necessary social services to care for the elderly. Retirement pensions are very low and often inadequate to meet basic needs, and many seniors saw their life savings vanish during the crisis in the previous decade.
Jewish Claims Conference Example
06.10.2021 CLAIMS CONFERENCE NEGOTIATIONS WITH GERMAN GOVERNMENT LEAD TO FIRST-TIME PENSIONS FOR 6,500 HOLOCAUST SURVIVORS
Around 6,500 Jewish Holocaust survivors of the Leningrad blockade, people who survived in hiding in France or were persecuted in Romania, are now receiving pensions for the first time
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference) announced that survivors of the Siege of Leningrad, as well as survivors in hiding in France and survivors of persecution in Romania who have not previously received pensions related to the Shoah, will receive pensions for the first time be obtained.
Gideon Taylor, President of the Claims Conference , said: "With each passing year, our negotiations gain importance as the last generation of survivors ages and their needs increase. We are pleased to once again liberalize the eligibility criteria for survivors this year , including the awarding of pensions to nearly 6,500 survivors for the first time. Seventy-five years after the Holocaust, these token payments represent recognition and restore to survivors some of the dignity that was stolen from them in their youth." The renegotiated pension program for survivors persecuted in the above regions is now open; Applications will be accepted immediately. Payments are €375 per month. Payments from the Child Survivor Fund, a token lump sum of €2,500, will also be paid to those who meet the tracking criteria and were born in 1928 or later. Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, chief negotiator of the Claims Conference negotiating delegation, explained: "As chief negotiator, I have a duty to the survivors to achieve every possible new and additional measure of justice. I am therefore happy that the German government is now recognizing more survivors who have suffered unimaginable things. It is me It is a special honor to negotiate minimum justice side by side with some of these survivors each year.Sadly during this year's negotiations, we had to mourn the death of our longtime colleague, co-negotiator and friend Roman Kent z'l, who gave us the reiterated the urgency of our work and his spirit encouraged us to claim the additional funds, which we have received."
Greg Schneider, Executive Vice President of the Claims Conference , commented, "Each year, we work around the negotiating table to define, recognize, and implement a minimum level of justice for every survivor. We will continue to do so for as long as there is one survivor among us. We are honored to be able to provide a benefit to these survivors who have waited so long for recognition. The payments are important symbols of Germany's recognition of their suffering. For many of the survivors, the payments are a relief at the same time, the crushing poverty that forces some to choose between food, medicine or rent."
Ruediger Mahlo, representative of the Claims Conference in Germany explained: “For almost three years the people of Leningrad have suffered terribly during the German blockade. For the trapped Jews, there was also the constant fear of the city being taken by the German Wehrmacht, which would have meant certain death for them. The award of an ongoing grant now closes an important equity gap”
During the last year's negotiations, two additional payments of €1,200 each were agreed for Jewish beneficiaries of the Hardship Fund. The second of the two payments will be made to the beneficiaries from December 1, 2021.
Holocaust survivors who have previously received one-off payments of €2,556 or more and were therefore unable to receive further payments will now also be entitled to additional hardship fund payments of €1,200 in 2021 and 2022. This affects an estimated 1,700 Holocaust survivors worldwide.
The Claims Conference negotiating delegation consists of Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat as Chief Negotiator, Co-Chair Roman Kent z"l, senior figures from Holocaust survivor Ambassador Colette Avital, Sir Ben Helfgott and Marian Turski, Ambassador Reuven Merhav, Rabbi Andrew Baker and the Executive Claims Conference Vice President Greg Schneider.