Helen Colin
1923 - 2016
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Helen Colin
1923-2016
Helen (Goldsztajn) Colin an extraordinary woman of strength and valor, died at her home on Friday, July 22, 2016, surrounded by the love and unending gratitude of the family she blessed with life. Though tiny in stature, Helen cast an enormous presence as she approached each day with unstinting grace and elegance, and an astonishing charisma and charm that engaged others easily and bound them together with love and respect. "To be respected, you must give respect" was a concept both lived and often articulated by Helen. Helen created a successful life out of the enormous challenges she faced as a Holocaust survivor, in her own soft, gracious but unwaveringly tenacious and courageous manner.
Born is Tuszyn, Poland, in 1923 to Miriam and Joseph, she recalled fondly a loving childhood with an active and socially engaged family that included sister Stefa, brother Romek and an adored baby sister Selinka. Her idyllic childhood ended brutally one day when Nazi troops entered her schoolyard, burned all students' possessions and ordered Helen and all Jewish students never to return to school. Soon after, Nazis forced her family into the Lodz Ghetto. During her four years of imprisonment in the Ghetto she was starved, terrorized, and forced into slave labor. Helen ultimately lost her father who did not return one night. Fearing he had died, Helen and Stefa looked for him among corpses stacked like cordwood. Helen and Stefa found their dear father's body and buried him in a makeshift grave dug by their bare hands. Shortly after, Helen, who had known Kopel Colin and his family before the war, was asked by him to be his wife. In a group ceremony in the Ghetto, they were married and received an extra portion of bread as their wedding gift. Inhumane treatment, disease, starvation and death continued until the final liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto in August, 1944. Helen, Kopel, her mother, brother and two sisters were forced into a cattle car to Auschwitz. At the selection process, she was separated from her husband and brother. Helen, her mother and older sister were put in one line and her baby sister in another. Helen's last memory of her mother was watching as her mother pleaded to be allowed to accompany the young sister and left Helen with her older sister, waving to them and throwing kisses. Helen said she asked a Nazi guard where they were going and he motioned to the smokestacks of the crematorium and laughed. Helen was selected for work, moved to several camps, finally ending in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp with her sister. Miraculously, despite contracting typhus, Helen lived to see the liberation of Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 1945, Helen's 22st birthday.
After Liberation, Helen and her sister were sent to a Displaced Persons Camp in Germany. Weeks later, Kopel, a survivor of Dachau, came to her DP camp searching for family. They reunited and even found Kopel's brother, David, who married Stefa in the DP camp. Helen soon became pregnant but desperately wanted to go to America to start her family with Kopel. With her charm and charisma, even present after five years of horror, she persuaded those in authority to permit them to come to America. At the end of 1946, they arrived in New York and in February, 1947, Helen gave birth to their first child, a daughter. Helen always counted her immigration to America and the birth of their first child as the beginning of her life, a destiny prophesied to her by an elderly German bricklayer. Taken by her Nazi captors to perform heavy labor in a city ruin, barely alive and burning with fever, Helen approached the bricklayer, begging him to give her something so she could die. His life at risk for speaking to her, the bricklayer returned with a bottle of medicine and the day after with a hard-cooked egg wrapped in German newspaper, which predicted the imminent end of the war. The bricklayer told Helen not to give up, as she would live to have a family, see her grandchildren and have a special life. Helen called him Opa and from this example of kindness from a righteous German, she drew strength throughout her life knowing that one must never give up now should they label anyone based on superficial qualities. Helen often said that each person is unique and capable of great good.
After a brief stay in New York, Helen, Kopel and now two daughters came to Houston, Texas. They opened their own jewelry business, Colin's Jewelry, working together. Helen's confidence, charm and impeccable taste assured the success of their business and later her own and ongoing fine jewelry store, the Jewel Box at Smith Tower.
But, her true calling was to come. Helen was never unwilling to speak out as a Holocaust survivor. In fact, only days after the British liberated Bergen-Belsen, they asked for a survivor who spoke German to speak to German citizens who had resided outside the Concentration Camp. Helen volunteered. The German civilians were brought to the camp and there, in front of multiple pits of mass graves, her testimony was filmed and recorded and has recently been determined to be perhaps the first filming of a Holocaust Survivor giving her testimony after WWII. Helen said that despite assurance from British officers that she was protected she was very frightened, certain a Nazi sniper hiding on a roof would murder her as she spoke. But, fear did not silence her.
For more than 70 years, Helen willingly shared her experiences as a Holocaust survivor. Each time she spoke, Helen would experience anew her anguish, pain and deep sadness, but drove herself to speak because she felt that it was critically important to convey her message that a more peaceful, loving and tolerant world should be our continuing work and was possible. She particularly cherished the opportunity to speak to younger students and implored them to remember the future rests in their hands. These students often wrote to Helen to tell her how profoundly she touched and transformed them to be more respectful of all human beings.
At her core, Helen never thought of herself as a victim but saw herself as a Survivor who believed fervently that the world could be a better place. She always spoke from her heart with no script, whether to a small group or a ballroom filled with thousands of honored guests. Helen hoped and believed that by sharing her experiences, she might touch just one person who would help her change the world to be more loving, safe, and inclusive for all.
With encouragement from dear friends who knew the power of her message, Helen published her book, "My Dream of Freedom: From Holocaust to My Beloved America" at age 89. After reading Helen's book, First Lady Barbara Bush lauded it in a handwritten letter, saying: "Your book, "My Dream of Freedom" brought tears to my eyes. Your lesson of love-not hate is so important…I wish every child could read it." All proceeds from her book fund the Holocaust Museum Houston's Helen Colin Speak Out For Tolerance Scholarship established to encourage high school students to combat bigotry and intolerance.
Helen, known as Nana, adored her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, calling each a "treasure". Immensely generous, she encouraged each to strive to achieve their full potential. She often said that one's mind can never be taken away. She drew great pride in her progeny's achievements, but never measured one against another. And she always cherished the hugs, kisses and opportunities to be with her family. In her talks, she told students to not to leave home angry, to forgive and to express love because a later opportunity to take back an angry word is never assured.
Helen's husband, siblings, parents and nephews Alan and Bob Kolin predeceased her. She will always be cherished by her surviving family: daughters Muriel Meicler (Marcel) and Jeanie Goldman, grandchildren Emily Quinn (Aaron), Michele Meicler and Philip Meicler (Thayer) and great grandchildren Zaia, Moriah, Naomi, Ethan, Zoe and James. She is also remembered with love by many other nieces and nephews including Keith Miller, Joy Kolin (Nat Averil), Shane Kolin (Maureen) and Jonathan, Jackie and Ann Dei. Helen also leaves her dearest friend, Fini Konstat, and Fini's family which have become an extension of her own.
The family gratefully acknowledges the extraordinary care provided at the end of her life by Houston Hospice, Jewish Family Service and Ruth Sherman, the staff and friends at Brookdale Galleria, numerous kind companions provided through At Your Side and Christian Companions and by her doctors Mark Hausknecht, Nizar Dholakia and Gregory Mangum.
In lieu of flowers, the family gratefully requests that a donation to the Helen Colin Speak Out for Tolerance Scholarship at Holocaust Museum Houston be considered and that each person reading this consider reading Helen's book, "My Dream of Freedom".
Helen's fondest hope was that we all practice and choose kindness daily. As she often quoted her grandmother, "It costs nothing to be kind."
The funeral service in memory of Helen Colin will be Monday, June 25, 2016 at Congregation Beth Yeshurun at 1:30pm, 4525 Beechnut Street, Houston, 77096. A gravesite service will follow immediately for the family and others wishing to attend.



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Published in Houston Chronicle on Jul. 25, 2016.
MEMORIAL EVENTS
JUL
25
Funeral service
01:30 PM
JUL
25
Graveside service
Memories & Condolences
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38 entries
November 21, 2020
I’m a hidden child survivor of the Holocaust and was profoundly moved by Helen’s testimonial.
She’s a inspiration to all mankind!
Stan Schachnow
Friend
July 21, 2020
Hello my dear Mom. Today is the fourth anniversary of your death. I miss you dearly but I’m grateful you’re not here to see such hate in the world today and such anti Semitism. You spoke for so many years trying to promote love and acceptance and many got your message, just not enough. Rest In Peace ❤
Jeanie Goldman
Daughter
June 8, 2020
Good Afternoon from London UK. I want to tell you know, how touched I was with your delightful mother and her stories about her past via Shoah on You Tube. May Hashem bless her soul and give you all the strength and belief to carry on her incredible legacy. Best regards from London, Thank you Raphael Sinai
RAPHAEL SINAI
Friend
May 30, 2020
Helen had the courage to speak to teens at Bellaire High School and I recently heard from one student who met her there and became friends with her and has never forgotten her.
He just now let me know of her passing and I wanted to let the family know how she and her words still live on today.
I am a teacher at Bellaire and remember how eloquently she spoke and what a beautiful person Helen Colin was.
We were all fortunate to have known her.
Elizabeth McLendon
Teacher
July 22, 2019
I love you mom and on the fourth anniversary of your passing it doesnt get any easier I think of you many times during the day and you are on my shoulder each day giving me advice that is so precious to me.
Jeanie Goldman
Daughter
July 4, 2019
My dear mother on the right
I remember my mother telling me that when she and my father came to this country they went to see a movie with Joan Fontaine in it. They were shocked and sad and because mother said she looked just like her mother. Mother had a framed picture of Joan Fontaine sitting next to her bed for most of her life I'm enclosing a picture of my mother when she came to New York and Joan Fontaine . I think they could've been sisters!
Jeanie Goldman
June 16, 2019
Wish I was as beautiful as MAMA
Hello MAMA. I just read another response to your your lectures. It doesn't surprise me that people who NEVER MET YOU have such love and respect for you. You've taught us all so many important lessons of how to treat people. You are sooo loved by sooo many people.
Jeanie Goldman
June 14, 2019
Helen, if you can hear me from beyond, thank you. Your light in still burning strong in this world. I just listened to your testimonial today and I was deeply touched. Respect all people...I will remember. My best wishes to your family as the journey continues.
Daniel Sheehan
February 3, 2019
Today, 02February 2019, I fell in love.....I fell in love with Helen Colin It was by chance that I stumbled upon an interview of Ms Colin, an interview that I should never have stumbled upon, I should have been introduced to it
while in school for she is the teacher of what the world needs most....respect! Her story, thank God, remains, as does Helen in my heart. Regardless of religion, ALL people of the world need to be vigiliant!!! Polarization of society in any form, religion, politics, sexual, etc becomes a smoking ember ready to reignite!!!
David Warias
June 9, 2018
I was so moved by what your mother had to say. I am listening to her testimony right now. She was blessed with a long productive life and wherever she went, she only spread love. ❤
Edythe Richman
April 20, 2017
Hi Mom! I'm sending you loads of birthday wishes on what would have been your 94 birthday,rest in peace.
Jeanie Goldman
April 19, 2017
I just finished watching Helen Colin's testimony on youtube. She expressed and felt a whole spectrum of experiences and feelings right before my eyes. In the midst of her sorrow, heartache and hurt, I detected no hate and anger at this point in her life. That in itself is amazing. I would not have faulted her one bit for any hatred and anger she experienced in her life because of what happened to her and her family, and other families, both Jewish and non-Jewish who paid a tremendous price. Hers is a testimony that everyone should hear. Courage in the midst of fear, hope in the midst of chaos, and the endurance and strength to pick up the pieces and go on. One person at a time, a priceless influence is made that does not end, the war is won in more ways than one. One person at a time, good conquers evil. And to never forget is to continue a triumph that will never die. Blessings to Helen and all those dear to her. Shalom and kol tuv to this family and shalom for Jerusalem.
Carolyn Fischer
April 10, 2017
I am very sorry for your loss. Today I found the testimony of Helen on YouTube. (I must admit I fell in love a bit) She must have been so dynamic in person, she reached through my television and activated every emotion I am capable of experiencing. I have always felt it very important to educate myself about the horrors of the war but have never felt the horrors as deeply as I did when listening to Helen. How blessed you all are to carry within you the light of this courageous woman.
TJ McKnight
October 18, 2016
Mrs. Colin was our customer for over 20 years. She was so sweet and kind, she was a joy to talk to. She will be missed.
Rehee
August 7, 2016
I met Mrs. Colin two years ago when I brought my students from Manvel High School to the Holocaust Museum Houston. Her presentation had such an impact on my students, today three of them have joined the military to continue to defend our freedoms, three are studying to be a teacher and the rest participate in interfaith community projects.

Her indomitable spirit lives on in all those that she touched with her survival.

Thank you for sharing your life with us Mrs. Colin. Your memory is a blessing to me for the rest of my life, and it will be a light unto the world.

Kris Clancy
Alvin ISD Social Studies Teacher
Kris Clancy
August 4, 2016
I never met Helen Colin.
My own birth mother was also a Holocaust survivor with a similar story of being separated from the rest of her family...and they perished while she survived. Unfortunately for Victoria, her life turned out different from Helen's as she found her way to America alone. Once in the US, she was able to find a job in a shoe factory in Massachusetts where she met my birth father, a Class-A rogue (as described by his own siblings.

After the rogue abandoned Victoria and her baby (me), she had a mental breakdown, which led to me being taken in by my aunt and uncle.

After several years of separation, I was reunited with Vickie. She would not talk at all about her experience, but the concentration camp number tattoo was clearly visible on her inner wrist.

The family of Helen Colin should feel truly blessed to have had this strong matriarch in their lives.

God bless!
Robert Choate
August 1, 2016
How can one be SAD for someone who truly Lived Life!
I have known Helen since she sold me emerald earrings for my Mother, when I was 10...and sacking groceries at the supermarket next to her jewelry store.
I entered her store with what I thought was a large amount of money. I asked about emerald earrings. She showed me what I wanted, and accepted all I had as payment. I know now she had practically Given me the earrings.
Helen told me, 40 years later that...because she couldn't give gifts to her own parents...that she wanted always to make that same gesture possible for children.

I really Loved Helen. Zei Gezunt Eyschet Chayil
Michael Zargarov
July 27, 2016
It was such a pleasure to meet Helen and our family will always remember her fun loving spirit at Thayer and Philip's wedding!
Take care
Chuck Caragianes, Paulette Renault-Caragianes and family
July 27, 2016
Dear Family, I loved Helen and will always cherish the sweet memories. Blessing.
Pam Hamilton
July 26, 2016
What a fantastic life.... She could have easily given up... But did not going on to bless her family and so many others.
She's in a better place
And will be
Missed by so many.
Sheri Fellat
July 26, 2016
So sorry to hear of Helen's passing. She was truly a courageous, inspiring and remarkable woman. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire family.

Sincerely,
Susie Marshall
Susie Marshall
July 26, 2016
May her memory be a blessing to her family and friends.
Joe Mirsky
July 26, 2016
Muriel and Marcel,
We had a memorable visit with your mother in 1967. We were in her Jewelry Store where I W Marks is now. That visit lasted more than two hours. Your mother was remarkable in every way, beautiful inside and out. May dear Helen rest in peace.
Hava rothman
July 25, 2016
My deepest condolences to Helen's precious family. The world has lost a great light. May all who have been privileged to know her, learned and gleaned from her carry her torch in her honor.
Gloria Moreno - Docent HMH
July 25, 2016
My deepest condolences to Helen's family. I consider her amongst my favorite & dearest friends. We lost touch these last few years but I will always cherish the times we spent together at the bagel shop having (a late) breakfast, visiting the jewelry store & listening to her speak at the Holocaust Museum. She was very positive, interesting, kind, sweet, intelligent and loving. May she rest in peace.
Alma Hinojosa
July 25, 2016
Dear Mrs. Muriel and Mrs. Jenna.

Please accept my deep grievance on the loss of your mother.
Ms. Helen was an exceptional person, real Lady, a wise and very kind woman.
She is influenced so many lives including mine, she was always there for me with her supportive attitude and friendship.
I will always remember her and pray for her kind soul. Rest in Peace dearest and lovely Ms. Helen.
Your friend, Kay
Kuralay - Kay Christensen
July 25, 2016
Thank you for sharing this inspiring story of your loved one's life. I just ordered her book.
Shelly Strobel
July 25, 2016
Elizabeth Krpec
July 25, 2016
Elizabeth Krpec
July 25, 2016
Ms. Colin was certainly a special person. We are better people because of her existence.
My condolences to the family.
Melanie Barrett
July 25, 2016
The loveliest memories of a lovely woman. Blessings to the family and friends of this wonderful woman.
Cathy Evert
July 25, 2016
COLIN FAMILY:MAY YOU FIND STRENGTH AND PEACE( PSALMS 29:11) FROM THE TRUE GOD AT THIS DIFFICULT TIME.CONDOLENCES TO EACH OF YOU.
LEW
July 25, 2016
Jerry and I always will remember Helen for her beauty and grace. She will remain a hero and an inspiration for generations to come. She made the world a better place. We send our love and condolences to her family. May her memory be for a blessing.
Lanie Rose
July 25, 2016
Carole Constad
July 25, 2016
What a truly amazing woman who will continue to be an inspiration for generations to come.
Diane Merrill
July 24, 2016
Helen was indeed a larger than life, great, gracious lady, always offering a smile and caring words. I remember how she adored her family, and how proud she was to be an American.
Bernice
July 24, 2016
I will miss beautiful, kind, generous and good Helen and always remember the way her eyes and her smile lit up the world. Helen was enduringly kind and inspiring. I offer my thanks to Helen and her family for sharing Helen's conviction that the world can be a good place, if we work together to make it so.
Mary Lee Webeck
July 23, 2016
We loved her so much.
Gabriella Mackin and family
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