helen lewis
Helen Lewis
HELEN LEWIS was born in Trutnov, Czechoslovakia, where she completed her grammar school education. She successfully auditioned for a place at Milca Mayerova’s School of Dance in Prague, and while studying there for her diploma, she began a course in Philosophy at the German University. She married in 1938, and in 1942, together with her husband Paul, she was deported to Terezin, the Jewish ghetto, and then to Auschwitz, where they were separated. After the liberation she returned to Prague to learn that her husband had not survived. In 1947 she married Harry, an old friend who had escaped to Belfast just before the start of the war, and settled there with him the same year.
After the birth of their two sons, she became involved in dance again, choreographing for theatre and opera, and her teaching eventually led to the foundation of the Belfast Modern Dance Group.
Helen Lewis died on New Years Eve 2009, at the age of 93.
a time to speak
A Time to Speak

‘Helen Lewis survived the greatest nightmare ever dreamed by man. Her story is appalling, mesmerising, and one reads with increasing gratitude for her clarity, honesty, and courage.’ Ian McEwan

15 March 1939: German troops enter Prague and for Czechoslovakian Jews, the terror begins. This is the story of one of the survivors. This international best-seller is a remarkable true story with two acts; a tragic tale of unimaginable horrors experienced by Helen as a young Jewish woman incarcerated in the German concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and a story of survival as Helen went on to carve out an extraordinary career in modern dance in her adopted home city of Belfast. Helen was awarded an honorary doctorate from The University of Ulster in 1993, and from Queen’s University Belfast in 1996, in 2001 she was appointed an MBE in recognition of her work. An unforgettable book, this true story of courage, fortitude, unbelievable sadness and joy is told without bitterness or anger. It is a timeless testimony.

‘In A Time to Speak Helen Lewis maps Hell and in doing so gives us an irreproachable work of art. Guiding us over the nightmare ground, she doesn’t put a foot wrong. Her voice remains low-key, her style simple. Such moderate utterance conceals the agony of recollection. The world needs testimonies like Helen Lewis's... a book of utmost distinction.'
Michael Longley

‘Only the dead know the whole truth and some of those witnesses who survived have taken upon themselves the painful task of speaking for them… This book is the testimony of a woman who has survived the unsurvivable.’ Jennifer Johnston

‘It is a story of almost unbelievable suffering, but it is told in such a way as to leave the reader almost exhilarated…remarkable for its elegiac simplicity and lucidity, its irresistible momentum, its formidable integrity and its impressive lack of self-pity or rancour. It is short, approachable, gripping and patently honest… everybody should read it.’ Independent

‘What singles this book out from other first-hand accounts of the Holocaust is Lewis’ ability to see humanity where, in all fairness, she had no right to see it…she refuses to dehumanise the very people who were trying to dehumanise her – a rare achievement for someone in her position.’ Guardian

‘Told in a matter-of-fact style which at times belies the horror of her story…leaves a lasting impression, not so much of the terrible degradation and deprivation that was Auschwitz rather of the little incidences of kindness, defiance and humility which, in the midst of all the heartbreak, continued to reflect the human spirit...this book is a wonderful testament to all those who suffered during the Holocaust’
Sunday Tribune

‘To bear witness as she does – in wonderfully graceful language – to the very nadir of human experience is an heroic act… a wonderful book.’ Irish Press

‘a remarkable book – remarkable above all in its dispassionate approach to unimaginable experiences… All of this makes inspriting, searing and enthralling reading. It is a book to cherish.’ Patricia Craig, Independent on Sunday


Blackstaff Press UK & Ireland

Caroll & Graf USA

Einaudi Italy

Barrister & Principal Czech Republic

Planeta Manuscrito Portugal

Bertrand Brasil

Theatre Rights:

Lola Produções Artísticas Brazil

Material: finished copies (144pp).