Born on 20th September 1923 in Krakow, Halina Nelken, daughter of Emanuel and Regina, was a writer, art historian and a lecturer. Imprisoned at the German concentration camps during WWII.
Nelken came from an assimilated family of the Krakow Jews. She lived at Długosza street in Krakow. Her grandfather took part in the January Uprising, while her father fought for independence in the legions. Due to progressing anti-semitism, she was forced to change her school from the Adam Mickiewicz Gymnasium to a private Hugon Kołłątaj Gymnasium. A member of Sokół – the Polish Gymnastics Association. During the German occupation in Krakow she was moved to the ghetto. Being on the verge of exhaustion, she tried to take her own life. Luckily however, her brother managed to save her before it was too late. Despite experiencing the ordeal of war in the KL Plaszow, KL Auschwitz and KL Ravensbrück camps, she managed to survive. After WWII, Halina Nelken was an important witness who testified in front of the District Jewish Historical Commission in Krakow.
Nelken graduated from the Faculty of the History of Arts at the Jagiellonian University after WWII. She worked at the National Museum in Krakow as a curator, followed by the position of the Head of the Gliwice Museum. In 1958, she emigrated to Vienna where she worked as an assistant at the local Academy of Fine Arts (Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien). In 1960, Nelken went to the USA where she worked at the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University. Between 1966–1980, she was a history of arts and Polish history lecturer at Tufts University in Medford. Her long-time research dedicated to the Jewish motifs in Polish art resulted in an exhibition which took place in 1986 at Brandeis University. Three years later, the exhibition was shown at the National Museum in Krakow. Her extensive work was gathered in a unique publishing – Images of a lost world: Jewish motifs in Polish painting, 1770–1945, published in 1991 in Oxford and London. Halina Nelken went to Malawi and Zimbabwe as a volunteer of the International Executive Service Corps in order to save and archive their local folklore art.
Pamiętnik z getta w Krakowie (A journal from the Krakow ghetto) was published in Canada in 1987 by the Polish Publishing Fund.
Halina Nelken died in 2009 in the USA.