Holocaust survivor and activist Esther Bejarano dies at 97

Holocaust survivor and activist Esther Bejarano dies at 97

The survivor of Holocaust, Esther Bejarano, German-Jewish artist and anti-fascist activist, died this Saturday in Hamburg (northwestern Germany) at the age of 97.

The Anne Frank Political Training and Counseling Center and the Auschwitz International Committee, made up of survivors of this Nazi death camp, reported the death of this incombustible activist, well known in Germany and honorary president of the Association of Persecuted by the Regime. Nazi / Federation of Antifascists (VVN-BDA).

Esther Bejarano survived Holocaust because she played the accordion in the concentration camp orchestra. She dedicated her life to music and the fight against racism and anti-Semitism. Tonight she died at the age of 97”, the director of the Anne Frank center, Meron Mendel, assured on Twitter.

Bejarano was deported in April 1943 to Auschwitz, in occupied Poland, barely 18 years old, and there included in the female orchestra of the extermination camp, which played at the entrance when the prisoners went out to work. There she met the Polish cellist Anita Lasker-Wallfisch.

That November, she was transferred to the Ravensbrück concentration camp as a forced laborer, but in 1945 she managed to flee. Her parents and one of her four sisters were killed by the Nazis.

Esther Bejarano died at the age of 97.
Esther Bejarano died at the age of 97.

For years I had horrible nightmares of that time”, she assured in an interview with The mirror, who in 2012 received the Grand Federal Cross of Merit.

Reactions have not been long in coming in Germany, mainly from the world of culture and politics.

The Foreign Minister, the Social Democrat Heiko Maas, assured on Twitter that “we will lack your voice”. “Tonight we have lost an important voice in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism. The fantastic Esther Bejarano convinced with her life and incredible story“, he wrote.

The co-president of La Izquierda, Janine Wissler and Susanne Hennig-Wellsow, highlighted her dedicated life “to the fight against fascism and against oblivion”. “She is an example for us and his life trajectory is a mission for us,” they said in a statement.

Bejarano was born Esther Loewy on December 15, 1924 in Saarlouis, German territory then occupied by France since the end of World War I in the bosom of a Judeo-German family of artists.

On September 15, 1945, months after the end of World War II, she emigrated with her family to the Middle East, but returned to Germany in 1960 and settled in Hamburg.

Esther Bejarano
Esther Bejarano

There she began her career as an activist, in the VVN-BDA and in the German section of the International Auschwitz Committee, which organized guided visits to concentration camps.

In recent decades she had stood out as a witness to the Holocaust, with many lectures, also in schools, to fight against oblivion and warn against the extreme right. She also clearly positioned herself in favor of helping refugees.

Education in the Holocaust was key for Bejarano: “You are not to blame for that time. But you make yourself guilty if you don’t want to know anything about that time. You must know everything that happened. And why did it happen”.

She recorded five albums, solo and with different musicians, and starred in several documentaries about Holocaust survivors. She also wrote several autobiographical novels and published in 2013 a volume of memories of her entire life.

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