Esther Bejarano, Auschwitz Survivor Who Fought Racism With Music, Dies at 96
BERLIN (AP) — Esther Bejarano, a survivor of the Auschwitz loss of life camp who used the facility of music to combat antisemitism and racism in post-war Germany, has died at 96.
Bejarano died peacefully within the early Saturday on the Jewish Hospital in Hamburg, the German information company dpa quoted Helga Obens, a board member of the Auschwitz Committee in Germany, as saying. A reason behind loss of life was not given.
German International Minister Heiko Maas paid tribute to Bejarano, calling her “an necessary voice within the combat in opposition to racism and antisemitism.”
Born in 1924 because the daughter of Jewish cantor Rudolf Loewy in French-occupied Saarlouis, the household later moved to Saarbruecken, the place Bejarano loved a musical and sheltered upbringing till the Nazis got here to energy and the town was returned to Germany in 1935.
Her mother and father and sister Ruth finally have been deported and killed, whereas Bejarano needed to carry out compelled labor earlier than being despatched to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943. There, she volunteered to grow to be a member of the women’ orchestra, taking part in the accordion each time trains filled with Jews from throughout Europe arrived.
Bejarano would say later that music helped hold her alive within the infamous German Nazi loss of life camp in occupied Poland and in the course of the years after the Holocaust.
“We performed with tears in our eyes,” she recalled in a 2010 interview with The Related Press. “The brand new arrivals got here in waving and applauding us, however we knew they might be taken on to the gasoline chambers.”
As a result of her grandmother had been a Christian, Bejarano was later transferred to the Ravensbrueck focus camp and survived a loss of life march on the finish of the warfare.
In a memoir, Bejarano recalled her rescue by U.S. troops who gave her an accordion, which she performed the day American troopers and focus camp survivors danced round a burning portrait of Adolf Hitler to rejoice the Allied victory over the Nazis.
Bejarano emigrated to Israel after the warfare and married Nissim Bejarano. The couple had two youngsters, Edna and Joram, earlier than returning to Germany in 1960. After as soon as once more encountering open antisemitism, Bejarano determined to grow to be politically energetic, co-founding the Auschwitz Committee in 1986 to present survivors a platform for his or her tales.
She teamed up along with her youngsters to play Yiddish melodies and Jewish resistance songs in a Hamburg-based band they named Coincidence, and likewise with hip-hop group Microphone Mafia to unfold an anti-racism message to German youth.
“All of us love music and share a standard aim: We’re preventing in opposition to racism and discrimination,” she instructed the AP of her collaborations throughout cultures and generations.
Bejarano obtained quite a few awards, together with Germany’s Order of Advantage, for her activism in opposition to what she known as the “previous and new Nazis,” quoting fellow Holocaust survivor Primo Levi’s warning that “it occurred, subsequently it could occur once more.”
Whereas addressing younger individuals in Germany and past, Bejarano would say, “You aren’t responsible of what occurred again then. However you grow to be responsible if you happen to refuse to take heed to what occurred.”
She additionally didn’t shrink back from criticizing present-day German officers, equivalent to when tax authorities canceled the charitable standing of the nation’s largest anti-fascist group. The choice was later reversed.
In a letter of condolence to her youngsters, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier wrote that Bejarano had “skilled first-hand what it means to be discriminated in opposition to, persecuted and tortured,” and lauded her academic work.
“We’ve got suffered an excellent loss in her loss of life,” he added. “She is going to all the time have a spot in our hearts.”