She was one of the last survivors of the Auschwitz Women’s Orchestra. The German Esther Bejarano died on the night of Friday 9 to Saturday 10 July, at the age of 96, announced the director of the educational center Anne-Frank, on Twitter. “She dedicated her life to music and to the fight against racism and anti-Semitism”, wrote Meron Mendel.
Born in Saarlouis, the young woman was first deported to Auschwitz in April 1943 before being transferred to the Ravensbrück camp in November of the same year. Her parents and sister were murdered by the Nazis. Esther Bejarano was saved because she was a musician.
She had been recruited into the Auschwitz Women’s Orchestra to play the accordion, although she could only play the piano. With the other musicians, she was to play for the prisoners and for the deportees when the convoys were brought down. In 2014, she told Deutsche Welle, the German international radio station: “You knew they were going to be gassed, and all you could do was stand there and play. “
“Voice of the fight against racism and anti-Semitism”
“An important voice in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism has died”, a reacted on Twitter German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, stressing that “Its vitality and its incredible history” forced admiration.
After the war, Esther Bejarano had moved to Palestine and lived for nearly fifteen years in Israel, before returning to Germany where, for years, she had been telling her story. In recent years, she warned against the rise of the far right. “For those who have been through this [la déportation], we cannot describe how serious it is ”, she insisted, citing in particular the xenophobic and anti-Muslim movement Pegida and the far-right AfD party.
A very popular figure in Germany, she wrote several autobiographical novels, devoted herself to singing and to her activities within the Auschwitz International Committee.