Time.news – “I always repeat to young people: you are not guilty of what happened in those times. But you become one if you don’t want to know anything about those times ”. So he said Esther Bejarano, one of the major witnesses to the Holocaust, the woman who survived Auschwitz playing the accordion in the “Girls’ Orchestra”, who died at 96 in Hamburg. “She fell asleep early in the morning in the Jewish hospital, she did not suffer and she was not alone,” said her dear friend Helga Obens of the Auschwitz Committee.
Born on December 15, 1924, Esther Bejarano was born in Saarlouis into a Jewish family: in 1941 her parents were killed by the Nazis in Lithuania, she herself was forced into forced labor in a concentration camp before being further deported two years later to Auschwitz. Here she only managed to survive because she played the accordion in the so-called “Maedchenorchester von Auschwitz” (girls orchestra of Auschwitz), created in the spring of 1943 by order of the SS, which had thought of it both as a propaganda tool for newsreels and to “keep up” morale in the extermination camp. The musicians were of different origins – among others they were Polish, Greek, German, Ukrainian – and were employed to play at the gate for hours and hours, in any climatic condition, when the work teams entered or left the camp, or to accompany the ceremonies of the Ss.
After the war, Bejarano emigrated to Israel, only to decide to return to Germany with her husband in 1960. With her children she founded the Coincidences Group, which performed songs from the Jewish ghetto as well as songs from the anti-fascist tradition. A commitment that earned her numerous awards, including the medal of the International League for Human Rights and the Federal Republic’s Cross of Merit.
For decades Bejarano has been working against the phenomena of right-wing extremism and xenophobia. Again in May of this year he participated with a conference in a ceremony in memory of the burning of books by the Nazis in Hamburg. Esther has also continued to visit schools for decades, tirelessly repeating her testimony of the horrors of the Holocaust.
She is one of the founders of the Auschwitz Committee in Germany and in more recent times has committed herself to having May 8, the day of liberation from Nazism, be declared as a public holiday in Germany. Also the President of the German Republic Frank-Walter Steinmeier wanted to honor and remember the figure: “Esther Bejarano experienced on her own body what it means to be discriminated against, persecuted and tortured”, so the head of state in a statement.
“After the war – continues the German president – he considered it his inner obligation to keep alive the memory of the horrors of the Nazi regime and especially to warn young people about the dangers of right-wing extremism and hostility towards foreigners”. Therefore Steinmeier expresses “great gratitude and immense esteem” to Esther Bejarano, “who will forever have a place in our hearts”.
Among the many reactions, also those Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, and the leader of the Greens, Annalena Baerbock: “The wonderful Esther Bejarano has us with her vital force and her incredible story”, said the head of German diplomacy. “His voice will be missed”. For the Green candidate for chancellery, however, “it depends on us to carry on what people like her have experienced, to remember and never forget”.
A moving message also arrived from the Auschwitz Committee: “We mourn with her family this great, courageous and steadfast woman, survivor of the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Ravensbrueck, anti-fascist, president of the Auschwitz Committee and honorary president of the Association of Persecuted Nazi regime. Today we want to take a break. And be silent and cry. To then carry out Esther Bejarano’s mission: never to be silent again when injustice happens ”.