Monday, July 12, 2021

Esther Bejarano, veteran communist and Auschwitz survivor, dies at 96

Veteran German communist and a life-long anti-fascist who survived Auschwitz concentration camp, Esther Bejarano died on Saturday 10 July, aged 96.

Born in 1924 as the daughter of Jewish cantor Rudolf Loewy in French-occupied Saarlouis, the family later moved to Saarbruecken, where Bejarano enjoyed a musical and sheltered upbringing until the Nazis came to power and the city was returned to Germany in 1935.
Her parents and sister Ruth eventually were deported and murdered, while Bejarano had to perform forced labor before being sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943. There, she volunteered to become a member of the girls’ orchestra, playing the accordion every time trains full of Jews from across Europe arrived.

Esther would say later that music helped keep her alive in the notorious German Nazi death camp in occupied Poland and during the years after the Holocaust. 
Bejarano emigrated to Israel after the war and married Nissim Bejarano. However, her active participation in the communist choir "Ron-Chor" and her refusal to accept the aggressive policy against the Arabs of Palestine, created problems in her relations with the Israeli state. She returned to Germany in 1960 and resided in Hamburg with her husband and their two children.

After once again encountering open antisemitism, Bejarano decided to become politically active, co-founding the Auschwitz Committee in 1986 to give survivors a platform for their stories.

She teamed up with her children to play Yiddish melodies and Jewish resistance songs in a Hamburg-based band they named Coincidence, and also with hip-hop group Microphone Mafia to spread an anti-racism message to German youth.

"Esther impressed with her authenticity and her strength. Until the end she fought against the growing right-wing trend, racism and anti-Semitism, conveying courage and optimism to us. We will miss it in our common struggle; she cannot be replaced", points out a statement by the German Communist Party (DKP).