Esther (Löwy) Béjarano was born in 1924. She was the daughter of a Jewish cantor born in Germany. She learned to play the piano as a child, and this ended up saving her life. When the Nazis took over in Germany, she tried to emigrate to Palestine but was captured. She had already been separated from her parents.
Initially she was forced to do two years of hard labor until everyone in the camp was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. She was in her teens at the time. Again she was forced into hard labor. She volunteered to play the accordion in a woman’s orchestra thinking it couldn’t be that different from a piano. While being in the orchestra was better than the hard labor, she hated what the orchestra had to do. They played for inmates as they were sent to work or for new arrivals at the camp who were soon to be gassed.
When Nazi Germany was defeated, Esther was able to pursue her dream of being a singer. She studied music in Tel Aviv where she met her husband. She returned to Germany and decided to speak out about the atrocities of the holocaust. She and another member of the orchestra formed the International Auschwitz Committee as a vehicle for sharing their experiences with others.
She used the phrase: “Never Again Auschwitz” as a message to promote an understanding of where hatred could lead. She founded a band called Coincidence to get her message across. She also joined up with a hip-hop group to get her message heard by young people.
Those who were Nazi sympathizers made an effort to stop her. These included hateful Facebook posts and even a water cannon directed at her by the police. In spite of the efforts to quiet her, Esther received numerous awards including the Order of Merit in Germany for her fight against old and new Nazis.
Esther died peacefully at the age of 90. She was the last survivor of the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz. In contrast, Adolf Hitler committed suicide when he lost hope. At times all hope may be lost, but determination and faith are remarkable antidotes to lost hope.
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“Hatred is always self hatred, and there is something suicidal about it.” – James Baldwin (Author)