a A

An inspiring guest: Esther Bejarano

Esther Bejarano survived Auschwitz, Ravensbrück, and a death march. In Auschwitz she played accordion in the all-girl orchestra. For a number of years now the 91-year-old musician and political artist has been performing gigs with her son and the hip-hop band “Microphone Mafia“. Her message: stand up against hate and violence, against anti-Semitism, racism, and homophobia. On 11 June 2016 Bejarano visited the International Tracing Service (ITS) and had a look into the documents on her path of persecution. In the evening she gave a sold-out concert in the BAC Theater in Bad Arolsen.

“I’ll keep going until there are no more Nazis left”

“We can’t allow ourselves to be quiet about what happened and happens even today“, the musician emphasized in a conversation. “Not as long as these right-wing radicals and their political parties exist. And unfortunately I see a lot of parallels to earlier times. We have to come together and stand up against such things“. With her message, Bejarano hopes to reach primarily young people. She tells her story, again and again, on stage and in schools. The 91-year-old gives around 80 concerts a year: “I’ll keep going until there are no more Nazis left. That’s how long I’ll be on stage“. With a program mix of partisan songs, rap, and songs from the ghetto, Bejarano and “Microphone Mafia“ sang on Saturday evening in the BAC Theater in Bad Arolsen against racism and violence.

Esther visited the ITS with her son prior to the concert. Many documents from the ITS Archive provide information about her fate and that of her family. The deportation and murder of her parents is documented in the Archive, as is the murder of Esther’s sister Ruth in 1942 in Auschwitz.

The ITS documents about Esther Bejarano’s path of persecution

Esther Bejarano was born in December 1924 in Saarlouis as Esther Loewy. Her father was Chief Cantor in the Jewish Community in Saarbrücken. Musically talented, she learned to play the piano when she was six years old – this musical talent later saved her life in Auschwitz. In 1941 the National Socialists force Esther Bejarano into a labor camp. On 19 April, 1943 she is deported from “Landwerk Neuendorf” on the 37th Osttransport (East Transport) by the Geheime Staatspolizei Berlin (Secret State Police in Berlin) to Auschwitz, where she  arrives on 20 April, 1943.The deportation is documented in the ITS Archive.

In Auschwitz, the 19-year-old claimed that she could play the accordion, so that she could be included in the all-girl orchestra – a dangerous decision, as she had never held an accordion before. She learned very quickly how to play the instrument, and so, as a member of the orchestra, she escaped certain death in the labor commandos. According to ITS documents, she was deported from Auschwitz to the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück on 16 September, 1943, where she had to do forced labor for Siemens.

After the liberation

Shortly before the liberation, the National Socialists forced the women of the Ravensbrück Concentration Camp onto one of the so-called Death Marches. While on the march, Esther Bejarano managed to escape with some of her friends. On 3 May, 1945 persecution was over for her thanks to the liberation by the Red Army. She made her way towards the American Occupation Zone and, according to ITS documentation, was registered on 16/17 August, 1945 as a Displaced Person (DP) in the DP Camp Buchenwald in Gehringshof near Fulda. Allied DP files preserved at the ITS show that Esther emigrated to Palestine, her destination of choice, arriving on 8 September, 1945 in Haifa aboard the “Mataroa“.

Bejarano & Microphone Mafia

In the 1960s Esther Bejarano moved with her husband and their two children to Hamburg. Triggered by a confrontation with a right-wing extremist party, she broke her silence in the 1970s and began to publicly tell her story. Ever since then she has been giving talks to pupils about her past, and about the necessity even today of becoming active against ostracism. In June 2009, together with her children Edna and Joram and the Cologne Band “Microphone Mafia“, she published the album “Per la Vita” (“for life“). The initial motivation for this music project was to counteract the music-CDs Nazis distributed in schools. Since then, “Bejarano und Microphone Mafia“ have given hundreds of concerts. In 2013 the second album appeared, “La Vita Continua” (“life goes on“).

The concert in Bad Arolsen was a cooperative project between ITS and BAC Theater.