Related Topics

  • The Holocaust

image copyrightGetty Images

Esther Bejarano, one of the last survivors of an orchestra formed in the Auschwitz death camp, has died aged 96.

She died at a Jewish hospital in the German city of Hamburg on Saturday.

The orchestra, formed of 40 women inmates, had to perform at the concentration camp whenever prisoners were marched off to work or when new trains arrived with Jews on board.

Later in life, she dedicated her time to making sure the world did not forget about the Holocaust.

Bejarano's sister and parents were killed by the Nazis. She was sent to Auschwitz when she was 18 and was forced into hard labour, carrying heavy stones.

But one day she discovered that SS guards were looking for an accordion player to join the camp's orchestra. Despite not knowing how to play the instrument, she volunteered.

She recalled the Auschwitz Women's Orchestra having to play to new arrivals.

"You knew they were going to be gassed, and all you could do was stand there and play," she told Deutsche Welle in 2014.

She was eventually transferred to the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women, where she managed to escape.

"Esther Bejarano survived Auschwitz because she played accordion in the camp's orchestra. She dedicated her life to music and to the fight against racism and anti-Semitism," Meron Mendel, head of the Anne Frank Education Centre said on Twitter.

  • 'Why I took Austrian citizenship aged 92'
  • Searching for traces of my grandfather at Auschwitz

After the end of the World War Two, she lived in Israel and became a singer before returning to Germany in 1960.

She dedicated the rest of her life to educating people about the Holocaust and fighting xenophobia.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Bejarano was an important voice in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism.

Bejarano co-founded the International Auschwitz Committee and delivered speeches to schools about her life. She also performed alongside her children, playing Yiddish melodies and Jewish resistance songs in a group they named Confidence.

"It is my revenge that I go to the schools, that I tell people what happened back then. So that nothing like that can ever happen again," she once said.

media captionAerial footage of Auschwitz-Birkenau