Esther Béjarano

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Esther Bejarano
2018-01-27 - Ester Bejarano - 3080.jpg
Béjarano in 2018
Esther Löwy

(1924-12-15)15 December 1924
Died10 July 2021(2021-07-10) (aged 96)
Hamburg, Germany
  • Singer
  • Accordion player
  • Activist
Known forHolocaust survivor who performed in the Auschwitz women's orchestra

Esther Béjarano (née Löwy; 15 December 1924 – 10 July 2021) was one of the last survivors of the Auschwitz concentration camp. She survived because she was a player in the Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz. She was active in various ways, including speeches and in music, in keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive.[1] She was a regular speaker at the International Youth Meeting organised yearly at the Max Mannheimer Study Center in Dachau.[2]


Born Esther Löwy, she was a daughter of Margarete (Heymann) and Rudolf Loewy,[3] the head cantor of a Jewish municipality, in Saarlouis.[4][5] Her father encouraged her to get interested in music and Esther learned to play the piano.[5] At the age of 15 she left her parents' home to make an attempt to emigrate to Palestine; the attempt was unsuccessful.[5] She served two years of hard labour at a camp in Landwerk Neuendorf [de], near Fürstenwalde/Spree.[5]

On 20 April 1943, everyone in the camp was deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. There she had to drag stones until she volunteered to play accordion in the newly formed Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz.[5] Until then, she had only played the piano, never the accordion. Other players included Anita Lasker-Wallfisch. The orchestra had the task, among others, to play for the daily march of the work crews passing through the camp gate.[5]

After the war, she immigrated to Palestine on 15 September 1945[5] and in 1960 returned to Germany with her husband and two children.[6] At the beginning of the 1980s, she created the musical group Coincidence, with her daughter Edna and her son Joram. They sang songs from the ghetto and in Hebrew as well as anti-fascist songs.[5]

Bejarano at a rally against the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), in 2009

Béjarano lived in Hamburg. She was a co-founder and chairman of the International Auschwitz Committee and honorary chairperson of the Union of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime. She was active for the Committee until her death.[7]

Béjarano died in Hamburg on 10 July 2021, aged 96.[8][9][10] She was one of the last surviving orchestra members.[1][11]

Awards and honours[edit]

Béjarano was awarded the Carl von Ossietzky Medal of the Internationale Liga für Menschenrechte [de] in 2004.[12] In 2008, Béjarano became honarary president of the Union of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime.[13] She received the Herbert Wehner Medal in 2010.[14]

Béjarano held the Cross of Merit, First class, of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, since 2012.[15] She was honoured with ethecon's 2013 "Blue Planet Award" [16] for her "relentless activity for peace and against anti-Semitism, racism and fascism".[17][18] In 2014, she was awarded the Giesbert Lewin Prize of the Cologne chapter of the Societies for Christian-Jewish Collaboration.[19] She became honorary citizen of her birth town Saarlouis the same year on the occasion of her 90th birthday.[20] In 2016, she received the Preis für Solidarität und Menschenwürde (Prize for solidarity and human dignity) of the Bündnis für Soziale Gerechtigkeit und Menschenwürde [de].[21] The Senate of Hamburg awarded her the Hamburgische Ehrendenkmünze [de] in 2019.[22] The Gemeinschaftsschule school in Wiesloch was named after her in 2020.[23] The same year, she was awarded the Hermann Maas Prize for her activities against racism and exclusion, and for her political commitment.[24]


  • Antonella Romeo, ed. (2013). Erinnerungen. Vom Mädchenorchester in Auschwitz zur Rap-Band gegen Rechts (in German). Hamburg: Laika-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-944233-04-8.
  • Lieder für das Leben. Curio-Verlag, Hamburg 1995, ISBN 3-926534-84-2.
  • Man nannte mich Krümel'. Curio-Verlag, Hamburg 1989, ISBN 3-926534-82-6.



  1. ^ a b "Esther Bejarano, Auschwitz Survivor Who Fought Racism With Music, Dies at 96". Billboard. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  2. ^ Roeske, Tobias (11 August 2016). "Fragen an die Geschichte". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  3. ^ Petersen, Peter (2018). "Rudolf Loewy". Lexikon verfolgter Musiker und Musikerinnen der NS-Zeit (in German). Hamburg University. Retrieved 14 July 2021.
  4. ^ Nieuwhof, Adri (6 December 2018). "Why Auschwitz survivor Esther Bejarano supports BDS". The Electronic Intifada. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "Erinnerungen: Züge in den Tod / Esther Bejarano". (in German). 19 September 2009. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  6. ^ "Auschwitz: Holocaust-Überlebende berichten – Esther Bejarano". Spiegel. 22 December 2014. Retrieved 18 March 2019.
  7. ^ "Offener Brief an die Regierenden und alle Menschen, die aus der Geschichte lernen wollen" (in German). International Auschwitz Committee. 26 January 2020. Retrieved 12 July 2021.
  8. ^ "Trauer um Holocaust-Überlebende : Esther Bejarano ist tot". Tagesschau (in German). 10 July 2021. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  9. ^ "Große Trauer nach dem Tod von Esther Bejarano". (in German). 10 July 2021. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
  10. ^ Hofmann, Sarah Judith (10 July 2021). "Holocaust survivor, singer Esther Bejarano dies, aged 96". Retrieved 11 July 2021.
  11. ^ "Esther Bejarano: Auschwitz orchestra member dies". BBC News. 10 July 2021. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
  12. ^ Satzung (in German) 2011
  13. ^ Bericht vom Bundeskongress der VVN-BdA (in German) 2008
  14. ^ Klose, Hans-Ulrich: Gegen Faschismus – für Solidarität und Gerechtigkeit (laudatio, in German) 28 June 2010
  15. ^ Akkordeon und Antifaschismus. (in German) In: Jüdische Allgemeine [de]. 26. April 2012.
  16. ^ ""Blue Planet Award" für Esther Bejarano". RedGlobe. Archived from the original on 17 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  17. ^ "Justification for the Blue Planet Award 2013". ethecon foundation. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
  18. ^ Lötzsch, Gesine: Laudatio (in German) 2013
  19. ^ Kaufhold Roland; Hößl, Stefan: Esther Bejarano und die Kölner Hip-Hop-Combo Microphone Mafia. (in German) In: haGalil. 13 December 2014.
  20. ^ Schmidt, Sascha: "Ich gehöre zu euch": Esther Bejarano zur Ehrenbürgerin von Saarlouis ernannt. Archived 14 July 2021 at the Wayback Machine (in German) Saarlouis, 2 December 2014.
  21. ^ Becker, Rolf: "Wir verdanken dir unendlich viel" (laudatio, in German) junge Welt, 25 June 2016
  22. ^ Senat ehrt Esther Bejarano und Peggy Parnass, Süddeutsche Zeitung (dpa), 13 November 2019.
  23. ^ Hans Joachim Janik (1 October 2020). "Wiesloch: Esther-Bejarano-Gemeinschaftsschule (ehem. Gerbersruhschule) in Betrieb". (in German).
  24. ^ "Esther Bejarano erhält den Hermann-Maas-Preis" (in German) Jüdische Allgemeine, 15 October 2020

Further reading[edit]

  • Esther Béjarano and Birgit Gärtner, Wir leben trotzdem: Esther Béjarano – vom Mädchenorchester in Auschwitz zur Künstlerin für den Frieden ("We live, nevertheless: Esther Béjarano – from Girl Orchestra in Auschwitz to artist for peace"), Pahl-Rugenstein, Bonn (2005); 3rd edition, corrected and expanded (2007), ISBN 3-89144-353-6 (in German)
  • Esther Béjarano, "La ragazza con la fisarmonica. Dall’orchestra di Auschwitz alla musica Rap", A cura di Antonella Romeo, Prefazione di Bruno Maida, Allegato DVD "Esther che suonava la fisarmonica nell’orchestra di Auschwitz" (in Italian), Regia di Elena Valsania, Edizioni SEB27, 2013, ISBN 978-88-86618-94-6
  • Thomas Gonschior, Christa Spannbauer [de]: Mut zum Leben. Die Botschaft der Überlebenden von Auschwitz. (including an essay Bejarano) Europa Verlag, Berlin u. a. 2014, ISBN 978-3-944305-57-8.
  • Leander Sukov [de]: Damit nie wieder geschehe, was damals geschah (in German). In: Perlensau. Ausgewählte Gedichte. Kulturmaschinen [de], Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-940274-06-9.
  • Yurtseven, Kutlu, Rosario Pennino, and Joram Bejarano. Esther Bejarano mit microphone mafia live in Kuba. (in German, illustrated, Verlag Wiljo Heinen, Berlin/Böklund 2017, ISBN 978-3-95514-910-9.

External links[edit]