Noémi Ban

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Noémi Ban
The Schönberger Family
Juliska, Erzsébet, Noémi, and Samu
Born Noémi Schönberger
(1922-09-29) September 29, 1922 (age 94)
Kingdom of Hungary
Residence Bellingham, Washington
United States
Nationality United States
Spouse(s) Earnest Ban (Bán Ernő)

Noémi Ban (/nˈmi ˈbɑːn/; Hungarian: Bán Noémi [baːn ˈno.eːmi]; born September 29, 1922), née Schönberger, is a Hungarian-born American Jew and survivor of the Holocaust. Today she is a Golden Apple Award-winning lecturer, public speaker, and teacher residing in Whatcom County, Washington.

The Holocaust[edit]

Ban was born Schönberger Noémi (sometimes rendered Schoenberger) to Schönberger Samu and Schönberger Juliska in Szeged, Hungary. She was the eldest of three children, followed by her sister Erzsébet and brother Gábor.

During Operation Margarethe, the German invasion and occupation of Hungary, Samu was sent to a labor camp while she, Erzsébet, Gábor, Juliska, her grandmother Nina, and eleven other relatives were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, arriving on July 1, 1944. All of Ban's family members in Auschwitz were killed, but Ban herself was transferred by Dr. Josef Mengele to the Buchenwald concentration camp to work in a bomb factory, where she intentionally constructed faulty bombs.

On April 15, 1945, the campmates of Buchenwald were forced to march to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. On the way, Ban and eleven of her campmates escaped and were discovered by the U.S. Army, who had just liberated the Bergen-Belsen camp.

Ban returned to Budapest, Hungary, in September 1945, where she reunited with her father, Samu (who later changed his surname to Gábor in honor of his deceased son). That October she married a Budapester teacher, Bán Ernő (later Earnest Ban).

After the Communist occupation and takeover of Hungary between 1947 and 1948, Ban became a 7th and 8th grade teacher herself. Suffering from Soviet oppression, Ban, Earnest, and their two sons, István (Steven) and György (George), tried to escape to Austria, but were stopped on a train crossing the border. On December 29, 1956, less than a month later, the Bans again tried to cross, this time hidden in a shipment of giant balls of yarn. The attempt succeeded and they ended up in Sopron, Austria.


In 1957, Noémi and her family moved to St. Louis, Missouri. She and Earnest learned English and earned degrees in education. Their son Steven moved to Bellingham, Washington, prompting Noémi and Earnest to move in 1982. In 1994, Earnest died of Alzheimer's disease.

After Earnest's death, Ban became a public Holocaust speaker, giving lectures nationally and internationally (in Hungary and Taipei, Taiwan). In 1998 she received the Golden Apple Award. In 2003 she wrote Sharing Is Healing: A Holocaust Survivor's Story, an autobiography of her experiences during the Holocaust and as a public speaker. In 2007 her life was made into the documentary film My Name Is Noémi.