Esther Bejarano was born in 1924 in Saarlouis to the daughter of Canter. I got a music education. During World War II, her parents and sister were killed, and Esther did forced labor.
In 1943, she was sent to the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she volunteered for a women’s orchestra, playing the accordion every time trains full of Jews arrived from all over Europe.
“We played with tears in our eyes. The newcomers waved and applauded us, but we knew they were going to be taken straight to the gas chambers,” she recalled in an interview with the Associated Press in 2010. Several accounts show that the presence of the orchestra was misleading in relation to the actual face of Auschwitz.
Because her grandmother was Christian, Bejarano was later transferred to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp and survived the death march towards the end of the war.
Esther Bejarano’s story
In her memoirs, she mentioned saving American soldiers who gave her the accordion she was playing while concentration camp and army survivors danced around the burning portrait of Adolf Hitler, in celebration of the Allied victory.
After the war, Bejarano immigrated to Israel, got married and had two children. She returned to Germany in 1960. She worked with her children playing Jewish songs in the Hamburg band Coincidence, as well as with the hip-hop band Microphone Mafia, to spread the anti-racist message among young Germans.
– You’re not guilty of what happened next. But you become guilty if you do not want to listen to what happened, she said, addressing young people in Germany and abroad.
West German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas praised Bejarano, calling her “an important voice in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism”.