Esther Bejarano, 96, Dies; Auschwitz Survivor Fought Hate With Hip-Hop
After the war, she restarted her life in what would become Israel. She studied singing, joined a choir, gave music lessons and in 1950 married Nissim Bejarano, a truck driver, with whom she had two children, Joram, a son, and Edna, a daughter. In 1960, she returned to Germany, settling in Hamburg, and ran a laundry service with her husband.
She is survived by her children, two grandsons and four great-grandchildren.
She found it difficult to discuss the Holocaust with anyone until the 1970s, when she watched German police officers shield right-wing extremists against protesters. The incident turned her into an activist, and she joined the Association of the Persecutees of the Nazi Regime. She began to tell her story in schools, delivered protest speeches and sang with Coincidence, the band that she formed with her children in 1989.
“I use music to act against fascism,” she told The Times. “Music is everything to me.”
Around 2009, when she was in her 80s, Mrs. Bejarano’s musical career took an unexpected turn. She was asked to join Microphone Mafia, a German hip-hop group, with whom she continued to spread her message against fascism and intolerance to young audiences in Germany and abroad, from Istanbul to Vancouver.
Onstage with the group’s Kutlu Yurtseven and Rossi Pennino, Mrs. Bejarano was an unusual figure: a tiny woman with a snow-white pixie haircut, singing in Yiddish, Hebrew and Italian.
Hip-hop was not her preferred musical genre. She joked that she persuaded her bandmates to lower their volume and stop jumping around onstage so much. She believed that hip-hop’s influence on young people could help her counter a rise in intolerance.
“Twelve years together and almost 900 concerts together, and all this thanks to your strength,” Microphone Mafia wrote on its website after Mrs. Bejarano’s death. “Your laughter, your courage, your determination, your loving manner, your understanding, your fighting heart.”