French Auschwitz Survivor Raphael Esrail, Jewish Member of Resistance, Dies at 96

Esrail forged passports and identity documents, helping many avoid death at the hands of the Nazis, before being sent to Auschwitz and forced to walk in a death march

Part of the former concentration and death camp Auschwitz seen through a fence in January 2014.
Part of the former concentration and death camp Auschwitz seen through a fence in January 2014.Credit: REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

French Auschwitz survivor Raphael Esrail has died at the age of 96, the International Auschwitz Committee (IAK) announced on Sunday.
Esrail was French vice president of the IAK and president of the Union des Deportes d' Auschwitz in Paris.

He joined the resistance as a young man, the IAK said. He worked forging passports and identity documents in Lyon, enabling many to survive who otherwise would have been murdered by the Nazis.

In 1944, Esrail was arrested by the Germans at the age of 19 for being a Jew and a member of the Resistance. He was deported to Auschwitz and was forced to walk from Auschwitz to Dachau in a death march. He was liberated by U.S. troops in May 1945.

It was decades before Esrail began to talk about what he experienced.
"It was only late that he found words for what he had seen in Auschwitz and what had been done to him and the other prisoners," said IAK Executive Vice President Christoph Heubner in Berlin.

"Especially in view of the current antisemitic and far-right attacks and conspiracy theories to which the democracies of Europe are exposed, we will sorely miss our friend and brother Raphael Esrail," Heubner said.

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