Auschwitz Survivor Marks 92 With Rumba Performance in Cuba

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Auschwitz survivor and musician Esther Bejarano performs in Cuba
Auschwitz survivor and musician Esther Bejarano performs in CubaCredit: Reuters

Auschwitz survivor and Jewish musician Esther Bejarano fulfilled a lifelong dream as she performed in Havana over the weekend.

The 92-year-old celebrated her birthday in the Caribbean capital city, where she and the members of Microphone Mafia entertained tourists at the Palacio de la Rumba (Rumba Palace).

Made up of members of different nationalities, generations and beliefs, the band seeks to send a message of tolerance to audiences.

Credit: Haaretz

Bejarano said that, as she thinks about the world today, migration policies and the rise of nationalist politicians, she is concerned that history could repeat itself.

"Above all, I am worried about these terrible Trump policies. I am very worried and that's why I fight against that, so that what happened in those years can never happen again," she said, referring to U.S. president-elect Donald Trump.

Bejarano lost both her parents and her sister at the hands of the Nazis in 1943.

At 18 years of age, she was sent to Auschwitz and survived by pretending to play the accordion and joining the Auschwitz Girls' Orchestra.

She was eventually transferred to the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women, from which she managed to escape before the Soviet forces arrived.

Bejarano said that for years, she dreamed of visiting Cuba to see a socialist society at work.

"All my life, I said someday I would like to go to Cuba to meet people and ideology and convince myself that socialism can still exist," she said.

In spite of the tragedy and trauma in her life, Bejarano has managed to find joy and is inspired to continue performing by the warm reception she receives from audiences.

"Where do I get my energy from? I don't know but it turns out that, since they ask for us in many places, we are very popular and they ask us to act in other places and we are always together in the scene and they applaud us and that gives us energy, and they give us warmth. That is what gives me strength and that is why I say I want to continue like this," she said.

Bejarano emigrated to Israel but returned to Germany 15 years later with her husband and children.

A resident of Hamburg, she is president and co-founder of the International Committee of Auschwitz and has made it her lifelong mission for the world not to forget the atrocities of the Holocaust.

She said she has hope that today's young people will carry on the message of her generation of survivors.

"Many times, students come up to me after hearing my story and they say, 'Mrs. Bejarano, even when you are no longer alive, we will continue telling your story," she said.

Bejarano and Microphone Mafia will hold shows in Cuba through Jan. 13 with musical and dramatic performances in Havana and the central provinces of Santa Clara and Camaguey.

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