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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student

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Hip-hop for peace

Esther Bejarano says music helped keep her alive as a prisoner in Auschwitz and ever since.

Now, 65 years after the liberation of the Nazi death camp, the 85-year-old has teamed with a hip-hop band to spread her anti-racism message to German youth.

“We all love music and share a common goal: We’re fighting against racism and discrimination,” Bejarano said.

Bejarano grew up in a musical home until the Nazis tore her family apart. Bejarano was deported to Auschwitz, where she became a member of the girls’ orchestra, playing when trains arrived.

“We played with tears in our eyes,” Bejarano said. “The new arrivals came in waving and applauding us, but we knew they would be taken directly to the gas chambers.”
Bejarano survived, but her parents and sister were killed.

For the past 20 years Bejarano has played music mostly from the past – Yiddish melodies, ghetto tunes and Jewish resistance songs – with her children Edna and Joram in a band called Coincidence.

Two years ago, Kutlu Yurtseven, a Turkish rapper from Microphone Mafia, contacted the band.

They “wanted to do something against the growing racism and anti-Semitism in Germany,” he said

Bejarano thought hip-hop “was really a bit too loud,” but said she saw it as a good way to reach out to Germany’s youth.

“We want to keep the memories of the Holocaust alive, but at the same time look into the future and encourage young people to take a stand against new Nazis,” said Bejarano. “The members of Microphone Mafia are immigrants and have experienced their share of discrimination as well.”

The rappers mixed Jewish songs with hip-hop beats and created new lyrics for some songs. Audiences range from teen immigrants to an older crowd that usually favors Bejarano’s classic approach to music.

“They all love it,” she said.

Bejarano said at 85, it can be exhausting to perform with youngsters, but she has found ways to adjust the shows to her needs.

“I’ve educated the boys,” Bejarano said. “We’ve lowered the volume and I told them to stop jumping around on stage all the time.”

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