On Friday 17 July 2015, surrounded by family and music, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch will celebrate her 90th birthday.
Anita survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. She came to London in 1946 and became a focal member of the musical community, a co-founder of the English Chamber Orchestra, a moral presence wherever music was made.
In an interview for the Royal College of Music archive, Anita talked about her childhood in Breslau (Wroclaw), studying in Nazi Germany with Leo Rostal, making music in Auschwitz with Mahler’s niece, Alma Rosé… and so much more. Of survival she says: ‘It was arbitrary…. I was lucky.’
Anita and her sister were sent to Auschwitz in December 1943 on separate prison trains, a far less squalid way to arrive than by cattle truck. Less dangerous, too, since there was no selection on arrival. Her membership in the 40-piece orchestra saved her as cello players were difficult to replace. The orchestra played marches as the slave labourers left the camp for each day’s work and when they returned. They also gave concerts for the SS.
By October 1944, the Red Army were advancing and Auschwitz was evacuated. Anita was taken on a train with 3,000 others to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and survived six months with almost nothing to eat. After the liberation by the British Army she was first transferred to a nearby displaced persons camp. Her sister Renate, who could speak English, became an interpreter with the British Army.
During the Belsen Trial which took place from September to November 1945 Anita testified against among others the camp commandant Josef Kramer, camp doctor Fritz Klein and deputy camp commandant Franz Hössler who were all sentenced to death and hanged that year.
In 1996 she published her memoir “Inherit the Truth”
Let us wish this very resilient woman a very happy birthday and many more to come.
Source material: Slippedisc / Wikipedia