Greek Auschwitz survivor passes away aged 96

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Esther Cohen, the oldest Greek survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, passed away on Tuesday at the age of 96.

Esther was one of just two Jews still alive in Ioannina of the 50-odd who survived the Holocaust and made it back from Auschwitz.

Speaking in a prior interview with Ekatherimini, Esther was taken away in the early hours of March 25, 1944. In a well-orchestrated plan with the help of the Greek gendarmerie, the Gestapo swept through the Jewish quarter of Ioannina, a town close to Greece’s northwestern border, piling 1,725 men, women and children onto trucks.

17-year-old Esther, her parents and her six siblings, were sent off to the crematoriums. Less than 50 came back.

“The last time I saw my parents was on the railway platform in Auschwitz, where we were separated. I remember that as they were driven away in the back of a truck, they shouted out, ‘Girls, defend your honor.’

“One day when our heads were being shaved by one of the prisoners, she asked me what had become of my parents. I said that I didn’t know. She pointed to the flames coming out of the crematorium and said, ‘There they are, burning.’”

Esther escaped the camp with the help of a German doctor of Jewish descent, who hid her when SS officers took people from the ward and marched them to the crematorium. After the concentration camp was liberated she learned that the only other member of her family to have survived was her sister. 

Esther managed to rebuild her life marrying Samuel, who had survived the war in the mountains, and passed away on Tuesday.  

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