Remembering the victims of National Socialism with Anita Lasker-Wallfisch

The Bundestag remembered the victims of National Socialism with a special ceremony on Wednesday, 31 January 2018. This marks the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camp by Soviet troops on 27 January 1945. Following an opening address by Bundestag President Dr Wolfgang Schäuble, Holocaust survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch MBE gave the commemorative speech. 

A survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, born in 1925 in Breslau (now Wrocław), is a German-British cellist and one of the last known survivors of the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz. She is the youngest of the three daughters of Alfons Lasker, a lawyer, and Edith Lasker, a violinist. Her parents were able to send her oldest sister Marianne to safety in England in 1939, via the Kindertransport, before being deported and murdered themselves in 1942. The remaining two daughters were sent to an orphanage and forced to work in a paper factory.

Anita was deported to Auschwitz in 1943, where she was allowed to join the inmates’ orchestra as a cellist. Later, her older sister Renate was also deported to Auschwitz. In November 1944 the two sisters were transported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in what is now Lower Saxony, which was liberated by British troops on 15 April 1945.

Emigration to Britain

In 1946 Anita Lasker was able to emigrate to Great Britain, where she co-founded the London-based English Chamber Orchestra and enjoyed a successful career as a cellist. She married the pianist Peter Wallfisch, who was also from Breslau and who taught as a professor at the Royal College of Music in London. He died in 1993.

One year later, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch returned to Germany for the first time since emigrating and in the years that followed made many speaking tours. In Germany, she primarily visited schools to tell her story and speak about other victims of National Socialism and the Holocaust. She was one of the survivors of Bergen-Belsen invited to the site of the former concentration camp during the state visit by Queen Elizabeth II in June 2015.

Young people visit Dachau and Munich

The topic of “resistance” was the focus of this year’s youth encounter organised by the German Bundestag. Taking part were 71 young people aged between 16 and 28 from 13 countries, who are involved in examining the history of National Socialism or actively engaged in countering anti-Semitism and racism.

The participants met on Saturday, 27 January in Dachau. The next day they visited the DenkStätte Weiße Rose memorial site in the courtyard of the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. A tour of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial was planned for Monday, 29 January. On Tuesday, 30 January the participants traveled from Dachau to Berlin, where they visited the Reichstag Building as a “place of remembrance”.

After the Ceremony of Remembrance on Wednesday, 31 January in the Plenary Chamber, a two-hour panel discussion was held in the Bundestag’s Jakob Kaiser Building from 2.45 p.m. with Bundestag President Wolfgang Schäuble, guest speaker Anita Lasker-Wallfisch and her sister Renate Lasker-Harpprecht on the topic of “resistance”.

The Ceremony of Remembrance for the Victims of National Socialism has been held each year since 1996.