Originally Published: January 27, 2018 6:02 a.m.
Esther Basch will be 90 in May, but her memories of years enduring unspeakable mistreatment by Nazis in World War II, will never leave her. It was 1942 and Esther was 13.
Basch will tell her story as a Holocaust survivor during a presentation at 10:10 a.m. Sunday, on Feb. 4, at Starting Point Church, which meets in a conference room at the Marriott Residence Inn, 3599 Lee Circle, in Prescott. The public is invited to the presentation, which includes a Super Bowl Soup Lunch afterward. Both the presentation and lunch are free.
Basch’s story begins in her poor but happy home in then-Czechoslovakia of Eastern Europe in 1942 when Nazi Occupation spread and anti-semitism grew across the continent. When Nazis required Esther, her family and their Jewish neighbors to wear “yellow star” armbands, Esther’s many non-Jewish girlfriends turned their backs on her. Throughout the city, Esther witnessed undeserved beatings by Nazis against Jews openly in the streets. Soon Nazis created a fenced ghetto in Esther’s city where they placed the Jews, about 1,500 from her city of 25,000. They brought in thousands of other Jews from surrounding countries, cramming three or four families into three-bedroom houses. Food was rationed and people were starving.
By May 1945, Nazis forcibly sent Esther, then age 16, her parents and many others to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland and later to other camps in Germany. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish people from many countries were treated like “animals” at the camps, Esther recalls in a 1996 taped interview. Starvation further weakened all the prisoners, and although petite to begin with, Esther became so malnourished in the camps that she looked 12 rather than 16. At one point, Basch’s only clothing was a large pair of women’s underwear that came all the way up to her armpits. It was all that protected her from cold mornings and the hot mid-day sun.
In the presentation, Basch will describe her personal experiences like these and many more.
Basch also recalls the day she and her fellow prisoners in the German camp were liberated by American soldiers on April 14, 1945. The following January, she married Joseph Basch, and in 1958, the couple immigrated to Brooklyn, New York, and in 1977 moved to Arizona. Today, Esther lives in Phoenix.
Her eldest child, Rachel Basch Turet, lives in Prescott, and together mother and daughter lead a course at Yavapai College’s OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) about the Holocaust and Basch’s experiences. The next class of “Memories of a Holocaust Survivor” meets from 9 to 11 a.m. Fridays, April 6-27. For more information, call 928-717-7634 or visit the college’s website at www.yc.edu/prescottolli.
For more information about the Feb. 4 presentation, call Pastor JT Schulze at 859-802-9086.