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Anita Lasker-Wallfisch.

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch (born 1925 in Breslau, Germany) is a German-born cellist of world renown and is a surviving member of the Women's Orchestra in Auschwitz.

Lasker was born in Breslau (Wrocław), Lower Silesia, to a professional Jewish family, one of three sisters (Marianne and Renate). Her father was a lawyer; her mother a violinist. They suffered discrimination from 1933 but as their father had fought at the front in World War I, gaining an Iron Cross, the family felt some degree of immunity from Nazi persecution.

Marianne, the eldest sister, fled to England in 1941. In April 1942, Lasker's parents were taken away and are believed to have died near Lublin in Poland. Lasker and her sister Renate were not deported because they were working in a paper factory. There, they met French prisoners of war and started forging papers to enable French forced labourers to cross back into France.

"I could never accept that I should be killed for what I happened to be born as, and decided to give the Germans a better reason for killing me."

In September 1942 they themselves tried to escape to France, but were arrested for forgery at Breslau station by the Gestapo. Only their suitcase, which they had already put on the train, escaped. The Gestapo were anxious about its loss, and carefully noted its size and colour.

"I had been in prison for about a year. Then one day I was called down. A suitcase has arrived: could I identify it? It was my suitcase. They stole everything, they killed everybody, but that suitcase really mattered to them. They had found the suitcase and everything was fine, though I never saw it again because it then went into the vaults of the prison and later I saw a guard wearing one of my dresses."

Anita and her sister were eventually sent to Auschwitz 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 and survived six months with almost nothing to eat. After the liberation, Renate, who could speak English, became an interpreter with the British Army.

In 1946 Anita and Renata moved to Britain with the help of Marianne. Anita joined the English Chamber Orchestra, performing as both a member and as a solo artist. She toured internationally but only returned to Germany with the ECO in 1994. She is mother to Raphael Wallfisch, a cellist (born 1953). She now lives in London.

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