Noémi Ban of Bellingham, who has witnessed a lifetime of loss, resiliency and hope, will share her story at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Arntzen Hall at Western Washington University.
Now in her 90s, Ban told The Bellingham Herald in a May interview that she survived several months in a Nazi death camps because, “I loved life. I didn’t want to die.”
Ban and her family lived near Budapest, Hungary, when the Nazis occupied that nation in March 1944. Ban was living with her parents, grandmother, little sister, and her baby brother when the Germans started shipping thousands of people to concentration camps.
Her father was sent to a labor camp. The others were sent by train to Auschwitz, where Ban, a healthy young woman, was chosen to be a laborer. The rest of her family was put to death.
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Ban was later sent to Buchenwald to assemble components for bombs. By spring 1945, with the Allies closing in, the Germans started evacuating Buchenwald. Ban and other prisoners began a forced march to another Nazi camp, but they escaped into some woods where they were found by Allied soldiers.
She also was witness to the 1956 Soviet repression of the anti-communist uprising in Hungary, and later in life, watched her husband Earnest’s struggle with aphasia, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.
She has said sharing her story has helped her heal.
“I cannot bring back my dear ones, “ she said. “I can talk about them. ... I am honoring them and sending my love.”