Anita Lasker-Wallfisch MBE

Anita Lasker Wallfisch 2007

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch was born in Breslau which was then part of Germany and is now Wrocław in Poland. She was part of an assimilated Jewish family and lived with her parents and two sisters. All three children played an instrument from a young age. Anita played the cello.

By the time Anita was 12 years old her parents arranged for her to go to Berlin where she had private tuition in school subjects and could continue her cello lessons with the only remaining Jewish cello teacher in the city. However, this ended soon after Kristallnacht, at which point Anita left Berlin to return to her family in Breslau.

Following Kristallnacht, Anita was forced to leave school and was conscripted to work in a paper factory. Around this time, Anita’s family were also forced to leave their home and move in with Anita’s aunt.

On 9th April 1942, Anita’s parents were deported to Izbica near Lublin. Anita and her sisters had wanted to go with them but their father refused. Anita learnt after the war that they had been killed on arrival.

Anita continued to work in the paper factory and became involved in clandestine activities, mainly forging paperwork for French prisoners of war. One day she realised that the Nazis had been watching her. Anita forged some papers for herself and attempted to escape but she was quickly caught and imprisoned for forgery, helping the enemy, and attempted escape.

After a year in prison, Anita was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. She credits her survival at Auschwitz to the fact that she was able to join the camp orchestra. The prisoners who were part of the orchestra played by the gates of the camp as the other prisoners left for work in the morning and arrived back in the evening. The orchestra was also expected to be on call to play whenever a member of the SS wanted to hear music.

From Auschwitz, Anita was sent to Bergen-Belsen. On 15th April 1945, Belsen was liberated by British troops. After serving as an interpreter for the British army, she settled in the UK in 1946 where she achieved fame as co-founder and member of the English Chamber Orchestra.