Noémi Ban, 94 years old, a Hungarian-born American Jew and survivor of the Holocaust, will talk about her life on Saturday, May 20 at noon at the Orcas Community Church.
Ban, who is 94 years old, is a Golden Apple Award-winning lecturer, public speaker and teacher residing in Bellingham. During Operation Margarethe, the German invasion and occupation of Hungary, her father Samu was sent to a labor camp while she, her mother, her siblings, her grandmother and 11 other relatives were sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp, arriving on July 1, 1944. All of Ban’s family members in Auschwitz were killed, but Ban herself was transferred to the Buchenwald concentration camp to work in a bomb factory, where she intentionally constructed faulty bombs. On April 15, 1945, the campmates of Buchenwald were forced to march to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. On the way, Ban and 11 of her campmates escaped and were discovered by the U.S. Army. Ban returned to Budapest, Hungary, in September 1945, where she reunited with her father. That October she married a teacher, Bán Ernő (later Earnest Ban).
After the Communist occupation and takeover of Hungary between 1947 and 1948, Ban became a seventh and eighth-grade teacher herself. Suffering from Soviet oppression, Ban, Earnest, and their two sons, István (Steven) and György (George), tried to escape to Austria, but were stopped on a train crossing the border. On Dec. 29, 1956, less than a month later, the Bans again tried to cross, this time hidden in a shipment of giant balls of yarn. The attempt succeeded and they ended up in Sopron, Austria. In 1957, Noémi and her family moved to St. Louis, Missouri.
In 2003, Ban wrote “Sharing Is Healing: A Holocaust Survivor’s Story,” an autobiography of her experiences during the Holocaust and as a public speaker. In 2007 her life was made into the documentary film “My Name Is Noémi.”