Greece’s oldest Holocaust survivor, Esther Cohen, has died at the age of 96, it was reported on Tuesday.
At the age of 17, Cohen was transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau along with other Romaniote Jews from the city of Ioannina in northern Greece, after Nazi troops rounded them up at the city’s main square on March 25, 1944. The last time she saw her parents and siblings was at the gates of Auschwitz.
Her meeting with German President Joachim Gauck was thought of as one of Cohen’s most emotional public moments, when the latter visited an Ioannina synagogue in March 2014. He embraced Cohen in tears and apologized to her for the Nazi atrocities against Jews. She told him that “after we die, people must realize that man should not be inhuman,” while the photograph of that embrace made international front-page news.
Ioannina’s Jewish community had a long and rich cultural history, with evidence of a synagogue existing there at least since the 9th century, according to the Jewish Museum of Greece’s Research Center.
Esther Cohen’s funeral service will take place on Thursday.