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'Babies are the best revenge against the Nazis'

Christine Lehnen
January 18, 2022

Once an inmate at Auschwitz, Lily Ebert never thought she would make it out alive. Now at 98, she has 35 great-grandchildren and has become a star on TikTok.

Lily Ebert talks to a young boy
Lily Ebert is an Auschwitz survivorImage: DW

Becoming a great-grandmother is special for anyone, Londoner-by-choice Lily Ebert told the British news agency PA in view of her family's latest offspring.

But for her, as a Holocaust survivor, it is all the more special, she said. "I never thought I would achieve this. I had to survive first of all and then to achieve this age… (the Nazis) wanted to kill us and we showed (them) that they could not," British media reported her as saying.

"Babies are the best revenge against the Nazis," Ebert said in a statement posted on Twitter by her great-grandson, Dov Forman. The Holocaust survivor recently welcomed her 35th grandchild.

Born in Hungary, Ebert is one of the few living eyewitnesses of the Holocaust and regularly recounts her experiences in talks and at events. "I promised myself: As long as I live, I will tell my story to future generations," she told PA news agency.

To help spread her message wider, her great-grandson Dov Forman has been running an account on the social media platform TikTok for almost two years — and it's very popular with younger generations. Around 1.6 million people follow Lily Ebert and Dov Forman on their channel, which has garnered 23.1 million likes and counting.

The family duo came up with the idea when Ebert was unable to give talks at schools during lockdowns in the UK due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lily Ebert lights a candle on Holocaust Memorial Day in London
Lily Ebert has been raising awareness about the HolocaustImage: Nick Ansell/PA Wire/picture alliance

Holocaust remembrance on TikTok

On TikTok, Ebert shares short videos about her life and openly talks about the horrors of being in Auschwitz. "It was hell. They played music while they killed people" she has said. In videos on the platform, she asks how it is possible that Nazi women who worked as camp guards were willing to kill children, then go home to care for their own offspring as mothers. She also talks about how harshly prisoners were punished if they tried to help others who were too sick to work. 

After Auschwitz, Ebert's life went on. Some aspects of her daily life are shown on the TikTok channel, such as her tradition of making challah bread each week. Her 18-year-old great-grandson posts videos of her making the Jewish bread, traditionally eaten on Shabbat, the seventh day of the week or Saturday, or on other holidays.

The Nazis deported Lily Ebert from Hungary to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944, where her mother and two younger siblings were murdered. Ebert and her older siblings, meanwhile, were considered fit for work and managed to survive. She was a forced laborer at a munitions factory near Leipzig when U.S. soldiers arrived in April 1945, freeing her and her fellow prisoners. She had only narrowly escaped the SS death march.

Only 20 years old at the time, she remembers when an American soldier, having nothing else to write on, scrawled words of encouragement on a banknote and gave it to her. "A start to a new life. Good luck and happiness," it read. 

TikTok star, 97, shares Auschwitz experience

This new life began in Switzerland. Eventually, she emigrated to Israel, where she met her husband. The family has lived in London since 1967.

Dov Foreman and his great-grandmother Lily Ebert stand next to one another
Ebert and her grandson, Dov Foreman (pictured) run a popular TikTok accountImage: DW

Ebert's message of tolerance

Ebert's greatest concern is keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive so that nothing like it happens again, she has said on TikTok. Together with her great-grandson, Ebert wrote her story in a book titled "Lily's Promise: How I survived Auschwitz and Found the Strength to Live." With a foreword written by Charles, the Prince of Wales, the book stormed the British bestseller list.

For her 98th birthday on December 29, 2021, her great-grandson posted photos on Twitter of Ebert and her youngest grandchild surrounded by countless birthday cards. "I never expected to survive Auschwitz. Now, at 98, I celebrate surrounded by my family - the Nazis did not win," she said.


This article was translated from German by Sarah Hucal.