Noémi Ban is a Hungarian-born American Jew and survivor of the Holocaust who currently resides in Whatcom County, Washington and continues to give lectures as a public speaker and teacher well into her 90s.
Ban was sent to the notoriously horrific Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944 along with fifteen of her family members, following the German invasion and occupation of Hungary. All fifteen family members, including her mom, brother, sister, and grandmother, were killed at Auschwitz, while Ban was transferred to Buchenwald concentration camp to work in a bomb factory, where Ban carried out covert acts of rebellion and sabotage by intentionally constructing faulty bombs.
On a forced march to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945, Ban and eleven of her Buchenwald camp-mates made their escape and were saved by the U.S Army, having just liberated the Bergen-Belsen camp.
Ban returned to Budapest, Hungary five months later to be reunited with her father, Samu who had survived another labor camp. She was soon married to Budapester teacher, Earnest Ban, and became a 7th and 8th grade teacher herself.
The Bans faced oppression yet again during the Soviet occupation and Communist takeover in 1947 and attempted two valiant escapes to Austria – the second proving successful as the couple and their two sons hid in a shipment of balls of yarn.
Ban and her family moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1957, where she and her husband learned English and earned degrees in education. Their son Steven moved to Bellingham, Washington in 1982, prompting the Bans to follow.
After her husband’s death, Ban became an international public speaker on her experiences during the Holocaust. In 2003 she wrote Sharing Is Healing: A Holocaust Survivor’s Story, an autobiography and memoir of the horrors she faced in Auschwitz, the pain of losing her mother, grandmother, 13-year-old sister, and 6-month-old brother, and her ability to embrace life afterwards. In 2007, her life was portrayed in the documentary film My Name Is Noémi.
In spite of the many losses, the cruel injustices, the unfathomable atrocities Noémi Ban endured in her life, her message remains that of hope, perseverance, love, and the joyful light that can spring from the most profound darkness.
Noémi Ban is winner of the 1997 Golden Apple teaching award, a 2001 recipient of an honorary doctorate from Gonzaga University, of, the 2003 Washington Education Association Human and Civil Rights Award in the category of International Peace and Understanding, the 2004 Washington State Holocaust Resource Center’s Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education, a 2006 inductee in the Northwest Women’s Hall of Fame, and most recently the 2010 Daughters of the American Revolution Americanism Award.
Her book, Sharing Is Healing: A Holocaust Survivor’s Story, may be found at Village Books in Fairhaven.