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Meet the Auschwitz survivor who’s gone viral on TikTok

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lilyebert | TikTok | Fair Use

Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 02/25/22

Her great-grandson helps share Lily Ebert's crucial message about the realities of the Holocaust and the horrors she endured.

Most TikTok stars are young and bubbly, dancing and singing their way to popularity. But one viral TikTok star turns that stereotype on its head.

Lily Ebert is 98 years old, and she’s sharing her inspiring story of resilience and survival on TikTok with help from her great-grandson, Dov Forman.

Lily grew up in Hungary and was 20 years old when she was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in July 1944 along with her mother, three sisters, and younger brother. Her mother, brother, and sister Berta were gassed and murdered upon arrival at the death camp. 

But Lily and her other sisters, Renee and Piri, survived four months in Auschwitz. Then they were transferred to a smaller camp to work at a munitions factory until the United States Army liberated them in April 1945. 

For most of her life, Lily could not bring herself to talk about the horrifying nightmare she’d survived. It was just too painful. 

But recently, something changed. She decided that sharing her story was too important to keep silent any longer.

An 80-year difference between her and great-grandson, Dov Forman, helped bridge the trauma she’d held onto for generations. They realized that by sharing her stories, they are not only helping heal her pain, but also educating younger generations on the tragic genocide that occurred so history doesn’t repeat itself.

Her great-grandson knew the world needed to hear Lily’s story. He began making short videos about her life and sharing them on social media. 

Sure enough, young viewers couldn’t get enough of her story. The duo quickly reached 1.8 million followers on TikTok. Viewers can ask her questions and see glimpses of her life, all while listening to Lily’s message of hope.  

Her experience has even inspired a new book:Lily’s Promise: Holding On to Hope Through Auschwitz and Beyond – A Story for All Generations. Lily and Dov wrote the bestselling memoir together. 

The book reveals how sharing her story online is one way that Lily fulfills a promise she made to herself decades ago:

On Yom Kippur, 1944, fighting to stay alive as a prisoner in Auschwitz, Lily Ebert made a promise to herself. She would survive the hell she was in and tell the world her story, for everyone who couldn’t. Now, at ninety-eight, this remarkable woman—and TikTok sensation, thanks to the help of her eighteen-year-old great-grandson—fulfills that vow, relaying the details of her harrowing experiences with candor, charm, and an overflowing heart.

In these pages, she writes movingly about her happy childhood in Hungary, the death of her mother and two youngest siblings on their arrival at Auschwitz, and her determination to keep her two other sisters safe. She describes the inhumanity of the camp and the small acts of defiance that gave her strength. Lily lost so much, but she built a new life for herself and her family, first in Israel and then in London.

Dov knows that it is up to younger people like him to keep Lily’s promise. He and Lily bridge the generation gap to share her experience, reminding us of the joy that accompanies the solemn responsibility of keeping the past—and our stories—alive.

After World War II ended, Lily married and raised a family. She has three children, 10 grandchildren, and 35 great-grandchildren. Each new baby in her family has been a joyful sign of hope and triumph. 

Babies are the best revenge against the Nazis,” she said

There is so much to love about this vibrant, joyful pair. It’s refreshing to see young people on TikTok learning about such an important part of history and listening to Lily’s wisdom. 

“She’s a fighter and a survivor,” Forman said. “Our family, we learn from her.” And the rest of us learn from her inspiring example, too.

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