Esther was born to a middle-class Jewish family in Chelm, Poland. In December 1942, she was deported from a work camp to the Sobibor killing center in occupied Poland. Upon arrival at Sobibor, Esther was selected to work in a sorting shed. She sorted clothing and the possessions of the people killed at the camp. During the summer and fall of 1943, Esther was among a group of prisoners in the Sobibor camp who planned an uprising and escape. Leon Feldhendler and Aleksandr (Sasha) Pechersky were the leaders of the group. The revolt took place on October 14, 1943. German and Ukrainian guards opened fire on the prisoners, who were unable to reach the main gate and thus had to try and escape through the minefield around the camp; about 300 escaped. Over 100 of them were recaptured and shot. Esther was among those who escaped and survived.
The transports, when--usually, most of them used to come in during the night, but there was some in the daytime, too--and when you heard that whistle from the commandant of the camp, that meant that the transport is coming in, and the men in the camp should get ready to unload the people, and so, that whistle was like somebody would tear out your insides. You knew here are other people, children, old, older people, people who never did anything wrong in their life, and they're gonna go, and you cannot say, you cannot resist, you cannot, just inside it builded up, that revenge, and that resentment, and that anger, and that pain, you know that we have builded up inside, and sometimes they came in during the day, and sometimes so many came in that they couldn't handle, so they would put them behind our barbed wire where we were fenced in, and tell us just to walk back and forth and forth and back, so what they told them that they going to work should seem to them to be the truth, and it was hard, it was hard. You walk by, and you look at the face, and you know in a half hour won't be here, can't even tell him. You just put on, not a smile, your best face you can. It hurted, it was very, very hard.