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The first deportation of Jews took place in the territories controlled by Bulgaria

27 October 2014 / 22:10:06  GRReporter
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Italians, on the other hand, had a completely different view on the issue and the reasons for this should be sought in the previous attitude of the Italian government and society both towards the Jewish communities and Jews with Italian citizenship. From the outset, they banned all measures against Jews in their area of control, thus presenting the Germans with a serious problem. There are indications that the Italian diplomats tried to help Jews in the German occupation zone to go to the Italian one, but the establishment of historical truth requires further study into the diplomatic and other archives. By September 1943, the Italian occupation zones were a refuge for persecuted Jews.

What was the social and economic profile of Salonika Jews?

The legendary "rich Jews" were in fact a social group with a full social stratification and so were the other inhabitants of Thessaloniki. "Many, many Jews of all classes," state their Christian neighbours in their modern narratives. The processing of economic data from the last census shows that there was a powerful economic class and it comprised about 10% of the total Jewish population. The property of these people exceeded the sum of two million drachmas. By comparison, an average-sized house cost 70,000 drachmas at the time. 15% of Salonika Jews were wealthy whereas 50% of people belonged to the middle and lower social strata. 25% were very poor, and their main assets were simple household items.

Was there an attempt from the other residents, from civic and religious organizations to save them?

When SS officer Dieter Vislicheni began to implement the racial measures, he wanted to disband the intermarriages between Jews and Greeks that were around 80-90 in Thessaloniki at that time in order to ensure that no Jew would remain unaffected by them. Then, Thessaloniki Metropolitan Gennady, chief governor of Macedonia Basilios Simonidis, humanitarian organizations and individuals who were personally affected sent protest letters to the German authorities. In the event, the order for disbanding the mixed marriages was withdrawn. Some of the participants were apprehended in a station in the Athens suburb of Haidari, where some of them were killed and the rest were released in 1944.

The attempt organized by the association of the disabled from the Albanian front was collective too. They appeared in the SS headquarters and made ​​a request to the Nazis not to deport those Jews with whom they had fought together in Albania. Instead of receiving a reply, they were threatened that the response to all such "Jew-friendly initiatives" would be mass executions. The experience from the fighting and war had created feelings that connected the community of the city but there was not enough time for them to mature.

In the creation of the Greek National Liberation Front (EAM) in September 1941 two members of the central committee, namely D. Marangos and lawyer Ilias Kefalidis, visited Dr. Korets (chief rabbi of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki) and offered him cooperation, but he refused because he believed that the path of obedience was the safest. 5,000 Jews however accepted the proposal and they were transported from Thessaloniki with the help of employees in the railways. There were more proposals for cooperation in other specific cases too, and some of those Jews who joined the battle on the side of EAM tried to attract others but without much success. Around 10,000 people in total fled from the city, many of whom were arrested in other cities or returned to Thessaloniki, when the racial measures were enforced. The study of the resistance movement and its help to the Jewish population, as well as the participation of Greek Jews in it has recently started. We expect works such as that by Rica Benveniste to shed light on many details that have been unexplored to date.

At the same time, and despite the fact that the relations between the Greek Orthodox Church and Jews were complex and full of conflicts, many priests expressed opinions in favour of Jews in their sermons to the laity. Many Christians proposed saving Jewish children by adoption, but the attitudes in their families forced them to give up. There were cases of Christians who helped Jewish families to hide or escape to the Italian occupation zone. Some attempts were successful, others not.

At the last moment, in March 1943, shortly before the start of the deportations, in a letter to Prime Minister Logotetopoulos, the Bar Association of Thessaloniki proposed the relocation of Jews to a remote location in the country. However, governor of the region of Macedonia Vassilios Simonidis did not support the proposal. At the same time, in Athens, political leaders, along with other prominent members of society submitted a request to the Prime Minister, which bore the signatures of party leaders. All these protest letters can be determined as awareness at the last moment in terms of what was happening, as an expression of human feelings towards Jews, but also of a fear of violation of every principle and rule on personal safety, property and on the lives of citizens, which applied even in times of war. This probably raised fears in society in general.

Tags: HistoryOhi DayIoannis MetaxasWorld War IIGreek JewsThessalonikiDeportationOccupationGerman authoritiesBulgarian authorities
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