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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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The degree of acceptance in every community, of solidarity, or its lack, on the part of the local communities, authorities and the church, the emergence of the local resistance movement, the humanity of the representatives of the German authorities in some regions - all played their role in the salvation of Jews or in the failure thereof. But the Nazi machine was too strong to be stopped by separate attempts, and the Greek government that was cooperating with the occupiers at that time and its various representatives did not take common political actions to solve the problem for two reasons. This was because they did not have the political experience to draw up such a plan on the one hand and did not intend to do so, on the other, although this concerned Jews, Greek citizens. Here we can see some political choices associated with the use of the property of Jews.

Have the personal stories of those Jews who were sent to concentration camps been studied in depth?

I will try to summarize, without being exhaustive. The attempts at the international level began in the 1980s. Documentary "Shoah" by Claude Lantsman is both a turning point in the description of oral testimony about the Holocaust and a proposal for consideration of its history "from the bottom up", i.e. of social history. In the Greek bibliography, Odette Varon-Vassard and Rica Benveniste very thoroughly present how the tentative interest in the subject began in the 1980s, after the publication of the first evidence of the events. In the 1990s, we witnessed a boom in the interest in both the publishing of books containing personal stories of people and books describing the historical events. Authors of the most valuable works are Frangiski Abatzopulu and the late Alberto Nar.

In recent years, there has been a systematic attempt on the part of the group for the study of the history of Jews in Greece to organize the oral narratives of Greek Jews, which is carried out within the context of the research programme of the Latsis Foundation. Their task is to describe and archive video and audio materials containing testimony and to create a database on http://gjst.ha.uth.gr/el/theproject.php. We are talking about at least 800 recordings. The main audiovisual archives that preserve the testimonies of Greek Jews, Holocaust survivors, are the archive of oral testimonies of the Jewish Museum of Greece, the archive of oral testimonies in the Department of History, Archaeology and Social Anthropology of the University of Thessaly, the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies, the Holocaust archive of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the archive of USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education, and the Yad Vashem Archives.

However, now a programme initiated by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is underway in Greece within which many Greek scholars and historians are recording the testimonies of Christians, fellow citizens of Jews, who witnessed the deportations. This is precisely because the witnesses contribute towards the interruption of the linear story, offer alternative interpretations and bring their findings into question, while keeping the variations.

What about the property of Greek Jews from that time until the present day?

It is hard to answer in terms of today because I do not have enough data.

According to the register of property declarations of 1943, without excluding the possibility of undeclared data, the movable and immovable property of Jews amounted to about 11 billion drachmas or 11 million English sovereigns, the amount of real estate being 1 billion drachmas. The overall plan of the occupying government was to provide, through the management service of the property of the people of Israel, the capital of the recently deported Jews to 50,000 Greek citizens, refugees from various categories. The Greek government that was cooperating with the occupiers was trying to improve its image in the context of the ongoing Bulgarian occupation and the unresolved problem of refugees by providing them with houses and shops. The German authorities were following the meetings of the committee and the Greek refugees were often neglected in order for associates of the Germans or relatives of committee members to benefit. The squandering of Jews’ property continued in different ways and the study of this issue is in progress. The issue is developed in the works of authors such as Stratos Dordanas, Gabriela Etmektsoglu, Christos Hatziyosif and Stella Salem, but it has not yet been investigated in its integrity.

Just two days before the withdrawal of the German troops from Athens Ioannis Rallis government issued a law that transformed the service into a central service for the liquidation and the provision of property of the people of Israel. Obviously, this was another attempt to legalize an illegal procedure.

Tags: HistoryOhi DayIoannis MetaxasWorld War IIGreek JewsThessalonikiDeportationOccupationGerman authoritiesBulgarian authorities
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