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Prisoner No. 77160 in Birkenau and Mauthausen

28 January 2016 / 19:01:17  GRReporter
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"When the train arrived with the people who were to be killed in the gas chambers, the passengers had to strip and take out the valuables ​​which they carried with them before they were forced into the gas chamber. My task, along with the other prisoners who were sent to my group, was to collect those valuables and arrange them. We arranged the banknotes depending on the currency and we found out that in addition to US dollars, German or Polish banknotes, there was a lot of Bulgarian and Greek money."

This is an excerpt of Berliner Kalman Jankowski’s testimony of 17 September 1959, a prisoner at the Treblinka death camp in April 1943, where he had one of the worst "jobs" called "Death squads".

Professor Athanasios Gotovos of the philosophy department of the University of Ioannina presented through the Athens News Agency valuable documents from his long-time research of German archives.

As he notes, the Nazi regime perceived Jews not as believers in a particular religion but as a "nation-tribe", a "race" and explains, "For the Nazis, Jews were Jews everywhere, whatever religion they professed, even if they were atheists and even if they were adapted to their environment, whatever language they were speaking, whatever their position was to Zionism. For Hitler what made a person a Jew was blood, not religion or will. It is said that when he was told that Einstein was a Jew but could be useful for the country, he replied with the famous "A Jew is a Jew".

From Ioannina to Birkenau and Mauthausen

The tragic moments described in the testimony of Kalman Jankowski were experienced by 90-year-old Nina Negrin, a Jew from Ioannina, with the number 77160 on her left arm.

Nina, aged 18 at the time, recalls, "Early in the morning of 25 March 1944, the gendarmes and Germans came home and told us to go to the pier. My family was big, there were about 60 of us. We left our home and went to the pier. From Ioannina they took us to Larissa, where we stayed for 10 days. There they took our gold ornaments and everything valuable we had. They took us to Birkenau by goods wagons. This was the last time I saw my parents, brothers and sisters, my cousins, my relatives. All disappeared in the crematoria of Auschwitz. They put me in a work group. We worked with hoes and shovels, paving roads, making shacks that were used for hospitals." The young Greek Jew was subsequently transferred to different camps and finally, having spent ten days in a train, as she says, without food and water, exhausted, she crossed the gate of Mauthausen.

"That was in early 1945. Two or three months later, I thought my turn had come. They divided us into groups of four or five and every day arranged us in a row, for an execution or for the crematorium. My turn never came because the Americans arrived at the camp. Thus I was saved."

Nina Negrin remembers an Auschwitz sabotage carried out by some Greek prisoners who blew up one crematorium, disarmed the guards and escaped into the woods. Later, however, they were captured and executed. Surviving witnesses say that this plan was prepared for months and that the plot involved women too - four Jewish and one Polish.

Chronicle of the massacre of Jews in Greece

The plan to apprehend Jews and send them to the concentration camps was the concern of Colonel Eichmann. He was authorized by Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Gestapo in the Third Reich, to develop and implement the plan.

Professor Athanasios Gotovos presents the chronicle of the extermination of Jews in Greece: "The central German security services in the country where an "operation" was carried out in cooperation with the local forces corresponding to the Wehrmacht were responsible for the implementation of the plan in each region.

In occupied Greece, the first arrests were carried out in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace in early March 1943. The largest Jewish community in Thessaloniki followed, from mid-March until the summer of 1943. The plan provided for the "cleansing" of the other Jewish communities in the spring of 1943, but for technical reasons it was postponed until the spring of 1944.

The heads of the Jewish community in Ioannina were aware of the arrests and deportations of Jews from Thrace and Thessaloniki. However, they believed that the danger for Ioannina Jews could be prevented if they managed to obtain assurances from the German occupation authorities in Ioannina, i.e. from General Lance and his services, that they would not bother them. Such assurances were given, on condition that the members of the Jewish community would not participate in the resistance, nor would they provide material support to the organizations of the resistance.

The fate of Jews in the city depended not on the German authorities locally but on Eichmann and a narrow circle of officers from the security services. They determined the time and place of the next "operation". One day before the arrest of Jews in Ioannina, some Jews of Athens were apprehended, as the rest were able to escape thanks to the not so strict police under the leadership of Angelos Evert. The day that Jews of Ioannina were arrested, similar operations were carried out in Preveza, Arta, Larissa and Kastoria. All detainees were taken by train to Poland, to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Jews of the islands of Corfu, Rhodes and Kos were later taken there too, in the summer of 1944. Jews of Chania, Crete, were also arrested but death caught up with them before they reached Auschwitz. A British submarine sank the ship that was transporting them from Heraklio to Piraeus and dragged hundreds of people down to the bottom.

A large number of those who arrived in Auschwitz were taken directly to the gas chambers where they were killed. A smaller number was taken to the camps to work and some were kept alive to become experimental animals in the hands of notoriously ruthless Dr. Mengele."

Asked whether the genocide of Jews should become part of the history classes at the Greek schools, Professor Gotovos says, "The answer to the question is positive from a pedagogical point of view. Such a crime cannot remain unnoticed by education, nor any other genocide as a matter of fact. In the hope that eventually, although they say the opposite, history teaches us. If not all, then certainly many of us."

Tags: JewsGenocideConcentration campsAuschwitzTreblinkaBirkenauMauthausen
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