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29 January 2014 / 21:01:24  GRReporter
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The deportation of Greek Jewish communities is also analyzed. In addition to the populous Sephardic community in Thessaloniki, there were twenty-five Jewish communities in the early Nazi occupation of Greece. The rate of extermination in Greece was very high, 83%, and it reached 96% in Thessaloniki, where the Jewish community was almost erased; today it numbers 3,500-4,000 people, in total the survivors from Greece are about 10,000. Some towns, especially in northern Greece, have no remaining community but in recent years, on the initiative of municipalities, they have placed monuments of the Holocaust, for example Komotini, Didymotiho, Volos and Rhodes as well. I think that the designation of the area is important as well as its connection to a past that is already perceived as the past of the whole city instead of its destroyed community alone.
On 11 July 1942, the day known as "Black Saturday", thousands of Jews were forcibly gathered, in unbearable heat, in Eleftherias Square in Thessaloniki and subjected to harassment and humiliation by the Nazis. Quite reasonably the monument of Jewish martyrs in the city was placed right there. However, dozens of cars parked in the open parking lot, which the square has become nowadays, are hiding the monument that is visible only at close range. The car park should be removed from there so that the space can be formed in a different way. The square could be renamed "Deportation" Square instead of the present "Freedom" Square. However, things are progressing. Since 2010, Athens has also had its monument to the victims of the Jewish genocide (in Thiseio district, corner Ermou and Efvoulou streets). The beams that are separated from the main body of the marble Star of David contain the names of the Greek cities that lost their Jewish communities. Significantly, the area for placing it near the synagogue was provided by Athens municipality.

 - The cover of The Emergence of a Difficult Memory is illustrated with a photo of Albert Cohen’s native house, a Greek Jew born on the island of Kerkyra (Corfu), who later became famous as a French-Swiss writer. "The Jewish community on Corfu was almost completely destroyed, as against the marvellous exception (in Greece) of the complete salvation of the Jews on nearby Zakynthos” you write. When did the sensitivity of Greek writers awaken and how was the theme of fate and of the extermination of Jews transferred into the post-war Greek literature?

- In the 1970s, two novels relating to the deportation and extermination were published, both by Thessaloniki authors. Psychiatrist Nikos Kokantzis published "Gioconda" with the tag-line "The following story is true." The story is about his first adolescent romance in the years of occupation with a Jewish girl who lives next door, Gioconda. She and her family will be deported from Thessaloniki and he will not see her again. In addition to the compelling love story, the book is the strongest text relating to the persecutions against Jews, in terms of the description of both their forcible gathering in Eleftherias Square in July 1942 and the farewell between the two neighbouring families.

In "Telephone Centre" by Nina Kokkalidou-Nachmia, Miriam will be deported to Auschwitz. We follow her captivity through the letters she sends, in her thoughts, to her girlfriend. Miriam is one of those who resist inside the camp and takes part in the revolt of Greek camp inmates who work in the crematoria. Both the story of the relationship between Jews and Christians in a harmonic framework and the approach to the genocide are of particular interest in this book.

Two other shorter texts are equally emblematic. "The Bed" by Thessaloniki novel writer Yorgos Ioannou focuses on what has been left behind of his friend from childhood, and perhaps his first erotic partner, namely his friend’s bed. When the neighbouring Jewish family is deported, their house is violently robbed and only Iso’s bed remains in it. The narrator takes it to his house and spends the rest of the occupation sleeping in it, remembering his lost friend. Ioannou describes the persecution of Jews from Thessaloniki, offering a first chronicle of the developments.

Vassilis Vassilikos’ short story "My friend Ino" focusses on the issue of Jewish property and it talks about the Greek collaborators who benefited from the abandoned Jewish possessions. It addresses the issue of unpunished guilt, which is still hanging over the whole of society. He explores the experience of camp inmates through the testimony of survivors. The examples may be few, but they are typical. The sensitivity of the Greek writers has already awakened.

Tags: Odette Varon-VassardHolocaustGenocide of JewsThessalonikiAuschwitzNazi occupation of Greece
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