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Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive: Greece

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Greece is a major subject in the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. Over 770 testimonies discuss the country before, during and/or after World War II. As many as 655 USC Shoah Foundation interviewees were born in 36 different Greek cities.

Between January 1996 and September 1999, the USC Shoah Foundation conducted 304 interviews in Greece, with 25 interviewers travelling to 20 different cities to record them. A total of 306 interviews are in the Greek language.

Testimonies were conducted both with members of the larger Sephardic Jewish community, who have been in Greece since expulsion from Spain in 1492, and with Romaniot Jews, a community whose history in Greece dates back over 2,000 years. Survivors come from Thessaloniki especially (59%), but also significantly from Athens, Ioannina, Larisa, Kérkira, Volos, Trikala, and Kavala.

In October 1940, Italy invaded Greece but was repelled. In April 1941, Germany overran Greece and divided it into three occupation zones: Italian, German, and Bulgarian. Survivors report that conditions in the Italian zone were significantly better—for example, in Athens as compared to German-controlled Thessaloniki—at least until the Germans took over in September 1943.

The Germans established only one ghetto in Greece, in Thessaloniki (Salonika; discussed in 243 testimonies), and a small number of transit camps, including Haidari (73 testimonies), Larisa (31 testimonies), and Thebes (5 testimonies). Around 70 survivors talk about their experiences on the island of Rhodes, part of Italy before and during World War II, but which later fell under German occupation.

Deportations of Greek Jews to Treblinka and Auschwitz began in 1943. Some 210 accounts of Greek Jewish Auschwitz survivors can be found in the Visual History Archive. Among them are a handful of rare testimonies of Auschwitz Sonderkommandos, that include Alfred Aboav (interview code 1673, English), Dario Gabbai (interview code 142, English), Moses Mizrahi (interview code 15146, English), Shlomo Venezia (interview code 36179, Italian).

Those who escaped deportation survived by going into hiding or concealing their identities (372 testimonies) and were involved with resistance groups (136 testimonies) such as the EAM-ELAS. While interactions with the Greek police (95 testimonies) were not always negative, survivors sought to avoid members of right-wing groups such as the EEE (31 testimonies) and paramilitary forces like the Tagmata Asfaleias (7 testimonies).

Testimonies refer to figures such as the highly thought-of chief rabbi of Athens, Ilia Barzilai (34 testimonies), and the more controversial chief rabbi of Thessaloniki, Zvi Koretz (86 testimonies), as well as the collaborators Vital Hasson, the Recanati brothers, Jacques Albala, and Edgard Kounio (interview code 42145, French).

The Greek collection includes the testimonies of four rescuers as well as reminiscences about aid givers such as Athens police chief, Anghelos Evert (27 testimonies). The Greek Civil War, including the Dekemvriana, is discussed in 81 testimonies.

NB: The transliteration system the USC Shoah Foundation used for Greek names is ISO 843 1997 TR, as listed here.


Selected Indexing Terms

attitudes toward Greece and/or Greeks

Barzilai, Ilia

Campbell Riots (Salonika, Greece, 1931)

Chason, Vital






Evert, Anghelos

Frizis, Colonel Mordechai

Greek armed forces

Greek Civil War

Greek civilian laborers

Greek ghetto guards

Greek ghetto inhabitants

Greek government officials

Greek history

Greek kapos

Greek Orthodox Church

Greek police and security forces

Greek prisoner functionaries

Greek prisoners

Greek prisoners of war

Greek Red Cross

Greek refugees

Greek resistance fighters

Greek resistance groups

Greek soldiers

Greek units

Kommunistikon Komma Ellados

Koretz, Zvi

Levis, Colonel Errikos

Pavlou Mela (Salonika, Makedhonía, Greece : Concentration Camp)

Romaniot Jews

Salonika (Greece : Ghetto)

Tagmata Asfaleias

Ülkümen, Selahattin


Selected Bibliography

Apostolou, Andrew. "’The Exception of Salonika’: Bystanders and Collaborators in Northern Greece,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 14, no. 2 (2000).

Benveniste, Rika (ed.). Hoi hevraioi tes helladas sten katoche, Thessaloniki: Ekdoseis Vanias, 1998.

Bowman, Steven. Jewish Resistance in Wartime Greece, London; Portland, OR: Vallentine Mitchell, 2006.

Fleming, Katherine. Greece: a Jewish History, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.

Lampsa, Karina; Simpe, Iakob. E diasose: e siope tu kosmu, e antistase sta gketo kai ta stratopeda, oi Ellenes Ebraioi sta chronia tes Katoches, Athens: Ekdoseis Kapon, 2012.

Lewkowicz, Bea. The Jewish Community of Salonika: History, Memory, Identity, London; Vallentine Mitchell, 2006.

Mazower, Mark. Inside Hitler's Greece: the Experience of Occupation, 1941-44, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

Mazower, Mark. Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims, and Jews, 1430-1950, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.

Rozen, Minna. “Jews and Greeks Remember Their Past: The Political Career of Tzevi Koretz (1933-43),” Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, and Society, 12, no. 1 (2005), pp. 111-166.

Visual History Archive Curator

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Anne Grant
Cooper Library
Room 405