Brothers, a few months ago, the Central Jewish Council received a letter pertaining to your hundred coreligionists from Greece, survivors of the Auschwitz killing machine, who are still in the camp for displaced persons in Feldafing in the American zone in Germany… these wretched brothers describe their tragedy in the darkest hues, their martyrdom, and the circumstances of their life in exile. In moving words that testify to their pain and longing for life as it was before the war… Evraiki Estia, May 30, 1947.
Before World War II, there were more than 50,000 Jews in Salonika. More than 46,000 of them were deported to the Nazi death camps, and around 96% of them perished there. Those Who Survived tells the story of some of the few survivors. Their stories are the exception; death was the rule. Using a vast wealth of personal testimonies and archival documents, this book narrates previously unknown stories, reconsidering events from a microhistorical perspective. It traces the trajectories of three groups of people who shared a common experienceof persecution. The first part concentrates on a group of about twenty young Jewsfrom Salonika who joined the partisans and fought against the Germans. It explores their decisions, their everyday lives and the battles in the mountains, and life after the liberation. The second part exposes the previously unknown story of a group of 100–200 Jews from Salonika who survived the Nazi concentration and death camps, subsequently becoming DPs in the Feldafing camp, Germany. The book discusses various aspects of their everyday lives in this extraterritorial experience: searching for family members, food, the black market, sociability, love and marriage, Zionism and illegal immigration to Mandatory Palestine, waiting for visas and departure for the U.S. The third and final parttraces the fate of one family that was deported to Bergen-Belsen. Using letters, diaries,and testimonies, the narrative sheds light on their lives in the first months of occupation, in Bergen-Belsen, after liberation, upon the return to Salonika, and in the aftermath of the war. In this innovative study, now available for the first time in English, Rika Benveniste confront sofficial and private archives and testimonies with collective memory and historiography. The fascinating and moving personal stories narrated in the book, together with the author’s reflections, will interest historians and the general public alike.
Rika Benveniste was born in Thessaloniki. She studied History at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and completed her doctoral studiesin Medieval History at the Université de Sorbonne (Paris I, Panthéon). She is at present Professor of European Medieval History in the Department of History, Archaeology, and Social Anthropology at the University of Thessaly, Volos. Her research in Medieval History includes issues of law and society, religiosity and conversion, Jewish history, and historiography. She has also researched and published widely on the Holocaust. Her current research focuses on the history of Jews in the postwar years and the emigration of Greek Jews. Her most recent monograph is Luna: An Essay in Historical Biography (Athens: Polis, 2017) (Paris: Signes et Balises, 2023, forthcoming).