The Fate of Greek Jews

(November 11, 1943)


Correspondence from the American Consulate-General in Istanbul, Turkey, addressed to the Secretary of State, Washington

CONFIDENTIAL

Report No. 1746 (R-1616)
November 11, 1943

SUBJECT: Information concerning Jews in Greece.

SIR:

I have the honor to submit information concerning the fate of Jews deported from Salonica and concerning the situation of Jews in former Italian-occupied territory, and particularly in Athens, since the Germans on October 3 ordered them to register. The information was furnished by the local representative of a Jewish organization.

I. The representative of the Jewish organization made the following statement in an interview:

Of the 50,000 Jews deported from Salonica only about 10,000 reached Poland alive. Included among the dead was the Chief Rabbi of Salonica. 3,000 Jews had previously escaped from Salonica to the Italian-occupied parts of Greece, chiefly to Athens, from which many later went to other places. Jews of Salonica mobilized in Greece for forced labor, beginning from July 1942 up to the time of the mass deportations in the spring of 1943, are still in Greece. Since these labor battalions are moved from place to place for the building of roads and fortifications, it is difficult to communicate with them. Definite information on how many survive and how they are treated is therefore unavailable. There are reports that they are given light soup three times a day and a kilo of bread each week and that those who become too weak to work are killed. Even so the treatment of those in labor battalions is considered better than those sent to Poland, and this is attributed to the fact that they are serving a useful purpose.

Of the 3,500 Jews of Athens probably not more than 600 remain there. The others escaped from the city within fifteen days after the Germans ordered them to register.

II The German order requiring Jews to register referred to above and reported in Despatch No. 1601 (R-1483) of October 22, 1943, is given below in order to facilitate reference to it.

Regulation

1) All Jews subject to this order must immediately betake themselves to their permanent homes, in which they were living on June 1, 1943.

2) Jews are forbidden to leave their permanent residence or to change their place of residence.

3) Jews in Athens and its environs are obliged to appear within five days at the Jewish Religious Center in Athens for registration. Those living outside Athens will report to the Greek mayor or to community officers.

4) Jews who do not observe these orders will be shot. Non-Jews who hide Jews, give them shelter or help them to escape, will be sent to labor camps or receive a more severe punishment.

5) Jews of foreign citizenship must report on October 18, 1943, at 8:00 A.M. to the Jewish Religious Center in Athens and there register a copy of their evidence of foreign citizenship. Outside Athens they are to report to the above-mentioned Greek authorities.

6) The Jewish Religious Center in Athens is designated, as from this moment, the only representative of all Jewish interests in Greece. It must immediately form a council of elders and take up its duties. Further instructions will be given later.

7) After registration every male Jew, fourteen years of age and over, must report every second day at the above-mentioned place.

8) Jews are forbidden to walk on the streets or in open places between the hours of 5 P.M. and 7 A.M.

9) The Greek Police will be ordered to control the enforcement of the above order most severely, and immediately to arrest Jews or other persons who prevent its being executed.

10) All those are considered as Jews who have at least three grandparents of Jewish race, regardless of their religious affiliations.

Athens, October 3, 1943

The Higher S.S. and Police
Leader of Greece
Stroop
S.S. Brigade Leader
and
General Major of the Police

III. The following is a translation of a written report furnished by the representative of the Jewish organization:

"After the German announcement (requiring Jews to register) every Jew who had provided himself with a card of identity bearing an Orthodox name, was assured a hiding place with Orthodox friends. One must confess that the Athenians have shown a more humane attitude than the people of Salonica and because of that, there is reason to hope that a large part of the Jews can be saved from falling into German hands. There have been cases, however, in which in order to find a safe refuge, it was necessary to pay 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 drachmas monthly or deposit 50 or even 100 gold pounds to the person who gave him shelter as compensation in case the Germans sent him to a concentration camp.

The E.A.M. organization has recruited a large number of our people (Jews) who know English and has sent them to their headquarters. Others, most of them young men, have gone into the mountains to join the guerrillas or to live in the regions known as "Free Greece." The majority have gone to the Karpenisi region and others to Euboea in order to escape by boat. The E.A.M., which has organized several groups, asked everyone in good circumstances to assure the support of two destitute Jews. The organization had distributed leaflets to the Athenians asking them to give assistance. The following is an example of the helpful attitude of the Greeks. At our place of embarkation in Euboea the guerrillas have permitted only Jews to depart and it was only after taking an oath (that they were Jews) that the refugees were allowed to continue their journey.

It is said that during the five-day period specified in the German order only fifty or sixty persons, chiefly those who found no place of refuge, registered. In view of this the Germans prolonged the registration period to October 17 but there were some who registered on October 18 without being penalized. The Germans gave to each one who registered a white card without photographs on which were written the name, address and occupation together with a list of dates, indicating that the bearer should report every second day.

In the case of an invalid an exception was made and he was told to register every fourth day. Those married to Greeks received brown cards. Since the Athenians have shown hostility to the anti-Jewish measures, it is thought that the Germans will be less severe at the beginning in order to bring out those who are hiding. Up to October 20 they had not pillaged any Jewish shops with the exception of Alhadeff (against whom action was taken as soon as the Italians gave up authority) and that of Eliezer Salomon and a warehouse at 60 Kypseli Street. The furniture of several private houses has been removed, for example Salomon Camhi, Joseph Danon, Sariano, Benzonane, Asseo. Houses of Jews occupied by Greek friends, who have declared that they have bought the property, have not been touched. The hidden Jews will suffer only if the Germans offer rewards to those who denounce them--as such a reward is a great temptation to people suffering from hunger.

The Greek Archbishop has ordered priests to urge in their churches that the Jews be aided. He also intervened with the German authorities to exempt children under 14 and those married to a person of Orthodox faith, and it appears that he was successful. In spite of that it is my opinion that the one hope for the Jews is to escape, for in the long run it is possible that fear of reprisals might influence our Greek friends to change their attitude. With this end in view, it is necessary to confer with several of our sympathizers. I mention the lawyer Andreas Aspealo poulos [surname unclear on original] very good friend of Peppo Benusiglio and Boher Jessurum.

The committee which was formed by the Germans to represent the community is composed of Sciaky and Hadjopoulos and another whose name has not been reported. As you know, the Rabbi Barzilai escaped to the mountains as soon as he was asked for a list of 25 leading Jews. He burned all his records.

I have learned that Athanati has been given the first shipment of 100 pounds sterling but not the second. I advise making future shipments of funds for expenses on land through reputable Greek friends who will get in touch with our people who are subjects of neutral countries. Although these Jews have more liberty of action they are afraid to take the initiative."

Respectfully yours,

Burton Y. Berry
American Consul General


Source: "Documents: The Jews in Greece, 1941-1944: Eyewitness Accounts," by Alexandros Kitroeff, Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora, Vol. XII, No. #3, (Fall 1985)