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Leon Kamhi

KAMHI, LEON (1898–1943), commercial agent and Zionist activist. Kamhi was born and lived in Bitola (Monastir) in the Yugoslav part of Macedonia, also known as Vardar Macedonia. He received his education in the Alliance school and intended to pursue studies in Paris, but family problems prevented him and he had to start earning a living without delay. Working hard, he soon became an independent businessman. From his youth on, he was a Zionist leader and organizer. He was influential also in the affairs of the Kehillah, helping in financing the participation of Macedonian Jewish youth in the Zionist summer camps, mostly held in the Julian Alps, in faraway Slovenia. He founded or managed Zionist groups in other towns of the region, such as Stip and the provincial capital, Skopje. He represented Macedonian Jewry in all countywide forums and gatherings, maintaining intimate ties with Jewish leaders in Zagreb, the Zionist center, as well as in Belgrade, the seat of the Federation of Jewish Communities. His assistance in promoting aliyah to Palestine was essential, including the sending of unmarried young girls or arranging for them fictional marriages to assure the fullest use of the very scarce available certificates (immigration affidavits) apportioned by the British, allocated through the services of the Jewish Agency for Palestine and its representatives in Zagreb.

Kamhi planned to emigrate himself and corresponded on this matter with his friends already residing in Palestine during the years 1934 to 1936, postponing the implementation of his plan time and again for personal and/or communal reasons.

He was the uncontested leader of Macedonian Jewry, eventually sharing their tragic fate in March 1943, when the Bulgarian fascists, cruel and willing collaborators with the Nazis, arrested all 7,000 Jews, mistreating them and handing them over to the Germans in the Bulgarian town of Lom, from where they were deported, in four transports, to their death in Treblinka.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.