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Letter from the Jews of Athens to the Jews in Palestine

Dear brothers,

The first response to our call to our brethren in the free countries reached us in your letter of 12th Tammuz, 5703 [July 15, 1943]. We are very grateful to you, our dear brothers, for having heard our call and rushed to our assistance. May God be with you; He will not abandon His children.

We apologize for the style of this letter, as we do not know our language [Hebrew] that well. Now let us tell you the history of everything that has happened to us in the past few months. In June 1942, 8,590 Jews of Salonika were deported for grueling labor. In November, the Salonika community [was forced to] redeem itself from this labor by paying the Germans a fair sum by February 1943. In March 1943, the Jews of Salonika were forced to affix the Star of David to their clothing, to leave their homes in the city and to gather in the ghetto. On March 14, they suddenly removed 3,000 people from the ghetto—old and young, women, boys, and girls—and placed them in sealed cattle cars. After the first transport, they took another 3,000; then a third and a fourth train departed, until the last of the Jews were deported on 1 June. In all, 53,000 of our brethren were deported. Now, no Jew remains in Salonika or in any of the towns of Macedonia. To this day, we do not know where they were sent and what became of them. We cannot describe the conditions of the transport. We fear that only 20 percent of the passengers will still be alive by the time they reach their destination.

We lack the spiritual strength and the words to describe the great woes that befell us in March-June of this year. The Jewish community has known days of great mourning. All those that escaped from the decree came here to Athens, exhausted and naked. They number about 3,000. The Jewish community of Athens has done everything within its power to secure their lives, despite their concerns for their own fate. However, we are up against very tough enemies; who knows how this will end for us?

Now not a Jew remains in Salonika. Thus, this great Jewish city has been rendered childless. Synagogues have been demolished. Our cemetery lies in ruin. Our libraries and religious books have been destroyed. The community records have been burned. And they took our property, all of it.

We ask you to try to do the following for us:

a. Endeavor to find out what has become of our 53,000 brethren who had been deported to Poland and Czechoslovakia, and somehow send them food, clothing and medical supplies.

b. Cry out so that your voice is heard throughout the world and demand that they rescue the remnants.

c. The refugees who have come here have no money, food, or clothing. Make sure that the International Red Cross gives them bread and food tickets […] Our Greek brothers in Athens […] have always stood by us in times of need and did all they could to help us.

It is impossible to give you an address for sending us money because that would greatly harm our community. Please send us anything you wish with the courier who gave you this letter […] Look for Edmund Nigrin [...] in Alexandria, ask him about his close family friend in Athens, and he will give you my address.

Also, inquire after our brothers Mr. David Florentin, Asher Malakh, and Leon Recanati in Tel Aviv. Send them our felicitations. Twelve days ago, 350 Jews from Salonika who hold Spanish citizenship went to Spain via Germany. You can hear from them the full details of the decrees imposed on our community.

And now, our honest brothers, be well. We have not lost hope, for hope lives on with the last living Jew.

Source: Yad Vashem