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  The Greek resistance and the Jews, 1941–1944

The Greek resistance and the Jews, 1941–1944

Although the available data is limited and fragmentary, it is estimated that about 650 Jewish men and women, from almost all the Jewish communities in the country, enlisted in the various resistance groups from the beginning of the occupation to the liberation or joined the partisans to escape the grasp of the Nazis. The vast majority joined the National Liberation Front (EAM), which constituted the largest organisation in occupied Greece, its armed wing, the Greek People's Liberation Army (ELAS), and its affiliated associations, EPON and National Solidarity.

The first armed action occurred in the areas first hit by the Nazi storm. From December 1942 to May 1943, about 250 Jews from Thessaloniki escaped to the resistance-held areas of central and western Macedonia. The Italian capitulation (8 September 1943) marked the second phase. Since early October 1943, hundreds of Jews from Trikala, Karditsa, Volos, Larissa and, later, Chalkida and Patras were dispersed under EAM protection to nearby villages. In Epirus, a few young men from Ioannina left the entrapped community to join the partisans, while many – mostly from Arta – joined Napoleon Zervas’ National Republican Greek League (EDES), which operated exclusively in Epirus.

In "Free Greece", they were all utilised in a variety of ways: "Those who didn’t take up arms worked alongside villagers as liaisons, in the ancillary services of the [resistance] army. The most literate assumed secretarial duties in the National Solidarity organisation, which gathered and distributed food. Craftsmen made cloth, hats and boots in workshops. Women sewed those neat, dapper shirts made of silk parachutes, knitted woollen socks and caps for the boys at the ‘front’ and the young girls, being more educated, devoted themselves to cultural events and theatrical performances” (Iossif Matsas). Due to their educational level, many assumed key positions and offices in ELAS divisions, in ELAS Logistics Arm (Epimelitia tou Antarti, ETA) or in the health service.

From 1941 to 1944, at least 63 Jews were killed fighting as partisans or were executed for their participation in the resistance and a further 76 were executed in reprisal actions. Remembering their names is the respect dueto those who chose the glorious death of a combatant over the submission to the butchers of the children of Israel. A minimum debt owed to those who mixed their blood with the ashes of the thousands of their coreligionists who were murdered by the Nazis.


The journalist Baruch Shibyfrom Thessaloniki, one of the most important members of EAM in Athens, in a photo taken immediately after the war. In September 1943, he organized the escape of Rabbi Elias Barzilai to the mountains. He himself later fled to the mountains of the Peloponnese as an EAM-ELAS partisan (Personal collection of Yakov Shiby). 
The front page of the Israilitikon Vima (Jewish Tribune) newspaper (17 May 1946) which includes extensive references to the resistance of the Greek Jews (JMG Collection).
Three of the youngest and most active Jewish resistance members as scouts before the war (1937). Left to right: Danelos Alchanatis, Moissis (Mois) Yussuroum and Simos Valenstein. They joined EAM in Athens from late 1942 and served as ELAS partisans in Central Greece (JMG Photo Archive). 
Metropolite Ioachim of Kozani wearing a partisan military uniform and the chief rabbi of Athens, Elias Barzilai, in partisan-held territory of “Free Greece” in 1944. Sketch by resistance artist Dimitris Megalidis from his 1946 book Λεύκωμα του Αγώνα [Album of Struggle]. The portraits of the two clerics appeared side-by-side to underline the patriotic attitude expressed by two religious leaders during the Nazi occupation.
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