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40 years of active presence

Saturday, June 10, 2023


    In Epirus, the dense German encampments, the difficulty of the terrain and cohesion between the communities meant that some Jews of Ioannina and Arta found themselves outside the encirclement in September 1943. The “undisciplined” youths Samuel Koen and Sion Bakolas from Ioannina took the bold decision to leave the city and, in October 1943, they became the first Jewish partisans in the area of Pogoni. Five months later, they were followed by nine escapees from Larissa camp: Moissis Migionis (Katsampas), Avraam (Ebby) Svolis, Yeshua Matsas, Michalis Valais, Michalis Koen, Iakov Gershon, Haim Matsas, Eliasaf Matsas and Solomon Matsas. All served in the 15th, 85th and 3/40th ELAS Regiments, from Zagorochoria (near the borderline) to Arta. The 20-year-old Iakovos Balestras, perhaps the only Corfiot Jew to make his way Epirus to fight the Germans, was also active in Zagorochoria.

    Two doctors served in Napoleon Zervas’ National Republican Greek League/National Groups of Greek Guerrillas (EDES/EOEA): one was the military doctor Errikos Levi, from occupied Ioannina, who sent intelligence to the partisans until March 1944 when he was deported with the whole community, and Michalis Negrin, who managed to escape to the mountains and even assisted wounded Germans at the Battle of Menina (17 August 1944).

    The Arta community also shone with exceptions. Among the few who took the decision to take to the mountains was Dr Lazaros Eliezer, who in late 1943, along with Ilias and Isaak Eliezer, joined the partisans in EAM-held Hosepsi. Eliezer offered medical services, while the following took part in battles with ELAS: Tzani Mizan, Samuel Soussis, Vital Megir, Iossif Vital, Tsantikos Sadik and Savvas Issis, who was executed after the war as a communist. Active in EDES in Arta was 16-year-old Emil Sambas, who “one evening rushed like lightning and tore down all the German notices up as far as the Nazi military headquarters”. Other EDES members were David Nachmias, who was part of Zervas’ personal guard, and David Hatzis and Daniel Ieremias, who were active in Tzoumerka in the band of partisan chieftain Spyros Kolonikis (“Karabinas”).

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