Of the 55,250 Thessaloniki Jews, about 400 managed to make their way to partisan-held territory in Greece. Apart from those who were already in other areas, a few dozen brave teams left the city’s ghetto in late March and headed westwards. Among them were siblings Moissis, Solomon, Yolanda and Dora Bourla, Dick Benveniste, Saltiel Gattegno, Isaak Emmanuel, Isaak Dassa, David Aaron, Moshe Belo, Mosheh Segora, Dinos and Salvator Ovadias, Solomon Saltiel, Dario Ouziel, Iakovos Koumeris, Flora Perachia, Matilda Massarano, Errikos Pipano and others. Around the same time, Yakov Sarfati and Menachem Stroumsa smuggled 114 men and women from German-occupied Veria. In mid-April, Iossif Matsas from Ioannina, a high-school teacher at Megali Vrysi in Kilkis, fled to the resistance hideouts on Mt Paiko. He was preceded by Isaak Moissis, who had escaped from forced labour in Tempe, encountered the partisans in February and became the first Jewish ELAS member in Vermio.
MountVermiobecame a concentration point. After countless battles and marches through successive German sweep operations, the partisans and about 250 Jews arrived at the hospitable villages of Grevena and Kozani. There, they were allocated battalions and went into battle. Under the nom-de-guerre “Kitsos”, Isaak Moissis became “kapetanios” (partisan leader) of a company in II Battalion of the 16th Regiment, where as many as half of the newcomers allocated. Daisy Karasso and Dora Bourla (“Tarzan”) became EPON activists in the villages of Nigrita and Veria respectively. Fani Florentin, who fled to Paiko with her husband Leon Matalon, became a nurse in the X Division: “She was indomitable. She inspired the laggards and the weak, offering them water from a large flask she was carrying along with the medical pack. Together with the captain, she was last in the convoy and helped all those who fell behind” (Iossif Matsas). At least 17 Jewish fighters were lost. The first was Stella Koen,who was killed fighting the Germans in Tachnista, Pieria, on 16 April 1943. Elias Nissim, veteran of Fort Roupel [a fortress on the Metaxas Line famous for its defence during the German invasion in April 1941], and Iossif Bensoussan were lost in the large sweep operations carried out by the Germans in July 1944. Markos Karasso, a graduate of the ELAS Officer Academy, was killed in the Battle of Muharrem Hani (6 August 1944) and 20-year-old Solomon (Sardos) Bourlas, who fought like a lion, fell in the last battle with the retreating Germans at Stavros in Veria (27 September 1944). Their actions were a fitting tribute to the memory of a community that had almost entirely vanished.
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