It was in the autumn of 2000, prompted by the first presentation in Greece of the Anne Frank House Museum’s touring exhibition, “Anne Frank: a Story for Today”, that the Jewish Museum of Greece began research into the subject of hidden Jewish children in Occupied Greece, in search of similar stories with a Greek background.

Gradually, accounts were gathered from people who had lived through the harsh years of the Second World War in Greece and had known displacement, loss, humiliation and fear. At the most tender age, they were forced to leave their homes, go into hiding, constantly change their hiding places and use false names or false identities, so much that they lost their own identity sometimes permanently.

The sequence of the events of that time is more or less familiar. The Greek – Italian war of 1940 -1941 was succeeded on April 6th by the German invasion. By April 9th the German had already entered Thessaloniki and by the 27th Athens.

In Thessaloniki, started the first systematic persecution of Greek Jews when all male members of the Community were gathered together and humiliated in Plateia Eleftherias (The Square of Liberty) on 11th July 1942. Forced labor was imposed upon them and they were confined to ghettos. Their property was systematically plundered. The culmination came in 1943, with the deportations by rail under the most appalling conditions. Ninety – seven per cent of the city’s Jews never came back from their extermination camps. Few had foreseen the evil that was in store and managed to hide in time and save themselves.

The Athens area was under Italian administration until September 1943. Anti – Semitic laws did not apply here, so many Jews from German – occupied parts of the country were able to find temporary refuge. However, when Italy capitulated and the Germans took over the former Italian – administered territory, they set about their monstrous task there too. The difference now though was that, the Jews here had advance information about the fate of others of their faith and took steps to hide. They were many cases of Christians who willingly helped their persecuted fellow human beings, especially the children, by hiding them.

Attention should be drawn to the particularly intense emotional expressions in the accounts of the children. The anxiety over survival is one of the most noticeable features in them. The same goes for feelings of loneliness and separation from loved ones, of loss, and in some cases rejection, which even in unfounded, gripped the children’s innocent souls. The constant need to play a role, which was necessary for their survival, coupled with sudden separation from their real parents and long periods of time spent with strangers, towards whom they had to behave as they would to their parents, frequently led to confusion, which in many cases went on after the Occupation was over.

However, the overriding emotion running through almost every single account is fear of everything and everybody that could betray the children themselves or their families. It was the fear of even pronouncing their own names, which was not overcome for a long time after the Liberation, and which in many cases left indelible marks on their personalities and even on their whole adult lives.

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BENIAMIN ALBALAS

Beniamin Albalas was born on 1 September 1937 in the central Athens neighbourhood of Kato Petralona to parents from the western Greek city of...

LILIAN BENRUBI

At the outbreak of the Greek-Italian war in 1940, ten-year-old Lilian Benrubi lived with her parents, Isaak and Dora, in Tsimiski Street in Thessaloniki....

YVET BEZA

When Thessaloniki was bombed in 1941, the family of Yvette Beza decided to move to the village of Vyzitsa, on Mt. Pelion, where they...

SHELLY COHEN

Shelly Cohen was one of the few children of Thessaloniki who, from the balcony of their home, saw the Germans arrive as occupiers in...

ISAAK HATZIS

The eldest son of cloth merchant Leon Hatzis, from the northwestern city of Ioannina, and Sarina (Nina) Samuel, from the central city of Trikala,...

FOTINI KAMPA

Thirteen years had passed since the end of the war. Sixteen-year-old Fotini Kamba lived with her parents in Athens. They were a quiet, loving...

MOISSIS KONSTANTINIS

The family of Moissis Konstantinis lived in Athens. His father, Kanaris Konstantinis was an inspector General with the PTT. The children, Moissis and David,...

SAMUEL (MAKIS) MATSAS

Samuel Matsas, the son of Minos and Margarita (née Sarfati), saw the light of day in 1937 in Athens. His earliest childhood memories were...

EFTYCHIA NAHMIA

In the vortex of war, the family of Eftychia Nahmia found themselves in Athens, far away from their native city of Ioannina, where they...

ROSINA PARDO

ROSINA PARDO In the centre of prewar Thessaloniki , at 35 Tsimiski street, lived the family of Haim and Evgenia Pardo lived with their three...

REINA SIAKKI

The German occupation of Thessaloniki in 1941 was to fundamentally change the life of the Jews of the city. Reina was born during the...

SIFIS (IOSSIF) VENTURAS

Sifis (Iossif) Venturas was born in 1938 Chanea, Crete. His particularly wealthy family originally came from medieval Venice and had kept their Italian citizenship....

Exhibition Contibutors

Exhibition Curator: Zanet Battinou Archaelogist - Director J.M.G. Museological - Museographical Study: Dr. Evridiki Antzoulatou - Retsila Ethnologist - Folklorist - Museologist Associate Professor of the Ionian University Research - Texts...