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40 years of active presence

Sunday, October 1, 2023

    Mordochai Mayo (1928)


    Mordochai Mayo was born in Kastoria in 1928. Both of his parents, Iakov and Rifka, née Faratzis, were Jews from Kastoria. He had two younger sisters, Lily and Esther. His father was a cloth merchant and his house was in the “Toumba” area. Mordochai’s life was turned upside down since the outbreak of the war. He had to leave school to look after his family after conscription. In March 1944, the German authorities arrested his family and deported them to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Apart from Mordochai, they were all murdered upon arrival. In January 1945, as the Red Army was approaching Auschwitz, Mordochai was transferred to Bergen-Belsen, where he was liberated in April 1945 by the British army. He returned to Kastoria, where he found his ancestral property looted and his house occupied. The conditions in Kastoria after the War – during the “White Terror” – were very difficult. Mordochai himself was imprisoned, because he was staying with a Communist friend. Later he was conscripted in the Greek Civil War and fought on Grammos [a major battle], where he was wounded. In 1950 he emigrated to Israel. He served in the army for three years and in 1955 married Malka, née Beraha, a Jewess of Bulgarian descent. They had four children: Rifka, Iakov, Avi and Lily.

    Mordochai was interviewed in 2010 in the Tzur Moshe region of Israel by Iasonas Chandrinos, Alexis Menexiadis was also present.

    Members of the Jewish Community of Kastoria, at the local cemetery, 1932.

    Excerpt from the interview:


    I was 14 years old in Auschwitz. 182086. There were no names there. No one in my family [survived]. Only me. How did I manage…? When they stopped the trains near Auschwitz and Birkenau[and] brought people from Auschwitz to help the elderly,my uncle [Yosef Faratzi], my mother’s brother, said “no one say they’re ill”. Who knew…? you couldn’t see anything. They thought [the camp] was far away. You couldn’t even see from here to there. Almost everyone was taken off in trucks. My uncle took me by the hand, and 150 men and 70 women were sent to work. He told them that I was a shoemaker. I stayed with my uncle five days […] From there they took me to the lager [camp] for work. Just me. Me and 50-60 others. My uncle remained in the other place, mending shoes. I worked too. We built houses, roads, canals, wells. […] Should [the German] see you idling, God let you. I was there for seven months.


    When I returned from Germany [Auschwitz], I went to my house. The person living there was from a village, from where he had left. I told him it was my house. What did he say in return? “your house is in Palestine.[…] your house is in Palestine. This is not your house.” That’s what he said.