Esther (Naki) Matathia-Bega was born in Trikala in 1927. She was the youngest child of the family and had two older sisters, Anna and Allegri. Her father, Matathias Matathias, had several professions. He was a street vendor, threadmakerand more. Her mother was called Myriam (Marika). Her family house was near the main square – one block from the big synagogue and directly opposite the small one. During the Occupation, when the deportations began, the women of the family hid in the village of Korbovo (now called Lagadia), but still went every now and then to Trikala, where the father had stayed. So, probably betrayed by neighbours, Naki was arrested along with her mother and sisters and the other Jews of the city on 24th March 1944 and taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau. In the last days of the war she was sent on a death march. She was the only woman of the family who survived. After liberation, she found her father again but he died soon afterwards. She married Alberto Begas and they settled in Larissa, where she still lives today.
She was interviewed in 2016 at her house in Larissa by Eleni Beze.
Excerpt from the interview:
Entrance to Birkenau, 17 years old
When we got off the trains, they carried out a selection. The old people were put in cars. “You’ll see each other again” [they told us]. They took me and my sisters to the bathroom. Theretheygaveusanumber. Theycutourhair. […] They took off our clothes and gave us whatever rags they had. Then we went to our barracks. […]Neither my [older] sisters nor I ever saw [our mother] again. They took her straight to the crematoria. […] At first, we were together. Then they split us up […] In the morning they got us up at five, before dawn. They put us in rows of five to count us. That was called ‘Apel’. […] Then they split us up to do different work. […] My sister was very fragile. She got ill and went to the hospital. A friend told me that she saw her dead.
Then they took us to another camp […] They went back and forth without knowing what to do with us. In some camps they killed them. In others they buried them alive. They took us and we marched together in ranks of five. Always, always in ranks. Both at work and in the march. ‘Links, links’ it went. We went past the hospital. There were piles of dead bodies at the hospitals to be gathered up. [She cries]. […] Many women who had the guts ran away.