Map of Thessaloniki.

Mimis Bezas was born in Thessaloniki in 1931 to Moys and Sarina, née Barouch. His father sold bicycles and also had a small spare parts factory. The family lived in the centre of the city. Even though the family were trapped in the ghetto, they managed to flee just before deportation. Nonetheless, their search for refuge led them all over the place: to Athens, Ioannina, Tirana, Italy and finally Egypt. After liberation and the civil strife of December 1944 the family returned to Thessaloniki. Mimis Bezas continued his studies and later joined the family business. From 1963 he lived in Athens, where he died in 2019.

Excerpt from the interview:

Escaping Thessaloniki

My mother had said, “If the Germans come to take us, I’m not going to Poland. I’ll jump off the balcony.” One evening […] we were sleeping when there was a knock on the door. Bam bam bam. My mother got up and went straight to the balcony. My father said, “Jump if you want, but wait to see who it is.”[…] A voice answered behind the door, “C’ est moi. Gaspar Gasparian.” A customer and friend of my father. My father opened the door. [He asked] what was going on. [He replied] “They’ re coming for you tomorrow morning. Come on, let’s go. […] An angel had got us out of the wolf’s mouth.

The boat story

At midnight we went down to the beach [at Himara] and all got on a boat. And while we were preparing to leave, the guerrillas from Northern Epirus came down and started firing into the air. They said, “You can’t just go… take some Italians…” For the Italian soldiers had by then entered the Albanian resistance. […] They all spoke Greek. […] We had bought the boat. 25 of us Jews had paid for it. […] That boat was for 25 people, and they forced another hundred Italians on. We set off. […] The next morning, my uncle Isaac, who knew a thing or two […] said, ‘Where are we going? This is Corfu,” and we changed course. […] In the middle of the Adriatic the engine failed. We raised the sail and the mast snapped. Our Northern-Epirote brothers had sold us a rotten boat. […] The boat was letting in water on all sides. We embraced each other, saying, “That’s it, we’re going to die, we’ll drown in this sea,” – which was now getting rough. […] Then God acted again. A plane flew overhead. […] We waved white handkerchiefs to it. We didn’t care if it was American, Italian, German. […] Just that it save us. We were sinking. Well, it was American. It gave a signal. A fishing boat came to get us but had the wrong coordinates. The plane passed again. We waved handkerchiefs again. It gave the correct coordinates this time. One of those rescue ships came. […] It took us. They put us all on board. […] And we tethered our boat behind. After three quarters of an hour it sank. We towed it all the way to Brindisi submerged.