Today, October 8th, marks the 70th anniversary of a revolt by Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz-Birkenau, in which 60 Greek Jews are believed to have participated and died.
The 1944 uprising was led by members of the Sonderkommando, so-called “special units” comprised predominantly of Jewish inmates whose tasks included the disposal of bodies who had been murdered by the Nazis in the gas chambers of the extermination camp.
Sonderkommando members received special treatment and privileges in return for these compulsory duties. But because they had direct knowledge of the genocide being committed in the camp, they faced certain death as the Nazis followed a policy of gassing special unit members every four months and replacing them with new arrivals to the camps.
The revolt on 7 October 1944 was launched by Sonderkommando members who were aware that their deaths were being scheduled. A few weeks before, some 200 of their number had been tricked into going to the gas chambers, where they were murdered. This left the remaining Sonderkommando teams even more anxious about their fate.
Plans were set in train to smuggle gunpowder from a munitions factory that the SS operated within the Auschwitz complex to the Sonderkommandos, who worked at the crematoria. Using this gunpowder, Sonderkommando leaders hoped to destroy the gas chambers and crematoria, spark the uprising, and escape in the direction of the advancing Soviet army.
In total, some 451 Sonderkommandos were killed by Nazis on the day of the rebellion, including several who briefly escaped from the death camp.
A 2009 publication by the Greek foreign ministry, entitled Greeks in Auschwitz-Birkenau, claims that 300 Greeks participated in the uprising, 26 of whom survived. The publication (which I reviewed here) lists the names of 60 Greek Jews said to have been killed in the uprising.
Accompanying the publication, which is somewhat problematic, was a DVD entitled The Revolt of the Greek Jews, which is the only documentary to date to have been produced on Greek Jewish participation in the revolt (see documentary below).
In all, 67,000 of Greece’s Jewish citizens, or 86 percent of the prewar community, lost their lives in the Holocaust, most of them at Auschwitz.
The Greek Jews who took part in the 7 October 1944 Auschwitz uprising:
Baruch Baruch (born in Arta in 1915)
Matys Bitali (born in Arta in 1913)
Henri Nehama Capon
Raoul Djahon (born in Thessaloniki in 1919)
Alberta Moissi Errera (born in Larissa)
Albert Gani (born in Preveza in 1916)
Joseph Gani (born in Preveza in 1926)
Moise Gani (born in Preveza in 1913)
Pepo Gani (born in Preveza)
Samuel Levi (born in Ioannina in 1906)
Sabetay Levis (born in Constantinople in 1910)
Mois Levy (born in Constantinople in 1914)
Michael Matsas (born in Corfu in 1909)
Elia Mazza (born in Ioannina in 1902)
Menasche (born in Xanthi in 1908)
Mechoulam Eliezer (born in Xanthi in 1908)
Abroum Meli (born in Kavala in 1902)
Haim Misan (born in Arta in 1922)
Moissis Misan (born in Arta in 1924)
Albertos Misrachi (born in Chios in 1910)
Mois Misrahis (born in Chios in 1911)
Moissis Negrin (born in Ioannina in 1909)
Dani Marc Nachmias
Yossif Namer (born in Athens in 1924)
Marcel Nadjary (born in Thessaloniki in 1917)
Eugen Nakamoulis (born in Constantinople in 1904)
Salomone Pinhas (born in Thessaloniki in 1924)
Isaac Samuel Rousso
Moissis Serris (born in Ioannina in 1919)
Samuel Sidis (born in Trikala in 1904)
Isaac Soussis (born in Arta in 1902)
Jacques Soussis (born in Athens in 1909)
Moissis Sabbetai (born in Arta in 1909)
Giosepos Sabas (born in Arta in 1912)
Pesos Sabas (born in Arta in 1912)
Savas Sabetai (born in Trikala in 1911)
Joseph Varouh (born in Corfu in 1910)
Hugo Barouh Venezia
Mois Venezia (born in Thessaloniki in 1921)
Salomone (Shlomo) Venezia (born in Thessaloniki in 1923)
Menahem Zakar (born in Patras in 1918)
Yozef Zakar (born in Arta in 1924)
* Source: Greeks in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Athens: Papazisis, 2009, pp. 152-3. This publication seems to have anglicised many names, so the Josephs are most likely Iosifs etc
Damian Mac Con Uladh lives in Greece, where he’s a staff journalist at EnetEnglish, the international online edition of the Eleftherotypia daily. He also publishes his own blog, A Gael in Greece.