Jew­ish Resis­tance in Wartime Greece

Steven Bow­man
  • Review
By – March 30, 2012
The resis­tance move­ment in the vil­lage, the neigh­bor­hood, extend­ed fam­i­ly, and indi­vid­ual fight­er has been metic­u­lous­ly researched. The four-year Nazi occu­pa­tion result­ed in the destruc­tion of the Greek Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion, not at the hands of Greek Chris­tians or even the col­lab­o­ra­tionist gov­ern­ment in Athens. Some Greeks sought to hide their Jew­ish friends and col­leagues or help them escape to safe­ty, but only sev­er­al thou­sand Jews sought refuge in the moun­tain­ous areas con­trolled by resis­tance groups, and the dec­i­ma­tion of Saloni­ka was so rapid, they nev­er had a chance. Six­ty thou­sand per­ished in the exter­mi­na­tion camps of Auschwitz and Tre­blin­ka; only 10,000 Greek Jews sur­vived. Ques­tions include: Did the resis­tance orga­ni­za­tions active­ly encour­age Jews to seek pro­tec­tion in guer­ril­la-con­trolled areas? Which groups were more forth­com­ing and why? Why did rel­a­tive­ly few Jews take advan­tage of the oppor­tu­ni­ty to escape to the moun­tains and what were the char­ac­ter­is­tics of those who did? What were their con­tri­bu­tions to the resis­tance move­ment? Most of the evi­dence had to be gleaned from mem­oirs, rec­ol­lec­tions, and inter­views con­duct­ed years after the war. There are many fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries about help from the retreat­ing Ital­ians, about the hero­ism of Greek Jews in rebel­lions of Son­der­com­man­dos in the War­saw Ghet­to, Auschwitz, and else­where, but also — a fas­ci­nat­ing sec­tion about Greek Jew­ish women in the resis­tance. Attempts were made to save the Greek Jews by politi­cians in oth­er coun­tries, but were inef­fec­tive. In addi­tion to copi­ous notes after each chap­ter, there is an After­word” about Joseph Mat­sas and the Greek Resis­tance. Appen­dices include: abbre­vi­a­tions, 25 pages list­ing names of Greek Jews who fought against the Nazis in War­saw and Auschwitz dur­ing August and October,1944; a list of Greek Jews who fought in the Son­der­com­man­do revolt in Birke­nau (Auschwitz II) in Octo­ber, 1944; a bib­li­og­ra­phy on Jew­ish sources on resis­tance, Greek sources on resis­tance, and Greek assis­tance to the Jews plus an Index.
Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

Discussion Questions