Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust

By Anita Brostoff; Sheila Chamovitz | Go to book overview

A Hidden Child in Greece*
Yolanda Avram Willis
b. Salonika, Greece, 1934

Prologue: Memories Reclaimed

My stories start with my family's flight from our home town when Italy attacked Greece, but most of them focus on the period of the Jewish Persecution, from early 1943 through our liberation in October 1944. I was six at the war's start, eight when we went into hiding, and ten when we were liberated.

My immediate family—my parents, younger brother and I—first left our home city, Larisa, in central Greece, seeking safety from the Italian bombing of local military installations, beginning with the declaration of war in October 1940.

In April of 1941, immediately after Germany attacked Greece, we attempted to leave for Egypt via the island of Crete. My father used to listen to the BBC and thus anticipated the Jewish Persecution, given the inevitable German victory and occupation of Greece. Three days before our planned escape from Crete to Egypt, where the government and royal family had already fled to safety, the Nazis made a massive bomber, glider, and paratroop attack on Crete. It was the first airborne invasion in military history and took the British, who had a naval base there, completely by surprise. A Nazi-occupied island was the last place for us to be. So a few months after going to Crete we reversed our direction, heading back to the mainland and the Italian controlled zone.

When we reached Athens, in the fall of 1941, we expected to disappear into the relative anonymity of the capital. However, the famine of the winter of

1941–42 drove us back to much better-supplied Larisa which, like Athens, was occupied by the Italians.

Larisa had an ancient Jewish community, where my late grandfather, Moushon Avram, was legendary as a businessman, banker, philanthropist, and beloved president of his people. When the persecution in Salonika became unmistakable, early in 1943, we knew we had to leave Larisa again to avoid the unthinkable but inevitable hour when my father, as one of the leaders of the Jewish community, would be forced to register Jews and thus cooperate in their capture and deportation.

____________________
*
Readers who are not familiar with events in Greece during World War II may wish to first read the Historical Note, beginning on p.139.

-123-

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Flares of Memory: Stories of Childhood during the Holocaust
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments vi
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword xiii
  • Timeline of the Holocaust xv
  • Map of Concentration Camps in Europe xxviii
  • Preface xxix
  • Introduction xxxiii
  • I - Snapshots: Jewish Life Before the Holocaust 1
  • Snapshots 2
  • War Arrives in Lithuania 3
  • A German Family 7
  • Betrayal 11
  • Parting 13
  • II - The Destruction of a Society 15
  • Herr B. 17
  • A Kristallnacht Journey 18
  • An Action Against the Jews 20
  • Leaving Germany, Leaving Home 24
  • Escape to England 26
  • The Best-Laid Plans 28
  • A Life-Defining Impression 30
  • The Harbinger of What? 32
  • The Beginning and the End 33
  • A Family Gone, One by One 34
  • The Abandonment of Mielec 36
  • A Shtetl's Life is Ended 37
  • What Ever Happened to the Jews of Skudvil? 40
  • III - Ruthlessness as a System 43
  • In the Dark 45
  • Theresienstadt 47
  • Dachau 50
  • Auschwitz, 1944 55
  • The Tenth Woman on Block Ten 56
  • The Means to Survive 58
  • The Gypsies 60
  • Nazi Murderers 61
  • How Many Made It? 63
  • The Law in Lithuania 64
  • Horrors of War 70
  • IV - The Lottery of Death and Life 81
  • German Roulette 83
  • My Sister Rieke 84
  • A Definition of Survival 86
  • An Unforgettable Passover Seder 89
  • Trying to Go Home 90
  • Bar Mitzvah Boy 93
  • The Skull with the Golden Braid 95
  • The Concentration Camp Lottery 96
  • The Girl with Wooden Shoes 101
  • The Wagon 102
  • The Child 103
  • V - Disguise as a Way of Hiding 105
  • In Constant Terror 107
  • Posing as a Christian 114
  • I Choose Life 116
  • Lost Families 119
  • Beyond Memory 121
  • A Hidden Child in Greece 123
  • VI - The Sustaining Power of Family Love 143
  • The Promise 144
  • A Mother's Courage 147
  • Miracles 151
  • A Dream of Milk 155
  • In Praise of Manual Labor 156
  • A Son in Deed 158
  • The Psychologist 162
  • VII - The Virtuous and the Vicious 163
  • A Narrow Escaper 165
  • The Kindness of Strangers 168
  • A Saintly Person 170
  • The Convent in Marseilles 173
  • Among the Righteous 176
  • The Killing Hunger 179
  • Captain Zimmer 180
  • The Volunteer Group 181
  • Mazel 182
  • The Farmer Kowarski 185
  • A Surprise Package 187
  • VIII - Disguise as a Way of Hiding 189
  • Lithuanian Friends 191
  • Unsung Heroes 199
  • Friend or Enemy? 202
  • Resist in Everything! 208
  • IX - Emergence into Light 225
  • The Golden Chain of Judaism 227
  • Flight to Freedom 236
  • The Last Hiding Place 243
  • One Day War, the Next Day Not 245
  • The Long Road After Liberation 247
  • On the Way to Health 249
  • An Ending and a Beginning 252
  • The Tiny Flame 254
  • X - The Aftermath: Remembering 257
  • The Aftermath 258
  • The Barber 260
  • Kaleidoscope: Salonika, Greece, 1945 261
  • The Sewing Basket 263
  • Children from the Camps Going to England 265
  • The Chief of the Gestapo 268
  • Herr Schluemper 270
  • The Miracle 272
  • To Bear Witness About the Holocaust 274
  • It Shall Not Be Forgotten nor Forgiven! 276
  • Addendum - Seen with My Own Eyes: Stories by American Liberators 279
  • The Photograph 281
  • Germany, 1945: View from a Tank 283
  • Gusen: A Nurse's Tale 286
  • A Letter from Dachau 288
  • I Saw Buchenwald 291
  • Re-Entry 296
  • Biographies of Survivor-Authors 298
  • Biographies of Survivor-Authors 298
  • Photographs of Liberator-Authors 336
  • Author Index 342
  • Story Index 343
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