- Interview Summary
- Silva Sevi (née Molho), born in Thessaloniki, Greece, describes her family; getting along well with the Greeks in the neighborhood; hearing the sounds of the attack when the Germans entered Thessaloniki; how the Jews were assembled in the city square and forced to stay there for a long time in the heat while they were beaten; how the Greek citizens wanted to help the Jews but were prevented from doing so by the Germans; how the Germans started taking young Jewish men, including her brother, for forced labor; her brother’s eventual death at Birkenau; being allowed to stay in their homes but experiencing many restrictions; being moved to the Jewish ghetto; having to give up their belongings, for which they received receipts; the organization of a Jewish administration to execute the German orders; the Jewish police force; how their rabbi told them that life in Poland would be better; being taken on the third transport with her family; enduring a torturous journey of seven days; arriving at Birkenau and how the Nazis were beating the captives; the removal of the dead from the train; giving up her jewelry, stripping, being shaved, and getting her number tattooed on her arm; the cruelty of the prison guards, including female guards; being taken with her sister, Ida, to a quarantine barrack for several weeks; witnessing the killings of newly arrived children; being sent with her sister to a block, where they were forced to do hard labor and were beaten; the conditions of the barrack and the other inmates; building steps and banks for the river; getting caught once drinking water from the river and being beaten; being transferred to Auschwitz, where she remained until January 2, 1945; going through nine selections; attempting to take food from a garbage bin with another girl, who was caught and beaten, while she remained hidden in the bin; the great kindness she received from a Russian kitchen worker; black market dealings in the compound; how her sister was taken to the hospital in Birkenau because she had typhus and died; being forced to march to a train, which they rode for three days without food or water; staying in Ravensbrück for a week then going to another labor camp, where she stayed until May; going into hiding for one night while all the Germans were running away; being liberated by Russian soldiers; how Russian soldiers raped many of the women she was with before a Yiddish-speaking Russian protected them; rummaging through German houses; being placed in a displaced persons camp; the three month journey back to Greece; being helped by Jews in Sofia, Bulgaria and the Joint; not finding any of her family; getting married to a survivor of Auschwitz; and her children and their success.
- Silvia Sevi
- Sylvia Prozan
1996 June 18
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, courtesy of the Jeff and Toby Herr Foundation
3 videocasettes (Betacam SP) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
Rights & Restrictions
- Conditions on Access
- There are no known restrictions on access to this material.
- Conditions on Use
- No restrictions on use
Keywords & Subjects
- Topical Term
- Concentration camp inmates. Concentration camp inmates--Selection process. Concentration camp tattoos. Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Greece--Personal narratives. Holocaust survivors--Greece. Jewish children--Crimes against--Poland. Jewish councils--Greece--Thessalonike. Jewish ghettos--Greece--Thessalonike. Jewish property--Greece--Thessalonike. Jews--Bulgaria--Sofia. Jews--Greece--Thessalonike. Jews--Legal status, laws, etc.--Greece. Refugee camps--Germany. Women concentration camp guards--Poland--Oswiecim. Women concentration camp inmates--Poland. Women--Crimes against. World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--Liberation. Women--Personal narratives.
- Geographic Name
- Greece--History--Occupation, 1941-1944. Soviet Union--Armed Forces. Thessalonike (Greece)
- Personal Name
- Sevi, Silvia.
- Holder of Originals
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- This was an oral history project sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum during 1996 to interview Holocaust survivors in Saloniki, Greece. It was conducted in cooperation with the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, Greece.
- Funding Note
- The production of this interview was made possible by Jeff and Toby Herr.
The cataloging of this oral history interview has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
- Special Collection
The Jeff and Toby Herr Oral History Archive
- Record last modified:
- 2023-11-16 08:31:34
- This page:
Also in Oral history interviews of the Greece Documentation Project
Oral history interviews of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Greece Documentation Project.
Albert Nahmias, born in 1915 in Bitola, Yugoslavia (present day Macedonia), discusses moving with his family to Thessaloniki, Greece in 1917 after the bombardments during World War I; the Jewish community in Thessaloniki; opening a branch of his business in Skopje, Yugoslavia (present day Macedonia) and the German arrival in Skopje in April 1941; heading towards Tirana, Albania on March 22, 1942; being imprisoned as a communist in Tirana; being freed after the Italian capitulation and hiding in a local village with friends and relatives; escaping by boat for Italy in December 1943 and being rescued by the British Army; being given British identification cards; being transferred to Bari, Italy; traveling all over Italy to Milan and Rome; discovering his family was living in Athens, Greece; traveling from Bari to Greece in December 1945; the Jewish community in Thessaloniki after the war; his marriage in 1948; establishing a family business in Thessaloniki; his views on how Jews survived and the propaganda in the Jewish community; and the rabbis who collaborated with the Nazis.
Dennise Nahmias (née Angel), born in 1924 in Saloniki (Thessalonike), Greece, describes how her brother and father moved to Athens, Greece in 1941 in order to advance their manufacturing business; the German occupation in April 1941; how their house was requisitioned by a German officer and they were evicted; how she and her mother were allowed to travel to Athens; going into hiding with her family when Athens fell into German hands; how they scattered and lived with three different Gentile Greek families, including a former landlord of theirs, a lawyer (who also housed other Jews as well as communists and soldiers), and an employee of the French Academy; how all of her family survived in hiding until the end of the war; and how she eventually married another survivor, Albert Joseph Nahmias.
Lily Molho, born in Salonica (Thessaloníki), Greece in 1916, describes how she, her husband Saul, and her son Antonakis (Anthony) survived the Holocaust by going into hiding; the German invasion of Greece in 1941; how the Jewish community of Thessaloníki was divided into ghettos; how the German officers entered Jewish homes to take whatever they wanted; being forced to leave their baby son first in Thessaloníki and then in the Monastery of Divine Providence in Athens, Greece, while she worked as a cook and maid and her husband joined the Greek Partisan Party (a branch of the National Liberation Front (Ethnikon Apeleutherōtikon Metōpon or EAM)); changing their family name to Panayotidou; being protected in the Monastery of Divine Providence by Belgian Sister Eleni Kapar, who found her employment and arranged weekly visits with Antonakis; being reunited with her husband after the war; returning to Thessaloníki and finding that their stores had been plundered; waiting for relatives to return; trying to rebuild their lives; the birth of their daughter, Marcela, in 1948; immigrating to the United States in 1955; going to Cleveland, OH; becoming a language teacher; and going to college to obtain advanced degrees.
Luisa Salem, born in Thessaloniki, Greece in 1926, discusses her family; her father, who was a businessman and her mother, who was originally from Monastir, Macedonia; her brother Isaac; her childhood and speaking Spanish, French, and Italian; attending an Italian school, where most of the children were Jewish; living in a residence, where the Spanish Vice-Consul (Solomon Ezratty) lived on the first floor; the arrival of the Germans in April 1941; experiencing little fear at the beginning of the occupation and the absence of general antisemitic laws; an increasing number of reprisals against individual Jewish families; the horror in July 1942 when all men were forced to perform physical exercise for the entire afternoon in the Plateia Eleftherias at gunpoint; the requirement for Jews to register and wear the Star of David; the roundup and enclosure of her family in Kalamaria at the end of February 1943; living in a house with two stories and two families on each floor; the first deportations of Jews from Thessaloniki in March 1943; the growing fears about the families’ fate; the departure of her cousin Luis Pardoe and his family for Brazil; her father securing forged papers, providing family members with Greek names; departing from the ghetto to the old house of the Spanish consulate; receiving help from Rachel Ezratty; traveling by bus to Katarini (Katerine) and going on to Leptokaria, where they waited for a train to go to Athens; receiving help from Greek resistance members, who led them to Mt. Olympus, over Kissavos Mountain (Mount Ossa) to Larissa; staying in Larissa for three weeks, protected by partisans; going across the Pineios River to reach Italian-occupied Greece, led by smugglers who remained on the German side of the river because they were forced to register with the Nazis; finding their family members in Athens in May-June 1943; being relatively safe, but being forced to change residences several times because of betrayals; the liberation in December 1944; their difficult living conditions; returning to Thessaloniki; and her marriage in 1946 to an Auschwitz survivor who lost most of his family.
Rula Frances, born in Volos, Greece, discusses her early family life; how Volos was first occupied by the Italians and then the Germans; the German restrictions on Jews; how her brother-in-law was warned by an Italian officer that his name was on a deportation list; moving to Thessaloniki, Greece; going to Athens, Greece; being given Greek identities by the Chief of Police in Volos; her immediate family hiding in various houses in Athens; being taken in by the Chief of Police, Tagaris, for a year and being betrayed by his maid; going to live with her mother; working in the offices of the Red Cross for the remainder of the war while the rest of her family remained in hiding; the survival of her immediate family; and her marriage in 1953.
Esther Massarano (née Narumi), born in Larisa, Greece, describes her family and early life; how life was very pleasant even under the Italian occupation; how, when the Germans entered Greece, a Greek man she knew offered to hide her family in Falani, Greece; going to Falani and being given false identity papers; how most of the Jews of Larisa survived either by hiding or by joining the partisans; how approximately 200 of 1,000 Jews from Larisa were killed by the Germans; her family’s activities with the partisans; how her family received new documents from the National Liberation Front (Ethnikon Apeleutherōtikon Metōpon (EAM)) and moved to another village called Vlakhoyianni (Sapunachis); hiding in the mountains when the Germans came briefly to Vlakhoyianni; the fates of her extended family; her belief that many people in Salonika (Thessalonike), Greece could have escaped; and how she and her husband, who is a survivor of Auschwitz, have three daughters and four grandchildren.
Solomon Chinocos Cohen, born in Salonica (Thessalonike), Greece, in 1917, describes his family; the fates of his immediate family members; attending Lycee Francais and graduating in 1938; going to Skadar (possibly Shkodër, Albania) in 1938 for two years; joining the army and fighting the Italians from October 1940 to April 1941; being taken in July 1942 as a forced laborer; how the family was taken to a ghetto, Rumlaulji; how they planned to escape either to Athens, Greece or the mountains; how a Greek partisan named Calidopolus, who was a son of a general, helped them get to the mountains; how his family was not politically motivated to join the underground but did so to save themselves; making contact with the National Liberation Front (EAM) partisans in 1943; how the family was led to Mount Paiku; being assigned to a battalion under Captain Mavros as a supply sergeant because he had been a sergeant when he fought the Italians; battles against the Germans, which took place until liberation; life in the partisan unit; his brother’s activities with the partisans and British; his life after the war; and his marriage to a woman who converted to Judaism.
Avram Avramovic, born in Beograd, Yugoslavia (present day Belgrade, Serbia) in 1909, discusses his early family life; the beginnings of war in April 1941 and his mobilization into the army; going to Užice, Yugoslavia (present day Serbia) and returning to Beograd, where he registered as a Jew; being sent to work as a forced laborer, removing bombed out buildings; going through selection processes, where the Jews were lined up and the tenth person was shot; his memories of one Austrian soldier named Egon; taking a train to Beograd and declining an offer to join the partisans; surviving a train track explosion and going to Skopje, Macedonia; being detained by police and sent to Beograd; deciding not to register as a Jew; traveling with his friend, Karic, to Kosovo and Albania bribing border guards along the way; being advised by an Italian commander to leave Shkodër, Albania; sailing on a ship to Split, Croatia, where he lived the Serbian name Alexandric, joined the Split partisans, and was integrated into a partisan unit, the Third Battalion Biokovske Brigade; traveling to Hvar Island and Vis Island, and being given instructions to go to the island of Brač on June 1, 1944; one particular conflict, which involved witnessing an aerial battle between German Messerschmitt and British Spitfires as well as surviving a mortar round because his backpack was protecting his head; liberating Split; being sent to Bilac, Croatia; resting in Hvar; going back to Beograd, where he demobilized himself; working at reunification offices in various locations; being remobilized as an officer in Pirot, Serbia; going to Israel and being in the Israeli Army; immigrating to South America, where he lived in Uruguay and Argentina; his marriage to a Yugoslavian woman; the death of his entire family; and his many name changes.
Talma Shpancer (née Rena Deutch), born in 1937 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now in Serbia), describes growing up in a middle-class family living comfortably in Belgrade; her father, Atso, who was born in Budapest, Hungary and worked as a traveling merchant in Serbia; the bombardment of Belgrade on April 16, 1941; fleeing with her family (her father, her mother Matilda Levi, and her younger sister Elvira) in her father’s car; going to Berschevitch (Beršići, Serbia), where her father arranged to stay in the house of a business connection, Shavitch; finding a better location in the house of the Shtokovitch family; not wearing yellow badges and moving freely about the village; how the villagers knew that the family was Jewish; the betrayal of the family in April 1942; the gendarmes entering the house and arresting her parents and sister; how Radmela, the 11‐year‐old daughter of the Shtokovitch family, followed her mother’s instructions and grabbed Rena and took her to another house and hid her under a bed; living with the Shtokovitch family until the end of the war; being taken by the Jewish Community of Belgrade to a Jewish orphanage; remaining there until 1949; learning that her parents and little sister were held in a Banitsa prison in Belgrade and executed in Yanitsa, Serbia on April 17, 1942; being taken with other Jewish orphans to Israel on the “Radnik” in 1949; being taken to Kibbutz Ma'barot and living there until 1953 when she was drafted into the Israeli Army; moving to Kibbutz Nahshon, where she met her husband (Avi Shpancer); her Polish husband’s story of survival; and visiting Berschevitch with her children.