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Kavala Jews remembered by Alexander Avraham - 4.01

Kavala Jews remembered by Alexander Avraham The International Campaign for the Collection and Commemoration of Holocaust Victims' Names was launched by Yad Vashem on the eve of Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Day 1999, and has, to date, been responsible for the collection of 400,000 new Pages of Testimony. Throughout the collection process, many interesting, previously unknown details about individuals and even entire communities have been uncovered. One of the more moving stories unfolded at Yad Vashem's Hall of Names in the final months of 2000. In August, Shabetay Tchimino, a Jew from Kavala, Greece contacted the Hall of Names requesting Pages of Testimony in order to commemorate the Holocaust victims from his hometown. Following a moving conversation, it became clear that at present, Tchimino is the only remaining Jew in Kavala. In 1943, the occupying Bulgarian authorities deported the majority ofKavala's Jews to concentration camps in Poland, with the exception of Tchimino and a few others who were sent to forced labor camps in Bulgaria. After many lengthy phone calls in Ladino between Tchimino and Hall of Names' staff member, Jacqueline Benatar, Tchimino arrived at the emotionally difficult decision to fill in and send the Pages of Testimony to Yad Vashem. During November and December, 1,667 Pages of Testimony arrived at Yad Vashem documenting the identities of victims from Kavala and from Drama, the neighboring town. The great number of Pages received was not the only astonishing fact; many of the Pages were faded and yellowing because they had been originally completed in 1979. It had taken Tchimino almost 20 years to convince himself to send the Pages to Yad Vashem, Moreover, the Pages were filled in according to the local censuses taken prior to the war, and therefore included exact names and personal data of all of the victims, as well as 884 passport-size photographs. The photographs of the victims had been taken by the Bulgarian authorities long before the deportations began and were obtained by Tchimino from archives in Bulgaria. Presently, Tchimino is contacting the Greek and Bulgarian authorities in a further effort to gather the names of Kavala children under the age of six that were not recorded along with the names of their parents. Tchimino's efforts are just one example illustrating the importance of the act of filling in Yad Vashem's Pages of Testimony. On behalf of the International Campaign, the Hall of Names' staff appeals to all those who have not yet filled in Pages of Testimony, to make the effort to do so. This sacred duty serves to honor and memorialize the victims for posterity.
Alexander Avraham is the Director of the Hall of Names. The article was published in Yad Vashem magazine Vol. 21, Winter 2001. Re-printed with permission.

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