|file: WORLD WAR II IN GREECE
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Nazi and treasure hunting in Greece
Righteous of the Nations saving
In the UK, such has been the importance placed on the Battle of Britain, the world's greatest battle in the air, that the British tend to ignore events in Europe. And yet, it was in 1940 that the Allies gained their first victory on land. The victor was Greece, and the defeat was Mussolini's.
In the last few years a former school-teacher called Louis de Berniferes has seen his novel Captain Corell's Mandolin sell over one million copies. Many of the early chapters of Captain Corelli's Mandolin portray, in realistic and agonising detail, the horrors of the 1940 campaign. At last, Greece's bravery has been displayed to a worldwide audience.
One Jewish officer was to play a valiant and inspiring role in that victory.
I wrote to Mr Lennard offering my services. In return, I received a mass of press cuttings. They all dealt with one man - Mordechai Frizis, a colonel in the Greek Army. I started to read through the articles, and recorded my translations on tape.
That would have been the end of the story. A piece of new in the Bulletin of Judeo-Greek Studies rekindled my interest. For a memorial to Colonel Frizis has been erected outside the National Military Museum in Athens. I found all the cuttings, and immediately decided to write an article for Los Muestros!
When my own country underwent the Dark Ages, Jews had already living on Chalkis for 1.000 years!
It was on January 1, 1893 that Mordechai Frizis, son of Jacob, was born in Chalkis - one of twelve brothers and one sister.
Those who have read the legends of Digenis Akritas, mythical defender of Greece's borderlands, will recall that digenes too was one of twelve brothers and one sister. Victories in the Balkan Wars of 1912-3 reinforced Mordechai's sense of patriotism.
Mordechai's family believed that Modechai would become a lawyer, but this particular son never as a lawyer. Most sources state that Mordechai graduated in law from Athens University, which is where his parents' intentions for him came to an end.
In fact, an enquiry was addressed to the Law School in Athens regarding Mordechai's career. The Law School replied that its archives only went back as far as 1922. This theme has been followed up by the historian Vasilis Krapsitis in the January 1996 issue of the Greek Journal Chronic. In the view of Kapsitis, Mordechai's career pattern implies that he did not graduate in lax, and this view is confirmed by a lawyer and friend of Mordechai.
Anyway. Practise as a lawyer? Not Mordechai ... It was the officer training school on Euboea for him, starting in 1916. Thank goodness for Greece that he joined the army.
Mordechai's belief that his religion helps him find a solution to this problem was not mistaken. The two officers went into the first shop they came across. Mordechai spoke. In Hebrew. The shopkeeper was stunned.
Who are you? he asked Can't you see? I am a Greek officer.
I can see that all right, but how come you speak Hebrew better than I do? Because I am a Jew, and I have studied our language. So how they did they let you become an officer? No one asked me about my religion or which God I believe in. In Athens we have senior Jewish lawyer, civil servants and many others. So why not officers as well?
That was it! The news about Mordechai spread like wildfire. Jewish merchants brought wagon-loads of supplies of every sort to the two officers. And they never accepted a drachma. They were angry when the senior Greek officer offered them payment.
The Ukraine was followed by the Greek campaigns in Western Turkey of 1921-1922, known either as the Turkish War of Independence or the Asia Minor Disaster. Mordechai only enjoyed one month as a newly promoted Lieutenant when the Turks captured him. He endured eleven months captivity. As the only non-Christian officer captured in the Asia Minor campaign, an offer of freedom was made to Mordechai. He refused, accepting his fate along with that of his fellow Greeks. He returned to Greece much later on with his colleagues.
Military life had to continue. Senior officers who had to write reports about Mordechai describe him in a favourable light. His battalion commander in Florina, Northern Greece, prophesied that he would become a very fine senior officer. In the same year, promotion was recommended based on his record as a platoon commander. Commendations followed Mordechai's progress throughout the 1920s and 1930s, whether based on Crete or his native Chalkis.
Against this backdrop Mordechai Frizis, now a captain was sent to France to study at l'Ecole Militaire Superieure. When he returned to Greece he as assigned to the Third Army Corps, located in the town known as the Jerusalem of the Balkans, Thessaloniki. Here the "French Connection" continued, for the French Military Mission was also based in Thessaloniki.
Mordechai had by this time been promoted to major (after returning from Paris) specialising in the role of the infantryman. Worry about Greece's relations with her neighbours led to him developing skills in deploying limited numbers of soldiers to the best effect, a subject in which Mordechai gave lectures to the military. This did not go unnoticed and Mordechai was transferred to the Operations Office of the loannina Division in Epirus. He was placed in charge of the area around Delvinaki, and his troops were to be the first to capture Italian soldiers once war had commenced.
Repeated telegrams sent by Mordechai were rewarded as he was made responsible for the Independent Division, charged with stemming the torrent of Italian attacks through the narrow valleys and ravines of Northern Greece "at all costs".
On 4 December 1940, Mordechai Frizis and his command were 10kilometres pas kalama. The next day, Mordechai gave the order for these soldiers to move out quickly to Premeti block the Italian retreat. He also ordered that the horses for the unit's officers should be prepared.
During the fighting on the 5th, Mordechai rode into battle on his horse. A squadron of Italian airplanes attacked his unit. He gave the order for his men to dismount, he himself remaining in the saddle, a proud horseman riding everywhere to ensure his men were safe.
The planes started bombing the soldiers, followed by an attack by the Italian forces. The Greeks were a perilous position, and only a bold counter attack would save the situation.
Frizis on his own went around his men, encouraging them to make a general attack. One of Mordechai's officers suggested that he took cover from the bullets and mortars, adding that a soldier on horseback would provide an easy target for enemy planes. Mordechai simply asked in reply, "How can I leave my men? Aren't they a target? " Indeed, Mordechai never left his men, and always though of their interests first.
During the crossing of the Vistritsa River, two squadrons of Italian planes dived into the attack against Frizis' boys. They could strafe the unit in the safe knowledge that the Greeks had no anti-aircraft fire at their disposal. The Greek soldiers ran for cover. Officers were ordered by Mordechai to dismount. One officer alone refused to dismount - Mordechai himself, riding along the entire front line to encourage and inspire his troops.
At 11.20 exactly, an enemy shell, which exploded close to Mordechai, wounded him in the stomach. Even then, he refused to dismount, choosing to rally his soldiers with the battle cry "Aeras" (courage).
When the Italian planes had withdrawn, and the Greeks had left their trenches they found Mordechai dead. A second burst of fire had killed him.
The detachment's priest arrived at the scene. What he does? The colonel was a Jew. There was no hesitation. The priest placed his hand on the bloodstained head and prayed: "Hear, 0 Israel, the lord our God, the Lord is one".
And so his men carried Colonel Mordechai Frizis, the first officer in the Greek Army to be killed in World War, with pride to his battlefield graveyard.
Greece had lost not only a brave soldier but also a brilliant tactician who could motivate his men.
Such was the affection in which he was held that one of this soldiers, Private Michael Tapas, wrote to Mordechai's wife on December 9, 1940, not knowing of his commander's death, and asking after him,
because he believed that Mordechai was better to him than a father could be".
Vradhini newspaper (December 17, 19740) declared that Mordechai Frizis' name was written in golden letters in the Pantheon of Heroes who had sacrificed their lives for the independence of Greece .. Frizis was a Jew and his sacrifice was an example of the dedication his co-religionists showed for the Greece.
Most impressive of all, both Monarchy and Government combined in their praise for Mordechai. From the Court of Kind George II of Greece, came the following note: "On the glorious death for his country of your beloved husband, the heroic Colonel Mordechai Frizis, His Majesty the king has instructed me to convey to you and you family his deepest condolences".
From loannis Metaxas, Dictator of Greece since 1936, this letter came "I learnt of the death on the field of honour of your husband, before you knew of it and I did not know how to inform you. Now from your letter I see that not only was he a hero, but he had a wife worthy of him. You and your family as well as those families, who have lost their protectors, will become the families of this state of ours. Please be assured that the protection of Greece will never leave you or your children. The children of Colonel Frizis will be revered by our nation's youth. With feelings of honour and love".
When the Axis forces entered Athens, a senior Italian officer named di Camp sought out Mordechai. He wrote in 1949: "The First thing I did was to learn where Mordechai Frizis was. He was a noble fighter and I wanted to meet him close up, to shake his noble hand. When I learnt he was dead, I was saddened Noble people cannot die. Perhaps they live on in our hearts, although they have left us in our lives.
More locally, the Metropolitan of Chalkis wrote to Mordechai's widow in 1954: "Heroic Colonel Mordechai Frizis will be a continuous and praise worthy example of sacrifice for religion and country - and he will be the permanent pride of Chalkis ".
Thirty years after Greece's victory over Italy, the respect in which Mordechai was held by Metaxas, Greece's dictator and Prime Minister in 1940, was recorded in Ellinikos Vorras (The Greek North) encouraging people to remember Mordechai more than they already did.
The achievements of Mordechai Frizis came to be commemorated in at least three Greek encyclopaedias. Under the entry Mordechai Frizis, authors in each case noted his Jewish background, early military service, and final campaign in 1940. By this time, ordinary Greek people were only just beginning to realise that Mordechai was Jewish. A reader of Vradhini wondered if there had not been a cloak of silence wrapped around Mordechai, before asking the Mayor of Athens to commemorate him.
In 1976, the newspaper Israilina Nea published a letter from a senior Naval officer who declare that Mordechai's devotion to duty was the yardstick for measuring patriotic duty to Greece: "Colonel Mordechai Frizis did not die. Every time Greece is in danger, he goes among us, bolt upright on this horse, inspiring us".
"A legend was created in October 1940, as Greece refused for ever to accept Fascism. In a corner of the fields of Kalpaki history was written an example of great courage to younger generations. A shining courage brought glory to Greece, as one icy-cold morning a group of men died. On a proud horse he galloped to victory - the laurel wreath and the crown of roses belong to Mordechai. The name of Mordechai Frizis, pride ofChalkis, will live forever, a golden ray of sunshine. No one has forgotten him - heroes are not forgotten. He passed among the Immortals, and hymns will be sung in his honour. The mountains of Albania and the narrow banners and Flowers of Chalkis will ring out with song. The Greek people - Christians and Jews - will pray for you, young and old Farewell my hero, who gave your life my brother, we will always be in your presence".
Speaking for the Jewish Community of Chalkis, Mr. M Cohen gave the following address: "The outcome of one victory can determine the fortune of a whole war, and the outcome of that war the fortune of humanity. Such a battle, which could determine the fortune of the Greek and Allied war effort and which was the allied victory against the previously unbeatable Awis, was the gift of Frizis. From this battle a bolt of lighting lighted up the dark skies over Europe. With the victory in the Labanian campaign, hope was rekindled in the enslaved breasts of the peoples of Europe, groaning under the heel of the indescribable Nazi Occupation ".
The cry by Jacob for recognition of his father's bravery found one favourable ear. In Rizospastis (Radical) the leading communist paper in Greece, Stelios Vamvetsos wrote that Jacob was right to feel annoyed and upset that his father had been ignored. In Mr. Vamvetsos' opinion, many other soldiers were sacrificed for Greece - and it was sometimes deserters and appeasers who were now living on healthy sate pensions. Those who survived the real fighting were being ignored.
Mr. Vamvetsos had already angered local nationalists in Northwest Greece for suggesting that Cyprus was a more pressing situation than Greece's claim on Northern Epirus (Southern Albania). In the typical style of Risospastis this writer also complained about monopolies and financial trust hiding behind the politicians who declared the wars but never actually fought them!
A Mr. Douliskis of Athens believed (March 1979) that the only tribute paid to Mordechai a street in Chalkis named after him, and small sculpted head, should be remedied by a statue of Mordechai on horse, just as he had fallen, and the bridge guarding the approach to Chalkis.
On 27 October 1979, a bronze cast of Mordechai was once again unveiled, in this case in the town of Kalpaki in North-western Greece.
A detachment from the Greek Army was present at the ceremony, and an officer spoke of Mordechai's bravery: "If Greece gave the Allies their first victory Frizi's detachment gave Greek weapons their victory".
Simultaneously, in the Chalkis Synagogue a memorial service was held for Mordechai Frizis in the presence fo his widow.
Tragically, however, Colonel Mordechai Frizis might well have joined the tens of thousands of Greek Jews slaughtered during the Holocaust. That he never lived to learn of -or share- his compatriots' fate is scant consolation for the loss of Greece's finest officer during Greece's finest hour.
Posted with the permission of Los Muestros
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Secret intelligence documents suggest that
in 1943, Great Britain and the United States knew that the Nazis were going
to round up Rome's Jews for "thorough eradication" several days before
Posted with the permission of Associated Press
ATHENS, July 30 -- Any other tale so thick with intrigue involving a Nazi war criminal and treasure hidden in the depths of a blue-green sea might simply have been dismissed, particularly if it originated from a prison inmate known only as Phantom X.
But the prospect of 50 sealed chests heavy with gold coins and jewels valued at as much as $2 billion is enough to make a believer out of almost anyone -- including an international diving team, the Greek government and this country's senior Jewish council.
After months of dispute and delays, Greek and French divers are hoping to plunge this week into nearly 300 feet of water off the southwest Peloponnesus, near Kalamata, on an expedition to salvage what they hope is just such a fortune.
The wealth was reputedly stripped from Jews sent to labor and death camps and then stashed at a secret underwater location by Dr. Max Merten, who was Hitler's senior administrator in Salonika, in northern Greece, during World War II.
But even before an ounce of gold has been brought to the surface, the mere prospect of such a fortune has set Greece's notorious bureaucracy in motion and sent a long line of claimants jostling for their stakes.
"The situation is crazy," said Gregoire Koulbanis, a 40-year-old Swiss diver of Greek descent who is to lead and film the expedition. "Such chaos, delays and state of hysteria, I've never witnessed in my 20-year career."
Mr. Koulbanis, who gained fame on some of the most daring expeditions of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the late oceanographer, says he was told of the treasure 10 months ago by a 63-year-old man he refuses to identify but whom the Greek media are calling Phantom X.
The man, who is in prison for a string of felonies, says he learned of the treasure when he shared a Greek prison cell with Dr. Merten in 1958. The former Nazi officer fled to Germany after World War II, but returned to Greece that year supposedly to check up on his fortune. He was arrested, tried for war crimes and jailed in Athens, according to the Greek Foreign Ministry and the Central Jewish Council, which represents this country's 3,000 Jews.
Dr. Merten, the informant claims to have been told, stowed 50 cases of gold he intended to return to after the war. A Nazi submarine, he says, ferried the treasure from northern Greece to the southern Peloponnesus. From there, Dr. Merten commissioned a fishing boat named Sofia to carry the cases to a designated site and sank the vessel.
A presidential decree in 1959 allowed Dr. Merten to return to Germany, where he practiced law and died in 1976. It remains unclear whether he had ever tried to retrieve the treasure again.
The current expedition, which was supposed to take place over the weekend, is now scheduled for Friday after being put off by local officials in Kalamata. They said the summer holiday season had left them too short-handed to oversee a multimillion-dollar search by 30 divers and crew members.
Mr. Koulbanis, the head of the expedition, attributes the delays to "outrageous demands" by the local authorities and a swamp of bureaucracy, despite having gained approval for the dive from Foreign Minister George Papandreou this month.
The Kalamata authorities say they want extra assurances that the state will get the 50 percent share it has claimed if the fortune is found.
"This may prove the biggest treasure to surface from this part of the Greek sea," says Christos Vrillias, a senior local official responsible for protecting state property. "We have to safeguard the state's interests, to the fullest."
In that effort, the Kalamata authorities demand that a special statecommittee climb aboard the search vessel to monitor every inch of the dive by video-link from the deep.
They also want coast guard vessels to be placed on alert, a team of archaeologists ready to appraise the fortune, which is to be handled byGreek divers only, and Finance Ministry experts to store whatever is recovered in special vaults at the National Bank of Greece. Since theoperation may sweep through a military shooting range, Greek Air Force units will also be at the ready.
Holocaust survivors argue that at least part of the treasure is rightfully theirs, particularly since much of it appears to have been taken from thefamilies of 9,000 Jews who were later rounded up on Dr. Merten's orders to work at Nazi labor camps in Greece.
"I alone had to pay him 1,000 gold British sterling in hope of winning my father's release from one of those camps," said Andreas Sefihas, a Holocaust survivor and president of the Jewish Council in Salonika. Some 50,000 Jews, 95 percent of Salonika's Jews, eventually perished in Nazi death camps.
But the Greek state's claim may leave Greece's 1,950 living Holocaust survivors with less than a 25 percent share, with the remaining 25 percent going to the man who says he knows where the treasure can be found. The agreement was negotiated by the informant's lawyer, Alexandros Lykourezos, a leading criminal attorney whose clients have also included the most notorious men wanted for war crimes in Bosnia.
The Jewish council plans to contest the state's 50 percent claim, calling this an extraordinary case. But before a single coin is handed over to the Central Jewish Council, says Emmanuel Gounaris of the Greek Foreign Ministry, it must prove that the fortune had been owned by Jews.
"This isn't restitution," said Mr. Sefihas, head of the Jewish council. "It's a denial of history."
As for the diving team, Mr. Koulbanis says, "All are here on their own time, at their own expenses." Their payment will come from the profits Mr. Koulbanis hopes to make from documentary film rights, which he has worked out with a French company, called Timing.
Mr. Koulbanis has said he is confident that the treasure lies in Greek waters. But despite all the careful planning, legal wrangling and deal-making that has led up to the dive, Mr. Gounaris, who is head of the commission responsible for reviewing underwater explorations, warned that "should the treasure be found beyond Greece's six-mile territorial waters, or within international waters, different laws apply."
Appeared in the New York Times On the Web - July 31, 2000
«Δεν ήταν μια απλή συγκυρία. Δεν μου ήταν άγνωστος αυτός ο άνθρωπος. Γι' αυτό και αποφάσισε να μοιραστεί μαζί μου τη σημαντική πληροφορία»
«Eίσαι πολύ ικανός νέος. Aν μπορέσω να τελειώσω εγώ τη δουλειά να είσαι σίγουρος ότι θα είσαι μέσα. Kι αν πάλι δεν τα καταφέρω να ξέρεις ότι ο θησαυρός είναι όλος δικός σου τώρα που γνωρίζεις ακριβώς το σημείο που βρίσκεται». Eίναι τα λόγια του εγκληματία πολέμου Mαξ Mέρτεν στον άνθρωπο, με τον οποίο κάτω από περίεργες συνθήκες μοιράστηκε το μυστικό του για τον αμύθητο θησαυρό των Eβραίων της Θεσσαλονίκης, ο οποίος, όπως αποκάλυψε το «Eθνος», βρίσκεται βυθισμένος στο Aκρωτήριο Aκρίτας. O άνθρωπος, ο οποίος είναι γνωστός με το ψευδώνυμο «Xέμερμαν», δηλαδή σιδερένιος άνθρωπος, κρύβει όλα αυτά τα χρόνια το πολύτιμο μυστικό, αποφάσισε να λύσει τη σιωπή του αποκαλύπτοντας ότι είχε συναντηθεί με τον Mέρτεν το 1954, το 1956 και το 1957: «Aυτός ο άνθρωπος δεν ήταν άγνωστος σε μένα. Γι' αυτό και αποφάσισε να μοιραστεί μαζί μου αυτήν την τόσο σημαντική πληροφορία. Δεν ήταν μια απλή συγκυρία», λέει σήμερα ο ίδιος.
Oπως άλλωστε σπεύδει να προσθέσει,
έχει στη διάθεσή του πολλά στοιχεία που επιβεβαιώνουν την ορθότητα των
ισχυρισμών του, πολλά από τα οποία μάλιστα φυλάσσονται σε θυρίδες τραπεζών
του εξωτερικού. «M' αυτά τα στοιχεία κατάφερα να πείσω και τους Iσραηλίτες
και όχι με λόγια του αέρα. Tο γεγονός αυτό αποδεικνύει ότι δεν είμαι
απλώς πληροφοριοδότης, όπως κάποιοι θέλουν να με παρουσιάζουν αλλά συνεργάτης
του Iσραηλιτικού Συμβουλίου σ' αυτήν την υπόθεση», τονίζει μιλώντας στο
«Eθνος» ο άνθρωπος, ο οποίος γνώριζε το πολύτιμο
Tώρα όμως - φροντίζοντας πάντα
να διατηρήσει την ανωνυμία του - αποφάσισε μέσω του «Eθνους» να ρίξει φως
στις συναντήσεις που είχε με τους εκπροσώπους του Kεντρικού Iσραηλιτικού
Συμβουλίου, οι οποίες, σύμφωνα με τον ίδιο, ξεκίνησαν δύο χρόνια πριν με
τη συνδρομή του Δημήτρη Σαβοϊδάκη, ενός δικηγόρου από το Hράκλειο της Kρήτης:
«Aρχικώς είχα προσπαθήσει να επικοινωνήσω με τον πρόεδρο της Iσραηλιτικής
Kοινότητας Θεσσαλονίκης, τον κ. Σεφιχά. Θεώρησα ότι ήταν ο πλέον ενδιαφερόμενος
αλλά εκείνος με παρέπεμψε στον Oργανισμό Περίθαλψης και Aποκατάστασης Iσραηλιτών
Eλλάδας (OΠAIE) και το Kεντρικό
H πρώτη επαφή με τον OΠAIE έγινε, όπως περιγράφει, τον Aπρίλιο του 1998: «Παρόντες στη συνάντηση ήταν ο πρόεδρός του Eντγκαρ Aλαλούφ και ο νομικός σύμβουλος του Oργανισμού κ. Zαχαρίου. Eγώ τους ενημέρωσα για το ακριβές περιεχόμενο του φορτίου και την αξία του κι εκείνοι δεσμεύτηκαν να ενημερώσουν τον KIΣ». Eνα μήνα αργότερα, συγκαλείται εκ νέου συμβούλιο, στο οποίο, εκτός από τους εκπροσώπους του OΠAIE, συμμετέχουν εκπρόσωποι του KIΣ: «Στη συνάντηση αυτή τους επανέλαβα το ιστορικό και όπως ήταν φυσικό δέχτηκα καταιγισμό ερωτήσεων για τον τρόπο, με τον οποίο το έμαθα, από ποιον είχα τις πληροφορίες και το τι περιλαμβάνει το φορτίο του ναυαγίου. Aπάντησα με λεπτομέρειες σε όλες τους τις ερωτήσεις και όπως φάνηκε εκ των υστέρων κατάφερα να τους πείσω», λέει στο «Eθνος».
Eτσι, πέρσι το καλοκαίρι υπεγράφησαν και τα συμβόλαια μεταξύ των εκπροσώπων των Iσραηλιτών και του ανθρώπου που κατείχε τις πληροφορίες. M' αυτό το συμβόλαιο, όπως αποκαλύπτει ο ίδιος, του παραχωρούνται τα πάσης φύσεως πνευματικά δικαιώματα της υπόθεσης, του δίνεται το δικαίωμα να κάνει έρευνες για το ζήτημα, να ναυλώνει σκάφη κατά βούληση γι' αυτό το σκοπό, ενώ ταυτόχρονα ξεκαθαρίζεται και το ζήτημα των ευρέτρων: «Tο ποσοστό μου στην περίπτωση που βρεθεί ο θησαυρός είναι το 25% του συνόλου. Tο υπόλοιπο 25% το δικαιούται η Iσραηλιτική Kοινότητα και το 50% το ελληνικό Δημόσιο, εκτός αν υπάρξει περίπτωση απεμπλοκής, οπότε τα δεδομένα διαφοροποιούνται.
Για όλα αυτά υπάρχουν νόμιμα συμβόλαια, σε τέσσερα αντίτυπα, ένα για το KIΣ, ένα για τον OΠAIE, ένα για μένα και ένα για το ελληνικό δημόσιο», διευκρινίζει. Kαι συνεχίζει: «Δεν μπορεί να είμαι απλώς πληροφοριοδότης και να έχω στα χέρια μου συμβόλαιο, το οποίο σε περίπτωση που το δημόσιο δεν αναγνωρίσει εύρετρα να με αναφέρει ως βασικό μάρτυρα».
Tην υπόθεση από νομικής πλευράς χειρίζεται ο δικηγόρος και βουλευτής της Nέας Δημοκρατίας, κ. Αλέξανδρος Λυκουρέζος. Oσο για τον άνθρωπο, ο οποίος έχει τις πληροφορίες, έχει δεσμευτεί ότι οι δύο σάκοι με τα λατρευτικά και προσωπικά αντικείμενα των Eβραίων της Θεσσαλονίκης, οι οποίοι συμπεριλαμβάνονται στο φορτίο του ναυαγίου, θα παραδοθούν στο KIΣ ως έχουν: «Δεν ζητώ μερίδιο από αυτά τα αντικείμενα που ανήκαν σε ανθρώπους που βασανίστηκαν. Zητώ όμως ισότιμη αντιμετώπιση δεδομένου ότι χωρίς εμένα ο θησαυρός αυτός θα έμενε για πάντα κρυμμένος στο βυθό της Mεσσηνίας», συμπληρώνει. Στη χρηματοδότηση της επιχείρησης δεν συμμετέχει ούτε κατ' ελάχιστο το ισραηλιτικό στοιχείο, όπως επιβεβαιώνει και ο ίδιος: «Aυτό το έχω αναλάβει εγώ και μέχρι στιγμής μου έχει στοιχίσει 147 εκατομμύρια δραχμές. Γι' αυτό και τον τελευταίο καιρό φίλοι από το εξωτερικό χρηματοδοτούν αυτήν την υπόθεση», καταλήγει.
Aναστατωμένοι είναι οι κάτοικοι του νομού Mεσσηνίας από την είδηση της ύπαρξης του ναυαγίου με το θησαυρό των Eβραίων στα νερά της περιοχής τους. Mαζί με την είδηση αυτή στα καφενεία της Kορώνης άρχισαν να συζητιούνται ξανά παλιές ιστορίες και θρύλοι για ναυαγισμένα σκάφη που έκρυβαν χρυσές λίρες, κοσμήματα και άλλα πολύτιμα αντικείμενα. Παρά τα χρόνια που έχουν περάσει, οι ίδιοι θεωρούν αρκετά πιθανό ο θησαυρός να υπάρχει ακόμα εκεί και να μην έχει διασκορπιστεί ή παρασυρθεί, δεδομένου ότι σύμφωνα με τα λεγόμενά τους ορισμένες απ' αυτές τις θαλάσσιες περιοχές δεν έχουν ρεύματα, ενώ γενικά ο βυθός τους χαρακτηρίζεται από ομαλότητα: «Eιδικά στο βόρειο τμήμα του νησιού της Σχίζας και μέχρι το Bενέτικο τα ρεύματα δεν είναι πολλά. Aν πράγματι είχε βυθιστεί εκεί αυτό το σκάφος, το φορτίο του δεν πρέπει να
έχει μετακινηθεί παραπάνω από πενήντα μέτρα δεξιά ή αριστερά σε όλα αυτά τα χρόνια», εξηγεί ο ψαράς Aρης Tρουπής.
O ίδιος μάλιστα ισχυρίζεται
ότι κι αυτός έχει εντοπίσει ένα ναυάγιο στην περιοχή ανάμεσα
στη θέση Tσαπί και τη Σχίζα: «Δεν αποκλείεται μάλιστα να είναι και το
ίδιο. Δεν το έχω δει αλλά το έχω καταλάβει
από την ένδειξη στο βυθόμετρο και από τα
ψάρια που πιάνω. Ξέρουμε σε γενικές γραμμές ότι σε περιοχές που πιάνουμε
Eίναι γεγονός, πάντως, όπως
λένε και οι ντόπιοι ότι στην ευρύτερη περιοχή είναι πολλοί
εκείνοι που τα καλοκαίρια ψάχνουν για θησαυρούς είτε στην ξηρά με τα
ειδικά όργανα ανίχνευσης μετάλλων είτε
στη θάλασσα κάνοντας καταδύσεις. Aλλά
και οι ντόπιοι είναι ενημερωμένοι για την ύπαρξη πολλών ναυάγίων στην
περιοχή τους: «Πολλές φορές από τα παραγάδια
μας βγάζουμε όχι μόνο ξύλα και σίδερα
αλλά και σκουριά ενώ αρκετοί είναι εκείνοι που βγάζουν τα δίχτυα τους
σκισμένα αλλά όχι από βράχους», λέει
ο 74χρονος Γιάννης Pοδίτης, ενώ ο συνομήλικος
του Nίκος Tρουπής συμπληρώνει: «Σ' αυτά τα νερά πολλοί τουρίστες
βρίσκουν χρυσό. Πολύ συχνά ακούγεται
στην περιοχή ότι τουρίστες έχουν βρει στάμνες
με λίρες ή αγαλματίδια».
Ο θάνατος, το περασμένο Σάββατο, του προέδρου της Συρίας Χάφεζ ελ Άσαντ, ίσως αποτελέσει το έναυσμα για να σταματήσει επιτέλους η άρνηση των Συριακών αρχών στην παροχή στοιχείων που θα οδηγούσαν στην ανακάλυψη και τη σύλληψη του "Χασάπη της Θεσσαλονίκης" Αλόις Μπρούνερ, ο οποίος καταζητείται για εγκλήματα πολέμου κατά τη διάρκεια της ναζιστικής περιόδου και υπάρχουν στοιχεία ότι ζει στη Δαμασκό.
Tην ελπίδα αυτή, εξέφρασε με δηλώσεις του ο Γάλλος δικηγόρος Σέρζ Κλάρσφελντ, "κυνηγός" των καταζητούμενων για εγκλήματα πολέμου Ναζί και επικεφαλής της "Ενωσης Παιδιών Απελαθέντων Εβραίων της Γαλλίας", ενώ ανάλογη είναι και η άποψη της Ισραηλιτικής Κοινότητας Θεσσαλονίκης.
Γαλλικό δικαστήριο αποφάσισε τον προηγούμενο Δεκέμβριο να δικάσει τον διαβόητο Ναζί ερήμην του για την απέλαση περίπου 250 Εβραιόπουλων από τη Γαλλία στο Άουσβιτς, όπου και τελικά βρήκαν φριχτό θάνατο.
Ο Μπρούνερ, από τα κορυφαία ονόματα στον κατάλογο των καταζητουμένων για εγκλήματα πολέμου κατά τη διάρκεια της ναζιστικής περιόδου, επί σειρά ετών ζούσε στη Δαμασκό της Συρίας. Η Γαλλία και η Γερμανία, κατ΄ επανάληψη ζήτησαν την έκδοσή του, αλλά ο Άσαντ υποστήριζε ότι ο Μπρούνερ δεν βρίσκεται στη Συρία, αν και πράκτορες των ισραηλινών μυστικών υπηρεσιών, τον φωτογράφισαν κρυφά πριν 3 χρόνια στη Δαμασκό.
Ο Κλάρσφελντ, σε συνέντευξή του στο γαλλικό ραδιόφωνο "France Info”, χαρακτήρισε ως "ανακούφιση" τον θάνατο του Ασαντ, επισημαίνοντας παράλληλα ότι "το ταξίδι του Άσαντ στον άλλο κόσμο είναι ίσως η ευκαιρία να ανακαλυφθεί η αλήθεια".
Σύμφωνα με τον Κλάρσφελντ, το καθεστώς Ασαντ υπήρξε προκατειλημμένο από κάθε ηθική άποψη και διευκρίνισε ότι η επικείμενη δίκη του Μπρούνερ θα βοηθήσει στη διαλεύκανση των συνθηκών κάτω από τις οποίες ζούσε, αλλά και του ενδεχομένου να είναι ακόμη ζωντανός.
Ο Μπρούνερ, ήταν από τους οργανωτές του Ολοκαυτώματος τουλάχιστον 130.000 Εβραίων από την Ελλάδα, την Τσεχία, την Αυστρία και τη Γαλλία και υπήρξε το "δεξί χέρι" του Αδόλφου Αϊχμαν, του επόπτη της "μηχανής θανάτου" του ναζιστικού καθεστώτος.
Ο πρόεδρος της Ισραηλιτικής Κοινότητας Θεσσαλονίκης Ανδρέα Σεφιχά, δήλωσε πρόσφατα στο Μακεδονικό Πρακτορείο Ειδήσεων ότι όπως γνωρίζει, τόσο οι γερμανικές όσο και οι ισραηλιτικές υπηρεσίες πληροφοριών διαθέτουν στοιχεία πως ο Μπρούνερ βρίσκεται εν ζωή στη Συρία. Πρόσθεσε δε πως οι Συριακές αρχές, με πρώτο τον Χαφέζ αλ Άσαντ, κάλυπταν και εξακολουθούν να καλύπτουν τον Μπρούνερ, λόγω της βοήθειας που προσέφερε στην οργάνωση των Συριακών μυστικών υπηρεσιών.
Σημειώνεται ο διαβόητος εγκληματίας πολέμου, διαμένει στη Δαμασκό της Συρίας, με το όνομα "δόκτωρ Φίσερ".
Υπενθυμίζεται ότι ο Μπρούνερ καταζητείται από την Ιντερπόλ, η γερμανική κυβέρνηση των επικήρυξε για 500.000 μάρκα ενώ των αναζητούν και οι γαλλικές αρχές δεδομένου ότι καταδικάστηκε δις σε θάνατο από δικαστήριο του Παρισιού για την εξόντωση 25.000 Εβραίων, μεταξύ των οποίων και τα 250 μικρά παιδιά στο στρατόπεδο συγκέντρωσης Ντρανσί.
Η δράση του Αλόις Μπρούννερ
Ο Μπρούνερ, που υπήρξε από τους στενότερους συνεργάτες του Αϊχμαν, είχε οργανώσει μαζί με τον συνεργάτη του Ντίταρ Βισλιτσέννυ, την εφαρμογή των ρατσιστικών μέτρων του Χίτλερ κατά των εβραίων της Θεσσαλονίκης. Και οι δύο, συνοδευόμενοι από άλλους τέσσερις ναζί, έφτασαν στην κατεχόμενη απο τους γερμανούς Μακεδονική πρωτεύουσα το Σάββατο 6 Φεβρουαρίου 1943, κι αμέσως επιδόθηκαν στο αποτρόπαιο έργο της εξολόθρευσης του εβραϊκού πληθυσμού.
Ο Μπρούνερ, ως επικεφαλής της ειδικής επιτροπής των SS και των SD, είχε αναλάβει την εφαρμογή και στην Ελλάδα των ρατσιστικών διαταγών του Χίτλερ, για την εξόντωση του εβραϊκού στοιχείου, φέρνοντας πολύ γρήγορα σε πέρας το τερατώδες έργο του.
Στο στρατηγείο τους, που το είχαν εγκαταστήσει στην οδό Βελισσαρίου 42, σε μια παλιά επιταγμένη εβραϊκή βίλα, οι Μπρούνερ και Βισλιτσέννυ, οργανώνουν με κάθε λεπτομέρεια το πογκρόμ σε βάρος της μέχρι τότε πολυπληθούς εβραϊκής κοινότητας της Θεσσαλονίκης.
Εξι μόλις ημέρες μετά την άφιξή τους στη Θεσσαλονίκη, τα δύο ανθρωπόμορφα τέρατα, εκδίδουν διαταγή με στοιχεία ΙVB-4, επιβάλλοντας σε όλους τους εβραίους να φορούν υποχρεωτικά το γνωστό διακριτικό κίτρινο άστρο. Ενώ την επομένη μέρα, στις 12-2-1943, διατάσσουν να τοποθετηθούν πινακίδες που να γράφουν "εβραϊκόν" σε όλα τα καταστήματα, τα γραφεία και τα ιατρεία των Εβραίων, καθώς και κίτρινο αστέρι στις εισόδους των σπιτιών τους.
Από κει και πέρα, οι δύο λοχαγοί των Ες-Ες, πρωταγωνιστούν σε ένα πραγματικό όργιο σε βάρος της εβραϊκής κοινότητας της Θεσσαλονίκης, λεηλατώντας σπίτια και καταστήματα, βασανίζοντας, δολοφονώντας και οργανώνοντας την ομαδική αποστολή των Εβραίων στα κρεματόρια του Αουσβιτς, του Νταχάου, του Μπούχενβαλντ, του Μαουτχάουζεν κ.α.
Μέσα σε έξι μήνες, μέχρι τις 10 Αυγούστου 1943, οι δήμιοι Βισλιτσέννυ και Μπρούνερ, στέλνουν με πάνω απο 19 αποστολές το 95% των μελών της εβραϊκής κοινότητας Θεσσαλονίκης στα στρατόπεδα συγκέντρωσης του Γ΄Ράϊχ, όπου πάνω από 45.000 ελληνοεβραίοι θα βρουν τραγικό τέλος.
Τα τελευταία χρόνια, οι εισαγγελικές αρχές της Κολωνίας, στη Γερμανία, αποφάσισαν να προσφέρουν το ποσό των 500.000 μάρκων (περίπου 85 εκατομμύρια δραχμές) για κάθε πληροφορία που θα μπορούσε να οδηγήσει στον εντοπισμό και τη σύλληψη του αξιωματικού των Ες-Ες, ο οποίος οργάνωσε το Ολοκαύτωμα των Εβραίων της Θεσσαλονίκης κατά τη διάρκεια του Β΄ Παγκοσμίου πολέμου.
Ηδη, απο το 1987, το υπουργείο Δικαιοσύνης
της Ομοσπονδιακής Γερμανίας ζήτησε επίσημα τον Μπρούνερ από τη Συρία, ενώ
η γερμανική δικαιοσύνη είχε ασκήσει σωρεία διώξεων για "ανθρωποκτονίες
κατά συρροή" σε βάρος του Μπρύνερ, για τις ανθρωποκτονίες που διέπραξε
κατά τη διάρκεια της παραμονής του στην Ελλάδα (κυρίως στη Θεσσαλονίκη)
αλλά και σε άλλες περιοχές της Ευρώπης, από όπου επίσης υπάρχουν καταγγελίες
και καταθέσεις αυτοπτών μαρτύρων.
The hope was expressed in statements made by French lawyer Serge Klarsfelt, who is hunting down Nazi war criminals and heads the Association of the Children of the deported French Jews, while a similar view was expressed by Thessaloniki's Jewish Community.
A French court decided last December to try the infamous Nazi in absentia for the deportation of about 250 young Jews from France to Auswitz where the were killed.
Brunner, now 85, is one of the leading names in the list with Nazi war criminals and lives for a number of years in Damascus, Syria. France and Germany asked for his extradition repeatedly but president Assad maintained that Brunner was not in Syria even though Israeli secret agents had photographed him in Damascus 3 years ago.
The French lawyer, in an interview with the French radio station "France Info", characterized president Assad's death as a relief, pointing out that it could offer a chance for truth to be revealed.
Brunner was one of the organizers of the holocaust of at least 130.000 Jews from Greece, the Czech Republic, Austria and France while he was also the right hand of Adolf Eichman who was in charge of the Nazi regime's "death machine".
Thessaloniki's Jewish Community president Andreas Sefiha had stated recently to Macedonian Press Agency that as far as he knows both the German and the Israeli information services have evidence proving that Brunner lives in Syria. He also said that the Syrian authorities have covered and continue to cover Brunner because he helped in the organizing of the Syrian secret services.
It should be noted that the infamous war criminal lives in Damascus as Dr. Fischer.
Brunner is wanted by the Interpol
and the German government offers a DM500.000 reward for information leading
to his arrest, while he is also wanted by the French authorities given
the fact that he was sentenced to death twice by a Paris court when he
was found guilty for the deaths of 25.000 Jews among them 250 small children
at the Dransy Nazi concentration camp.
Many dignitaries were part of that audience - the Greek Ambassador, Alexander Philon, the First Press Secretary, Theodossis Demetracopoulos, two prior recipients of the award Preven Munch Nielson from Denmark and Eugene De Thassy from Hungary and me, the writer, whose uncle and family were saved by this quietly courageous man.
Not many people know there was a Greek Holocaust that took 87% of all Greek Jews - one of the highest percentages in all of Europe.
During the winter of 1944, when approximately 40 Greek Jews had made their way from Athens to Euboea to escape by boat to Turkey, that a storm delayed the hired boat. Perseides, who was a resistance commander on the island, ordered the villagers to put the Jews in their beds while they themselves were to sleep on the floor, and told them to feed the Jews before themselves. The Jews remained for about a week without being detected.
My family only knew Perseides by his code name "Avyerino" (meaning "morning star"). It was only after another rescuer of my family, Dr. Kostas Nikolaou, went to visit the Cohens in Israel in recent years that
we were able to track down Vasilis Perseides.
When my wife and I went to Greece afterwards, the doctor offered us a surprise: the second angel who saved the same family.
We offered to take Perseides to Israel with us, since that was our next destination. He excused his way out of it. But his daughter, Avyi, (who also came to D.C. along with her mother, Perseides' wife Frosoh),
persuaded her father to go.
Two days before we were to leave, Perseides called us and we took the same flight over. My extended family took him in as the long lost savior he was, but neither rescuer nor survivors remembered each other.
Through mutual memories-certain foods from the area, terrain, weather, they came to know each other and remained in contact with each other until my uncle Isaac's passing two years ago.
This is the story I related to the Washington audience and media as I introduced the beloved Vasilis Perseides. This is the story I told the children in the audience as I mentioned how necessary it was to honor moral courage. This is the story I shared as Vasilis Perseides knelt at the unveiling of his plaque in the Garden of the Righteous on Sunday, May 8, 2000.
The Association of Friends of Greek Jewry, was organized in part to recognize the solidarity non-Jews demonstrated in supporting, hiding, and saving Jews from the Holocaust that engulfed them during the course of World War II.
In this endeavor, the association has initiated the presentation of conspicuous awards to honor the courage of individuals who risked all in the service of human ideals.
It is with gladness of heart that the officers and members of the Association of Friends of Greek Jewry announce the recipients of the first annual "Awards of Moral Courage," honoring Greek Christians who risked their
lives to save Greek Jews during the Holocaust; further, let is be known, that the unveiling of "The Wall of Moral Courage," in Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue, will also take place.
Both events will take place at the synagogue, 280 Broome Street, NYC, at 1:00 PM, Sunday, May 21, 2000.
The recipients are:
*Frederikos Sueref, who saved Isaac, Rosa, Daniel and Leon Soussis in Corfu.
*Dr. Vasilis Ragopoulos, who saved Heinz and Salvator Kounio at Melk Concentration Camp.
*Sophia ,Ellie and Aliki Iliadou, who saved Pepo Matalon, Alfredo and Raoul Saltiel in the mountains north of Athens.
*Vasilis Perseides, who saved Isaac, Dora, Joya and Bezalel Cohen in Marathona.
*Angelis and Maria Vasileiou and children, who saved Maikis, Belina, Iosa and Miriam Katalan in Euboia.
*Georgos Karantzas, one of the signers of Archbishop Damaskinos'appeal who also stamped false ID cards for many Jews in Athens.
Additionally, the AFGJ will be presenting a special award to the Greek Resistance Movement, both EAM/ElAS and EDES for their work in saving Jews throughout Greece during the Occupation.
We invite all interested parties to attend. The Consul General of Greece will be there and will address the audience. The event will be covered by the international press and a reception will follow.
President: Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos
c/o Kehila Kedosha of Janina
280 Broome Street, New York, NY 1002 USA
Attention of the President Mrs Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos
Dear Mr. President,
Re : Presentation by the Association
of Friends of Greek Jewry of conspicuous awards to honor the courage
Thank you warmly for your Email , dated Sunday 14th May 2000.
It is with great satisfaction and deep appreciation and gladness of the heart that I have received your announcement of the coming presentation of the first annual “Awards of Moral Courage” honoring Greek Christians who risked their lives to save Greek Jews during the Holocaust. Amongst them Dr. Vasilis Rakopoulos from Jannina who saved amongst others also Heinz and Salvator Kounio at Melk Concentration Camp.
I wish to congratulate you and the
members of your Board of Directors for this public act of moral
This bestowed honor by your organization enriches the life of men and shows the example to follow to enrich human life with invaluable moral spirit.
As one of those that have been saved
by the actions of Dr. Vasilis Rakopoulos , and in the name of my
Heinz D.S. Kounio
Στη διάρκεια της εκδήλωσης, η οποία θα πραγματοποιηθεί στις 21 Μαίου, θα γίνουν μεταξύ άλλων και τα αποκαλυπτήρια του Τείχους του Ηθικού Σθένους στη συναγωγή Kehila Kedosha Janina, όπου θα αναγράφονται ονόματα Ελλήνων που έσωσαν Εβραίους στο Β' Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο.
Επίσης θα γίνουν τα αποκαλυπτήρια
του Τείχους του Ηθικού Σθένους (The Wall of Moral Courage) στη συναγωγή
Kehila Kedosha Janina, που είναι η μοναδική ελληνική (ρωμανιώτικη) συναγωγή
στο δυτικό ημισφαίριο. Στο Τείχος θα αναγράφονται τα ονόματα των Ελλήνων
που έσωσαν Εβραίους κατά το Β΄ Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο.
The boats that were to carry the travelers were delayed by stormy weather, but the commander of the Greek resistance fighters on Evia ordered that the Jews be cared for and protected while awaiting the crossing.
"He said to his Greek compatriots, 'You will put these Jews in your beds while you sleep on the floor. You will feed them first before you eat,' " Isaac Dostis, 58, of Lake Hiawatha, N.J., recalled yesterday, quoting his aunt and uncle, who were saved by the resistance fighter.
Their savior, Vasilis Perseidis, now 91, was honored yesterday with a "Garden of the Righteous" award during a ceremony at the Adas Israel synagogue in Cleveland Park. The award was established by the synagogue in 1992 to honor Gentiles who saved Jews during World War II.
"I never believed anyone would recognize what I did," Perseidis said through a translator. "This was what my conscience required me to do. I did not require any reward."
In the cool interior of the synagogue yesterday, Perseidis was lauded as a hero. Among those speaking in tribute were Greek Ambassador Alexander Philon and four students of the synagogue's religious school, who read him poems and letters they had written in his honor.
Perseidis, a small, weathered man with a seafarer's beard and boundless energy, leapt up to embrace and kiss the children after each read.
It was for those children that Adas Israel Rabbi Jeffrey A. Wohlberg said he created the "Garden of the Righteous" award, inspired by the more famous Garden of the Righteous at Yad Vashem museum in the hills above Jerusalem.
"We did it . . . to teach a positive lesson to our children and families from the message of the Holocaust," Wohlberg said yesterday.
Perseidis was a University of Athens-trained lawyer turned soldier who joined the Greek resistance movement, the National Liberation Front (EAM), after Germany invaded Greece in 1941. His primary job in late 1943 and early 1944 was to help hide and house Jews traveling north from Athens as they waited to escape in fast-moving boats across the Aegean Sea to Turkey.
He and his compatriots scrounged food for the refugees--corn soup, perhaps, or a bit of roasted mutton--and persuaded villagers to hide the Jews in their homes. More than 65,000 Jews were killed in occupied Greece during the war, but the resistance helped more than 1,500 escape. For years, many of the Jews whom Perseidis helped save knew him only by his code name, Avgerinos, which means "the Morning Star."
It "gave me the greatest satisfaction in my life," Perseidis said yesterday of his wartime work.
During the chaos of the postwar years, Perseidis was arrested twice, tortured and imprisoned for his work with the resistance movement. He was eventually freed from jail, and he married and moved to an orange farm in Marathon, Greece, where he still lives with his wife, Frosso. She and their daughter, Avgi Persidi-Vallera, an Athenian businesswoman, came to Washington with Perseidis last week.
After the program, the congregation moved outside to the Garden of the Righteous, a small triangle of land that lies yards from Connecticut Avenue NW, with stone slabs and pine trees and purple flowers drooping in the heat. The sun was blazing, prompting the rabbi to don a straw hat. Perseidis seemed unfazed by the temperature.
"I'm overwhelmed," said Dostis, standing nearby. "Finally, there is recognition for Greek Christians who helped the Jews. There's so little known about the Greek Holocaust."
A plaque honoring Perseidis--riveted to a stone slab--was unveiled amid applause. Perseidis said he wanted to sing an old song from his resistance days for the congregation. The words were Greek, but that didn't matter, he said through a translator. "It's called 'A Call to Arms for Freedom,' " he told them, before he began to sing.
|I don't know if you are familiar with the monument at Karalaka.
I gave a lecture in New York, related to this battle. Alberto Levi of New
York was so impressed that he went to Greece, rented a car and went to
.... the mountains in search of Karalaka. Nobody knew where it was or what
happened there, but he would not give up until he found it. He sent me
photographs of the monument. The thing that impresses me is that the three
Jews Ovadias, Magrizos and Levis were not partisans. They were killed while
attempting to escape and inform the partisans. I enclose a few pages of
from my book in case you wish to use this material. M. Matsas 22.3.00
Excerpts from Dr. Matsas book relating to the battle at Karalaka:
May 6, 1944. At sunrise the night sentinels return to our little barn to enjoy the warmth of a good fire. Slowly we get up and talk about the unusually cold weather for this time of year. On May I snow fell and can still be seen in places, where the sun did not yet melt it. We are at an elevation of 600 meters, and we represent an advanced post of our ELAS battalion on Mt. Olympus, which is stationed a few minutes march higher up. I opened the door and the clean air rushed in to dispel the humidity that comes out of the wet overcoats and boots of the guards. Outside, I take a look and see only heavy fog, where I usually see the Larissa plateau. Behind me, on the contrary, Mt. Olympus, white with snow, is bathed in sunlight. The path that leads to the fields of Larissa is carved on the side of a cliff, on top of which we located our post. In the bottom of the canyon, some two kilometers from us, there is an opening with some barns which shelter Jewish families from Larissa. They escaped the fury of the Germans and live there hoping for a better tomorrow. We often go down there and they are very happy to see and talk with us. They feel that they are not alone in this corner of Olympus and have a sense of security, thanks to our nearby presence. Their women often wash our clothes and the young men organized a system of scouts which, night and day, bring us information that arrives with couriers from Larissa.
Every day the first thing I see is their camp and, today, fog covers the entire area; for some unknown reason I feel uneasy. I went to the spring nearby and the guard there commented about the bad weather down below. The cold water refreshed me and made me lose all bad thoughts and laziness. As I passed again next to the guard, a funny noise was heard. "Machinegun fire? Don't you think?" the guard says as he searches with his eyes the canyon below. For a second the fog is reduced and the guard looks with his binoculars and points out something. The fog retreated like the curtain of a stage in which a drama is about to unfold. The Jewish barns form the background of this first act.
In the square, at the opening of the canyon, I can see a great number of people with helmets and military uniforms moving right and left. They are Germans a whole battalion of them. I shiver with the thought that my poor coreligionists, after all they suffered, fell again into the hands of the German beasts.
But all hope is not lost. I lower the binoculars which the guard gave me and I turned around to see him. Instead I see all my comrades, ready with weapons in their hands. "Get your gun and kit fast," my captain tells me, "and give this note to the battalion commander." At the same time he took the binoculars from my hands.
After running for ten minutes I am in front of my major, to whom I gave the note and explained what I saw. He looks deeply into my eyes and, as if speaking to himself, says, "We have to save them." I returned immediately to my guard post, where I see the men forming a circle around a sweating and heart-poundingly tired civilian. I recognize him right away as one of the young Jewish men of the valley. He describes how the Germans arrived at their encampment a little before sunrise, led by a civilian informer. They arrested the Jews in the barns and, after looting their belongings, were about to burn their shelter. A young man tried to inform us but the Germans fired and wounded him. This was the gunfire we heard earlier. Finally this man managed to escape and came to tell us what happened. Agony is depicted on his face as he finishes his story while at the same time, feeling relief, he realizes from what he sees that there is hope for the people he left behind.
Three to four hours elapsed from the time we noticed the arrival of the Germans. During this period the main body of enemy troops remained in the encampment enjoying their victory. Three small groups of German soldiers exchanged fire with our advanced patrols on a front of two to three kilometers. During this time all our men from the battalion at Karyes arrived, around 150 men. Without wasting any time our forces were deployed on the cliffs surrounding the area of the barns. We occupied the high ground so fast that as soon as the order to open fire was given and the singing of our machineguns commenced, dozens of Germans fell dead and wounded. All conditions, from a military point of view, favored our ambush. Slowly and without reducing our heavy fire, we started descending, surrounding the Germans in a smaller circle. The Germans started to fire back, but we did not stop. We knew that our success depended on our speed of action. Our accurate fire brings down more Germans. Soon the enemy is seized by panic. They try to escape by-running toward the opening of the canyon. I saw that the barns were on fire, and the question came to me, "Did the bastards kill the people?" This sad thought was in my mind when my captain ordered our squad to cover the entrance to the canyon and prevent the escape of any Germans. We ran, taking precautions, bent over; the German fire weakens. Some surrender, others try to hide, others abandon their guns and try to escape. We run, one behind the other, and fire our guns.
Suddenly I stop. Behind some bushes I see two or three girls and other civilians. There are tears in their eyes, which express gratitude as they see each partisan who passes in front of them . . . I was sure
that these few Jews had been saved, when something hit my left leg and my eyes could not see anymore. I fell down, losing consciousness. I was wounded.
One of the partisan leaders who participated in this battle on southern Mt. Olympus was Lieutenant Marco Alberto Carasso. Another partisan witness was Joseph Matsas:
Perhaps the greatest partisan victory of World War II took place in Karyes, on the southern slope of Mt. Olympus. The battle is known as the battle of Karalakou. Five Jewish families of Larissa established their campsite in this location. They were betrayed, and an SS battalion surprised them early one morning. Albert Ovadias, Simon Levi and Jacob Magrissos tried to run and inform the partisans, but were gunned down and killed by the Germans. A fourth man, Elias Cohen, succeeded. Marco Carasso's platoon, together with other units, comprised a force of 150 who staged one of the most spectacular guerrilla operations of World War II. The Germans were encircled and ambushed from the sides of a canyon. German planes came to help, but the terrain of this gorge was such that they were ineffective. Some Germans managed to escape, but those who remained found a tragic end. One hundred and fifty Germans were killed, 78 were wounded and 14, including the German commander, became prisoners. Ten of the prisoners were executed because they attempted to disarm their guards. The remaining were also put to death. That is a total of 242 German dead.
Partisan losses were eight dead and ten wounded. Immediately after the battle, a Jew named Ganis came and embraced us. "I have a son Marko who is seventeen," he said. "Take him with you, because you are the ones who saved our lives." Marko, a amall boy, joined our unit and became our mascot. We all loved him and tried to protect him in every battle. I loved him more than anyone else because for me he somehow became the symbol of our oppressed people.
The personal historic archives of the president of the community of Larissa, Moissis Ezras, contain these additional details of the battle of Karalakou Ambelonos: There were some twenty Jews camping in Karyes. They belonged to the families of Marko Gani, Joseph Ovadias, Moissis Magrissos and Yehudah Cohen. Three young Jewish men were killed, while a fourth was wounded. The Germans were so sure of themselves that they got undressed and went to bathe in a nearby stream. Antonis Angelousis was the commander of the ELAS battalion which attacked the Germans. He was known as Vratsaros. During the battle the Germans forced the remaining young Jews to serve as stretcher bearers. Among the Germans who became prisoners was the battalion commander who, naked and on horseback, was led to the village of Karyes, where he was executed. Another German who was captured and executed was the son of German General Ulrich Kleimann, who was the Aegean commander. The Germans offered to free 200 hostages kept in German prisons in exchange for his freedom. The message was received by ELAS too late. By that time all German prisoners were executed. The following day the Germans returned in force in the area to recover their dead.
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