2,500 Liberated Greek Jews March in Dramatic Procession in Athens; Live in Synagogue

Approximately 2,500 Jews in this liberated capital of Greece marched through the city welcoming the return of the Greek Government to Athens, carrying placards reading: “This is All that is Left of Us.”

The dramatic demonstration was followed by religious services in the shadowy gray synagogue which only two weeks ago had been used by the Germans as a stable. This was the first Jewish religious service in more than a year. It was held without a rabbi. The number of Jews in Athens a year ago was estimated as about 8,000.

Closely huddled together in the synagogue building, and sobbing uncontrollably, the 2,500 Jews joined in prayers for their relatives whose fate is still unknown, and in giving thanks to the Lord for their liberation. Fearfully looking around to see who was still alive, they movingly embraced relatives and friends they had not seen for months.

The Jews in this city started to congregate in the synagogue out of damp cellars and dark closets immediately after the Germans evacuated Athens. By the first day after the German evacuation, about 200 Jews had warily made their way to the synagogue premises. Then, from hiding places in all parts of Athens, from nearby villages, and even from caves in the adjacent mountains, more gradually appeared.

As the Nazi evacuation became more complete, and the fact that they were leaving became more certain, old men with tears streaming from their eyes – both from emotion and from the unaccustomed sunlight – hobbled slowly to the synagogue. One by one, old men, young men, and young women gathered. The procession toward the temple swelled, straggled and then dwindled. There were no more.

Reverently and quietly they cleaned the synagogue. Nothing remained inside except the desecrated bare walls and the floor. Living quarters have now been set up as have offices and storerooms in the basement. It is the only home for most of the Athenian Jews today.

PLIGHT OF SURVIVING JEWS DESCRIBED; URGENT RELIEF NEEDED

In a city beset by horrible sufferings, the hunger and awful trials of this handful of Jews stands out in bitter relief. There are no more families – only the remnants of families. No one has a home. No one has a blanket. The clothes they wear are borrowed. The little food they have to eat was provided from the Greeks’ own meager rations. Most of the young people are tubercular.

For more than a year they have been in hiding. They left their homes, which the Nazis had thoroughly looted and then burned, and went to other neighborhoods where they were not known. They had no money and they could not work. They were not given bread ration cards. The men grew moustaches and beards for disguises in which they could go out to search for food.

Most of the young Jews had an active role in the resistance movement. The EAM (National Liberation Front) gave them jobs which did not require travelling through the city. This was done because the dangers in circulating through the city were great. The Gestapo trailed anyone suspected of being a Jew to the place where they lived. An entire Greek family giving refuge to a Jew was immediately killed.

Even though the Nazis offered rewards to those turning Jews over to them, not one was ever betrayed by the destitute Greeks, according to the Jews. Jews who were caught were sent to concentration camps and were tortured. A young man showed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency correspondent a letter his father had smuggled to him from a concentration camp. “My boy,” the father wrote, “we live, but it is not worth it.”

An old Jew, who had been in the same camp, smiled slowly as he told of a notorious young Nazi officer who had used metal whips against the Jews. The lash marks were still visible on the elderly Jew, who described the whipping he had received and how this Nazi shouted alternately at him “Jew, Capitalist — Jew, Communist.”

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