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Journal of Modern Greek Studies, May 1984 The Holocaust in Janina1 Rachel Dalven When Greece surrendered to the Axis powers in April 1941, Janina, capital of the province of Epirus, came under the Italian zone of occupation . There were 1950 Jews living in Janina at that time, most of whom resided inside the kastro ('fortress'). Those who lived outside of the kastro had homes in the newer sections of Janina: Megale Rouga, Leivadioti, Vakoufia and Boustania. Some few had homes built near the mall fronting the Janina lake, renowned in antiquity as Lake Pambotis. The largest number of Jews were laborers, employees in stores or itinerant peddlers. None of them had any relatives living in the villages who could assist them economically, or offer diem refuge in time of danger. Of the five hundred families living in Janina in 1940, only about seventy were storekeepers. Many older people lived on the contributions sent by relatives or philanthropic organizations in America. What made the majority of the Jewish inhabitants of Janina particularly vulnerable to outside danger was their insulated way of life, even within the community itself. Class distinctions were sharp; there was little communication between the classes for an exchange of opinion or the sharing of ideas. Their contacts wim the Christian population on a social level were limited. As for the Jewish Council of Janina, the elected, five-member governing body representing the community , that too was ineffective. Independendy run, it had litde contact with other Jewish communities inside or outside Greece. Very few Janina Jews were aware of the fate of Jews in other countries occupied by the Germans. From the 1947 report of Shaemus Eliasaf who found refuge in Athens in 1943, and was elected President of the Jewish Council of 1I spent four summers (1936-39) in Janina, to learn something of my roots. This is the city where both my parents and grandparents were born; I also had a number of close relatives living in Janina. I returned to Janina in die summer of 1947, to discover what had happened to the Jewish community during the German occupation of that city. 87 88 Rachel Dalven Janina after the war, I learned that soon after the Italian occupation of the city in 1941, Dr. Moses Coffina, physician and then President of the Jewish Council of Janina, and the merchant Sabethai Cabilli, Vice-President of the Council, paid the Italian officer in charge a visit to assess the attitude of the Italian invaders toward me Jews.2 "As long as we are in authority here, ' ' the Italian officer assured them, "you have nothing to fear. You will have cause to fear only after the German SS arrive and Greeks start to collaborate with the Germans . 3 According to Eliasaf, the Italians took no measures against the Jews. They granted permits to any Jews who wanted to leave for Athens. However, of all who did receive permits, and many did, only about forty or fifty actually abandoned their homes and shops to hide with Greek friends in Athens when the road was still open to escape. Some of those who had left for Amens while the Italians were still in authority, returned to Janina, thinking it safer for them to be in their native city while it was still occupied by the Italians. "Athens was occupied by both the Italians and the Germans," Eliasaf explained. Only one disturbing incident occurred in the Jewish community of Janina during the Italian occupation. Nissim Batish, one of the richest merchants in Janina, often took trips to Athens with his son-inlaw . On one of these trips, Batish and his son-in-law were accused and tried for carrying gold liras hidden in a basket covered over with layers of figs. Carrying money out of the city was prohibited. However, at the end of the trial, the Italian tribunal found Batish and his son-inlaw innocent and set them free. Some Janina Jews formed a resistance group known as EPON* and fought in the mountains with other partisans. Twenty-two others joined the EAM,5 the ELAS6 and EDES.7 Still another group of Janina Jewish youth who had escaped to Athens...


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pp. 87-103
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