To the families of the innocent people who lost their lives due to an unspeakable wrong in Parkland, Florida.
As a survivor of the invasion by Nazi forces, of my home country Greece in 1941, I grieve with you for your loss. I lost family too, in 1943, when they were captured and sent to concentration camps where they were killed. Perhaps we share an inability to comprehend what has occurred; there is confusion and no place to stand.
We are from different communities and different times and perhaps we can align with others like us who care, and through unity and effective actions, we can bring the day closer that these senseless deaths will be no more.
With my condolences,
My intention in writing this blog is to seek and to suggest solutions in contrast to perpetuating habituated hostility.
Yiannis Boutaris, the mayor of Thessaloniki, Greece, the city of my birth and the place where the events of my family’s story occurred, presented the following eloquent Foreword to the book. I present it to you here because it represents for me a declaration for a way of being that was demonstrated by the heroic citizens of Thessaloniki, Greece to whom the book is dedicated.
Mayor of Thessaloniki
This is more than a remarkable tale of survival against overwhelming odds. This is the story of courage, compassion, and character.
The story you’re about to read describes events in the lives of a single Jewish family who hid from Nazi persecution and escaped deportation on the trains to Auschwitz, defying the fate of about 56,000 Thessalonikan Jews.
The theme of man’s inhumanity to man runs throughout this book, and sadly we notice it in our lives today, even coming to accept it. In a sense, many of us have built resistance, an immunity, to taking action and serving those in need.
However, there are also many historic exceptions which exhibit honor and portray humanity’s higher values, and one of them is this story of heroism, personal risk, and sacrifice in our city during the Nazi occupation. These Greek heroes risked their lives and the lives of their children to protect this desperate family.
In addition to those in this story, many citizens in Thessaloniki saw what was happening and became Greek heroes, but not by choice. Acts of heroism are not born from deliberate, conscious thought but rather from the essence of a person’s character. Heroes become heroes because it is in their nature. In reality, the heroes you will see on these pages had no choice because they could do no other.
There was no choice between commitment and betrayal, no choice between character and barbarism, no choice between courage and cowardice. There was no choice, even, between life and death.
These great men and women of Thessaloniki are examples of the capacity for greatness in every one of us, living up to the best attributes of our humanity. Today we have similar opportunities to be moved by the suffering of others, to take action with courage and compassion and relieve their fear and torment.
As the mayor of Thessaloniki, I am proud of the many citizens who, in the past and again today, step forward to guide us through difficult times toward an uncertain future. Like the heroes in this story, we now have the opportunity to live more honorable and more charitable lives that express kindness and embrace compassion.
I offer you this message with my best wishes to all of you to take to heart the lessons in this story.
Mayor, Thessaloniki, Greece
Yom Hazikaron laShoah ve-laG'vurah or ”Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day"), known colloquially in Israel and abroad as Yom HaShoah and in English as Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Holocaust Day, is observed as Israel's day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of the actions carried out by Nazi Germany and its collaborators, and for the Jewish resistance in that period.
Learn more on these sites:
• The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
• Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
Andreas Algava is the author of 600 Days in Hiding.