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Mico Alvo

My brother went down to Athens to take his exams for the Polytechnic in June 1942. They called us all to gather at Eleutherias Square [70] on 1st or 11th July, I don't remember the exact date. There many things happened... It was the first call for forced labor: to go and be drafted for labor. And the Germans transformed it into a feast. They had people photographing all around the balconies of the buildings that they had occupied. They would make you do gymnastic exercises; they would beat you up, two or three died from the beating. And they also had the women soldiers that were called 'Blitzmädchen.' This is a compound word: 'Mädchen' means lady and 'Blitz' means thunder. When we saw this happening we called my brother and told him, 'Don't come back to Thessaloniki.' And from that time on he stayed in Athens.
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Lily Arouch

In July 1942 an order came out that all Jewish males aged eighteen to forty- five had to gather up at Eleftheria Square. My father was quite clear from the beginning that he was against that and he refused to go. My mother was very scared because they were making known the penalties for not showing up. However, my father still refused. 

As I was the oldest daughter, they decided that I had to go and see what was happening. I was thirteen then. I left and went to Eleftheria Square which is surrounded on three sides with tall office buildings and the sea on the other; I went on a balcony of one of those buildings, along with many other people. I was too young and no one noticed me. I guess the people around me were all Christian.

The view was horrifying. It was a square full of men without tops or hats and the sun was burning hot. They had been lined up on the central side. The Germans were positioned in front of a big bank and they were making rounds and pointing at people. They would shout, 'you, you' and make them do cartwheels and hit them.

They forced them to stay there for many hours until the sun went down; they were standing since dawn and being tortured one after the other. I have to admit I was terrified and I went and told my father what I had seen, which made him refuse to go more firmly. I was proud that my father didn't go even though there was great propaganda against such behavior. Anyway they were all let free that night.
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Renée Molho

Solon stayed in Thessaloniki until the Germans decided to take measures against the Jews. Right after the gathering at Eleutherias Square in Thessaloniki, Solon left on a rowboat, saying, 'I am not staying here,' and went rowing to Evoia, and finally ended up in Athens, which was under Italian occupation. When those new instructions against the Jews were issued and all the Jews were put into the ghetto and later on, many left for the camps, our relationship suddenly ended.

However, in the meantime, from his return from the army until his departure for Athens, he was coming every evening to our place for a visit. We were staying at Brouffa Street with Aunt Rachelle, who had two boys and two girls. If you include us, there were five girls and the boys were, of course, rather happy to be in our company instead of going here and there. As our mother had recently died, they would come home and try to make us laugh. This is how I first met Solon and his behavior was very proper.
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Uncle Mario married Ida. Her father war a doctor, who had studied and had been trained in the Hospitals of Paris [les hôpitaux de Paris]. When they married they went to live in Paris with her parents but they didn't make it and came back to Thessaloniki. When they came back, Ida's parents followed them and her father was our family doctor and explained everything very nicely to us. I don't know what Uncle Mario did in France but here he was an expert in tobacco. They had a boy, Edward, and two girls, Renée and Lily Abravanel.

During the occupation they were not deported but were hiding in Athens. Edward had already died because during the gathering at Eleutherias Square [3] he got meningitis and died from it.

After the liberation they escaped to Israel hiding in a ship. But Uncle Mario, he was unlucky; he died in the ship and they threw him overboard. His daughters, however, got married in Israel and lived in the kibbutz Afikim.
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Maurice Leon

We had not yet understood what the German occupation was all about. They were not hurting the Jews yet. Until the day Germans decided to gather all Jews of Thessaloniki at Eleutherias Square [24]. And almost all Jews went there. I went, too. But when I saw the torturing under the sun, I said to myself that I wasn't going to stay any longer. At a moment that neither the Germans nor the Greek policemen were watching me, I stepped out of the line and ran towards a small alley and disappeared. As I learned later on, many were set free that day but they were called back again and were sent to forced labor camps [25].
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Moris Florentin

I am not sure how they informed us that this gathering in Eleutherias Square was happening but I think it was through the Jewish Community. During the war I didn’t think that the Jewish Community in Thessaloniki acted in the right way. The chief rabbi then was Koretsch, who was German but that wasn’t important. The problem was that he didn’t give good information to the Community members. He was telling them that it was going to be fine, they would just go to Poland to move there. He didn’t say anything about concentration camps or what might happen when they got there.

I don’t know why he did that but I thought that it was very mean of him because if he had leaked the right information that something bad was going to happen to them then maybe more Jewish people would have tried to save themselves. Some people said he knew the truth all along but I don’t know if that’s true, it might be.
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The first measure the Germans took targeted specifically against Jewish people was when all Jewish men of Thessaloniki had to gather in Eleutherias Square [7]. I went with my brother because we were within the age range, around twenty years old. I am not sure about my father; I think he didn’t come because he was considered too old. They made us do humiliating gymnastic exercises under the sun and then they assigned us to different places to do forced labor outside Thessaloniki.
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Moshe Burla

My father and I didn’t go to Eleutherias Square [in the summer of 1942] [16]. We were hiding at home. We urged others not to go either, but the Jews were following [Rabbi] Koretz, who was telling them, ‘We are Jewish, and we should go.
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