The Holocaust in Greece
The indigenous Jewish communities of Greece represent the longest continuous Jewish presence in Europe. These communities, along with the Jews who settled in Greece after their expulsion from Spain, were almost completely destroyed in the Holocaust.
The Germans defeated the Greek army in the spring of 1941 and occupied Greece until October 1944. The country was divided into three zones of occupation: Bulgaria annexed Thrace and Yugoslav Macedonia; Germany occupied Greek Macedonia, including Thessaloniki, Piraeus, and western Crete; and Italy occupied the remainder of the mainland and the islands. Where Jews resided determined not only their subsequent fate but also their ultimate possibility of escape.
Greek resistance groups, both communist and noncommunist, battled the Axis occupiers in an effort to save not only Greece but also the Jews living there. Between 8,000 and 10,000 Greek Jews survived the Holocaust, due in large part to the unwillingness of the Greek people, including leaders in the Greek Orthodox Church, to cooperate with German plans for the deportation of Jews. In addition, Italian occupying authorities refused to facilitate or permit deportations from the Italian zone of occupation until Italy surrendered in September 1943.
Even though deportations did not start until March 1943, Greece lost at least 81 percent of its Jewish population during the Holocaust. Between 60,000 and 70,000 Greek Jews perished, most of them at Auschwitz-Birkenau.