Rena and her family were Romaniot Jews, a group that had lived in Greek cities and the Balkans for more than 1,100 years. The town of Preveza, located on the Ionian seashore, had 300 Jews. Rena's father had a small textile shop and her mother stayed at home to care for Rena, her sister and her three brothers.
1933-39: When we moved to the nearby town of Ioannina, I completed Jewish primary school there. The school was sponsored by the French organization Alliance Israelite Universelle, and I learned French, Greek and Hebrew, as well as mathematics, history and social studies. By the time I began secondary school in 1933, my parents moved back to Preveza. In Preveza I studied at a Greek public school.
1940-44: The Germans invaded Greece in 1941, but Preveza was not occupied until March 1943. One year later, we were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Poland. My parents were sent directly to the gas chamber. My brothers were sent to work at the crematorium, and I to dig ditches. One Sunday when we didn't have to work I asked the head of my block, a Polish Jew, if I could visit my brothers at their nearby barracks. Infuriated, she snarled at me and slapped me in the face. Several weeks later, all of my brothers were killed.