SALONIKA '43 Script by
Script by Ferdinando Ceriani, Gian Paolo Cavarai, Antonio Ferrari. Musical director Evelina Meghnagi. Staging in the US directed by Alan Adelson.
Starring: Robert Zukerman, Lily Balsen, and Galeet Dardashti. The performance is in English. Presented by the Consulate General of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute in collaboration with Centro Primo Levi.
Introduction : Alessandro Cassin , Journalist and research and publication consultant for Centro Primo Levi
Opening Remarks: Consul General of Italy Francesco M. Talò Q & A and discussion following the play
“Salonika 1943” recounts the last years of the culturally unique, centuries-old Jewish community of Salonika through the eyes of an Italian diplomat who, in spite of Italy’s alliance to Germany and in fact taking advantage of it, struggles to save those he can. Stories of ordinary people are woven together with songs, legends and tales from the Jewish tradition, many containing prophetic premonitions of future horrors.
The play moves from the gradual concentration of the 54,000 Jews of Salonika inside a ghetto, into the horrific era of their deportation by the Germans to the death camps as the Italian Consul, Guelfo Zamboni, strives to limit the deportations through diplomatic channels. He hurriedly drew up “lists of life” of those Italian Jews for whom he could claim exception from the deportation orders even as the first trains were leaving for Birkenau.
The story – For many centuries before the Second World War, the city of Salonika was home to one of the largest and most important Jewish communities in Europe and the Mediterranean basin. In mid-July, 1942, the Germans forced 9,000 Jewish males of Greek citizenship between the ages of 18 and 45 to assemble in Liberty Square (Plateia Eleftheria), where they were registered for forced-labor assignments. Two thousand Jews were assigned into forced-labor projects for the German army. The German authorities demanded a ransom for the release of the Jews. The Jewish community collected money in Salonika and Athens and even sold the Jewish cemetery to raise the required sum. In February 1943, German authorities concentrated the Jews in two ghettos in Baron de Hirsch quarter of the city. Jews were concentrated in the western quarter, near the railway station, in preparation for impending deportations.
Between March and August 1943, the Germans deported more than 45,000 of the 54,000 Jews from Salonika to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. Most of the deportees were gassed on arrival. Fewer than 2,000 Jews remained in the city after the war. In the years, from 1941 to 1943, this ancient and vibrant Jewish community was destroyed.
At the beginning of 1943, Guelfo Zamboni was assigned the post of Italian Consul general in Salonika, the second largest city in Greece. During the next few months he saved the lives of 280 destined to Auschwitz, by issuing them false travel documents, which allowed them to be transferred to safety into Italian controlled areas.
Zamboni’s personal choices are all the more remarkable against the background of Jewish fates in other parts of Italian controlled Greece. For instance, in the island of Rhodes 1,700 Jews were arrested and deported to Auschwitz on July 23rd, 1944, only months before Greece was liberated.
Mark Mazower, Salonika City of Ghosts, New York, 2005
Steven Bowman, The Agony of Greek Jewry 1940-1945, 2009
Steven Bowman, “The Shoah in Salonika” in Randolph Braham, ed., The Holocaust: Essays and Documents, 2009, pp. 11-30.
Lidia Santarelli, “History versus Memory? A Discussion on Italian War Crimes in World War II” (Working papers, Italian Academy at Columbia University)
Rena Molho, “The Policy of Germany Against the Jews of Greece: the Extermination of the Jewish Community of Salonika (1941-1944)”, Review of the history of the Holocaust published by the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation, Paris, 2006
Lidia Santarelli, “Muted Violence: Italian War Crimes in Occupied Greece”, Journal of Modern Italian Studies, September 2004
Daniel Carpi (ed.), Italian Diplomatic Documents on the History of the Holocaust in Greece (1941-1943), 1999
Davide Conti, L‘Occupazione Italiana dei Balcani, Crimini di guerra e mito della “brava gente” (1940-1943)
Guelfo Zamboni was born in Santa Sofia, in the Romagna region of Italy, in 1897. During the Second World War he was Consul General of Italy in Salonika, Zambonis rescue efforts were described by his colleague, Lucillo Merci, in a diary and taken up by Daniel Carpi, an Israeli historian of Italian origin. In an essay published by the University of Tel Aviv, Carpi traced the two and a half years between the arrival of the Germans in 1941 and the almost total annihilation of the Jewish community in 1943. He based his report on documents found in the “Archives of the Council General of Italy in Salonika” at the Farnesina. In 1992, Guelfo Zamboni was honored with a medal from the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
About the cast and the director
Alan Adelson (director) is the Executive Director and founder of the Jewish Heritage Project. He works actively in both film and print, producing, directing and writing.
He produced and directed the widely praised Lifecycles of New York Jews reading series at the Center for Jewish History.
The classic Holocaust documentary film, “Lodz Ghetto,” which Adelson produced and co-directed was described as “spoken chamber music” by The New York Times. His investigative journalism as a page one writer for the Wall Street Journalwas nominated for the Meyer Berger Award for Distinguished Reporting.
Lily Balsen (The Woman) most recently performed the role of Thérèse in Thérèse Raquin at the Atlantic Stage 2 with PTP/NYC. Regional: A Bad Friend (Theater J), Perfect Pie and An Experiment with An Airpump,(Potomac Theatre Project), Monster (Rorschach Theater), Ancestor (Word for Word), Sera, Trojan Barbie (Cutting Ball). She holds a BA from Middlebury College and is currently studying in the Studio NY’s Acting Conservatory.
Robert Zukerman (Zamboni) has performed in pieces by Karl Kraus, James Joyce, Joseph Heller and others at the Center for Jewish History. His recent theatre work includes The Europeans (Potomac Theatre Project at the Atlantic Second Stage), The Puppetmaster of Lodz (Blue Heron and Mirth Theatres at the Arclight). He is looking forward to doing Eric Bogosian’s Sex, Drugs, Rocj & Roll at the Firehouse Theatre (Richmond, VA) in the spring. When not performing, he serves as Theatre Program Director at the New York State Council on the Arts.
Galeet Dardashti. As the granddaughter of Yona Dardashti, the most renowned singer of Persian classical music in Iran in his day, and daughter of highly esteemed cantor Farid Dardashti, Middle Eastern vocalist and composer Galeet Dardashti is the first woman in her family to continue her family tradition of distinguished Persian and Jewish musicianship. After performing in the US and Canada with The Dardashti Family from her childhood into her teenage years, Dardashti began her own independent musical pursuits. She has performed as a soloist both throughout the US and Israel, including significant cantorial work. As leader and vocalist of the edgy all-female Mizrahi band Divahn, Dardashti’s “sultry delivery spans international styles and clings to listeners long after the last round of applause” (Jerusalem Report). Her new acoustic/electronic solo project “The Naming,” supported by a Six Points Fellowship and a Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Fellowship, draws inspiration from the musical and cultural landscapes of the Middle East and some of the provocative yet unsung Biblical women.
Gian Paolo Cavarai (co-author) has been Italian Ambasador in Greece and Israel and is Diplomatic Advisor to the President of the Italian Republic.
Ferdinando Ceriani (Theater director/co-author) teaches at the Luiss University in Rome.
Antonio Ferrari (co-author) is correspondent for Greece and the Middle East for the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
This program is held under the auspices of the Consulate General of Italy and is made possible in part through the generous support of the Italian Cultural Institute, Joseph M. Mattone Sr., and the Alexander Bodini Foundation with additional contributions from Forest City Ratner, Atlantic Bank – A Division of New York Community Bank, HSBC Bank, Gartenstein Associates, and Muss Development Corp.
October 25-November 1, 1936 – Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy sign a treaty of co- operation. The Rome-Berlin Axis is announced.
April 7-15, 1939 – Fascist Italy invades and annexes Albania
June 10, 1940 Italy enters the war. Italy invades southern France on June 21 April 6, 1941-
June 1941 – Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria invade and dis- member Yugoslavia, which surrenders on April 17.
“Salonika 1943” recounts the last years of the culturally unique, centuries-old Jew- ish community of Salonika through the eyes of an Italian diplomat who, in spite of Italy’s alliance to Germany and in fact taking advantage of it, struggles to save those he can. Stories of ordinary people are woven together with songs, legends and tales from the Jewish tradition, many containing prophetic premonitions of future horrors.
The play moves from the gradual concentration of the 54,000 Jews of Salonika in- side a ghetto, into the horrific era of their deportation by the Germans to the death camps as the Italian Consul Guelfo Zamboni, strives to limit the deportations through diplomatic channels. He hurriedly drew up “lists of life” of those Italian Jews for whom he could claim exception from the deportation orders even as the first trains were leaving for Birkenau.
October 28, 1940 – Italy declares war on Greece
March 1941 – The Greeks defeat the Italian forces
April 6, 1941 – Germany and Bulgaria invade Greece in support of the Italians June 1941 – Greece surrenders. Greece is divided among the forces of the Axis: (1) The Italian Zone (Epirus, Ionian Islands, Greek territory from the Platona line south to the Peloponnese, and Athens). (2) The German Zone (Western and Central Macedonia, Eastern edge of Greek Thrace along Turkish border, Crete, the major Aegean Islands, and Salonika). (3) Bulgarian Zone (Thrace, Eastern Macedonia).
May 13, 1943 – German and Italian troops surrender in North Africa
July 10, 1943 – Allies land in Sicily
July 19, 1943 – Allies bomb Rome
July 22, 1943 – Americans capture Palermo, Sicily
July 25, 1943 – Mussolini is arrested and the Italian Fascist government falls; The king appoints Marshal Pietro Badoglio to negotiate with the Allies.
Aug 12-17, 1943 – Germans evacuate Sicily
Aug 17, 1943 – Allies reach Messina, Sicily
September 8, 1943 – The Badoglio government surrenders unconditionally to the Allies. The Germans seize control of Rome and northern Italy. On September 12, Mussolini is liberated by the Germans and, followed by those who had remained loyal to the Regime, establishes the Republic of Salò in Northern Italy, by the Garda Lake.