SALONIKA 1943 Script by FerdinandoCeriani,
Script by FerdinandoCeriani, Gian Paolo Cavarai, Antonio Ferrari.Musical director EvelinaMeghnagi. Staging in the US directed by Alan Adelson. Starring: Robert Zukerman, Lily Balsen, and GaleetDardashti. The performance is in English. Presented by the Consulate General of Italy and the Italian Cultural Institute in collaboration with Centro Primo Levi.
“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, GuelfoZamboni, 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 (PlateiaEleftheria), 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.
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 YadVashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.
Mark Mazower, Salonika City of Ghosts, New York, 2005
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Salonika at the United States Holocaust Museum
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Grecia 1943: queifascisti stile SS, di Enrico Arosio, L’Espresso
Davide Conti, L’OccupazioneItalianadeiBalcani, Crimini di guerra e mitodella “bravagente” (1940-1943)
Crimini di Guerra | Documentation site
Documentary on Mussolini’s war