Greece was attacked by Italy in late October 1940. In April 1941, the country was also invaded by German troops. With the Greek army defeated, the country remained under enemy occupation until October 1944. Greece was divided into three zones. Germany controlled parts of Greek Macedonia (including Thessaloniki), Thrace, Piraeus, and Crete. Bulgaria annexed Eastern Greek Macedonia and the rest of Thrace. Athens was jointly occupied by Germany and Italy. After Italy’s surrender in September 1943, all Italian-occupied regions came under German rule. The Red Army’s advance in late 1944 forced the Germans to withdraw from Greece. In October 1944, British troops entered Athens unopposed.

In 1941, Greece had a total population of approximately 7,370,000 inhabitants, up to 80,000 of whom were Jews. While there were Jewish communities in at least two dozen cities, the biggest one was in Thessaloniki, which totalled some 55,000 people. On 11 July 1942, all male Jews between 18 and 45 years old were gathered in one of the city’s squares and beaten and humiliated for hours. After their registration, thousands of them were subjected to forced labour. Three months later, after the payment of a huge ransom, they were released. In February 1943, the Jews were obliged to wear the Yellow Star and forced to move into two ghetto areas. Between March and August of that year, up to 46,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where most of them were murdered upon arrival. In the Italian zone, the Jews lived in relative safety until the Italian surrender to the Allies in September 1943. After the Germans took control of the Italian zone, almost all its Jews were also deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Jews from the territories under Bulgarian administration were deported to Treblinka in March 1943 following a Bulgarian-German agreement signed a month earlier. In total, less than twenty percent of the Greek Jews survived the Holocaust, with the highest percentage of victims from Thessaloniki and the Bulgarian occupation zone.

Archival Situation

In Greece, the General State Archives (GSA) are responsible for the preservation and promotion of Greek archival materials. Created in 1914 and controlled by the Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs, they now consist of a central service, 47 regional services and 16 local archives. The legal framework for them was laid down in 1946/1991. As in most countries, there are laws on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal and sensitive data (1991, 1997), and records may be restricted for a period of 30 years. In addition to the state archives, there are also collections in private archives and museums.

EHRI Research (Summary)

In Greece, EHRI has identified over 40 Holocaust-relevant repositories and has provided more than 90 archival descriptions for collections within these archives. Apart from the GSA, central and regional services, materials about Greek Jewry before and during the Second World War can be found in the Service of Diplomatic and Historical Archives of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Ypiresia Diplomatikou kai Istorikou Arheiou, YDIA) in Athens. Important collections on the Holocaust in Greece can also be found in archives in Thessaloniki and Athens, which were home to the two central Jewish communities before and after the Second World War. The important Records of the Central Agency for the Custody of Jewish Property (Archeio tis Ypiresias Diacheirisis Israilitikon Periousion, YDIP), which regulated the expropriation of Jewish businesses in Greece during the war, are kept in the Archives of the Jewish Museum of Greece in Athens. The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki (General Communal Archives) holds the declarations of finances and property completed by its members prior to their deportation to Auschwitz in 1943. A collection of correspondence between different Greek Jewish communities and Greek authorities concerning the restitution of property is held in the Archive of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece in Athens.

EHRI Research (Extensive)

A. EHRI approach to Greece: Pre-existing research, third-party surveys, available archival guides, and expert support

When EHRI began its work, a number of studies on the Holocaust in Greece were available, such as Hagen Fleischer’s Crown and Swastika: Greece during the Occupation and the Resistance, 1941-1944 (1995) and Steven Bowman’s The Agony of Greek Jews (2009). Other important works on the subject include a number of publications which are available only in Greek:

  • [2012] Varon-Vassard, Odette, I Analysi Mias Dyskolis Mnimis. Keimenagiati Genoktonia ton Evraion [The emergence of a difficult memory: Essays on the Jewish Genocide], Athens, Hestia Publishers, 2012,
  • [2009] Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (eds), Young people in the maelstrom of occupied Greece: The Persecution and Holocaust of the Jewish People (1943-1944), Athens, Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece & General Secretariat for Youth 2009,
  • [2002] Bowman, Steven B. & Benmayor, Isaac (eds), The Holocaust in Salonika: Eyewitness accounts, New York, Sephardic House, 2002,
  • [1998] Constantopoulou, Photini, and Thanos Veremis, Castaniotis Th. (eds.), Documents on the History of the Greek Jews: Records from the Historical Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Athens, Kastaniotis Editions, 1998,
  • [1998] Abatzopoulou, Frangiski, To Olokaftomastis Martyries ton Ellinon Evraion [The Holocaust in the Testimonies of Greek Jews], Thessaloniki, Paratiritis editions, 1998,
  • [1997] Matsas Michael, The Illusion of Safety. The story of Greek Jews during the Second World War, New York, Pella 1997,
  • [1993] Mazower, Mark, Inside Hitler’s Greece: The Experience of Occupation 1941–1944, Yale University Press, 1993,
  • [1990] Dalven, Rae, The Jews of Ioannina, Philadelphia, Cadmus Press, 1990,
  • [1988] Benviniste Rika (editor), Oi Evraioi tis Elladasstin Katohi [The Jews of Greece during the German Occupation], Thessaloniki, Vanias Editions, 1988,
  • [1986] Novitch, Miriam, Le passage des Barbares. Contribution a l’histoire de la Deportation et de la Resistance des Juifs Grecs, Nice, Presses du Temps Present 1967 (published in Greek 1986),
  • [1974] Molho Michael & Joseph Nehama, In memoriam: hommage aux victimes juives des Nazis en Grece, Nikolaides Thessaloniki 1948 (published also in Greek, Thessaloniki 1974).

It is also worth mentioning the 16-volume series Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland 1933-1945, in particular volume 14, which focuses on occupied southeast Europe and Italy. This series is co-published by EHRI-partner Institute for Contemporary History Munich-Berlin (Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin, IfZ). A translation of the series into English under the title The Persecution and Murder of European Jews by Nazi Germany, 1933–1945 is currently under preparation with the cooperation of Yad Vashem.

The GSA has an online catalogue, Arxeiomnimon (2013): Containing some seven million pages of documents it allows navigation through parts of the archival collections originating from 37 GSA agencies (the central service and 36 branches). It should be noted that while the metadata fields are provided in English, the actual descriptions are in Greek. Furthermore, those agencies and materials not included in Arxeiomnimon as of yet are either uncatalogued, or published in Greek-language finding aids or index cards stored in the reading rooms of the respective branches. These published finding aids and index cards, however, are less standardized than the online database.

The Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive, better known as E.L.I.A. (part of the National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation, M.I.E.T.) also has an extensive online Greek language catalogue which meets international metadata standards:

Another useful online resource is the Database of Greek-Jewish Holocaust Survivors’ Testimonies, which has built up a vast collection of audio and visual testimonies from Greek Jews who survived the Holocaust. The database is a virtual archive that systematically brings together testimonies from repositories in Greece and abroad, public and private collections, collected in different languages and places, at different times. EHRI started its identification and investigation work for data integration on Greece from researcher interviews carried out by the “user requirements” for the project. By linking data integration and user requirements, EHRI aims to ensure that the EHRI Portal will attract historians, archivists, and the general public, and that it identifies the data that researchers hope to find on the EHRI Portal, in order to generate more interest and offer more meaningful content and format. Researchers of the Holocaust in Greece interviewed by EHRI were asked to suggest further researchers specialized in Holocaust history in Greece to participate in an EHRI workshop on data integration and Holocaust research in Greece, which took place in December 2012. Four representatives of archival institutions in Greece, three graduate students, two junior and two senior researchers participated in the workshop.

The purpose of the workshop was to receive expert feedback on this list and further complete EHRI’s overview of the archival institutions and identify Holocaust-related collections within the institutions. EHRI also needed to better understand the format of the metadata and detect where further surveying was necessary. The overall goal was to create a state-of-the-art report of identified Holocaust-related sources in Greece and to add this information to the EHRI portal, as much as possible via the technical Work Packages (as opposed to manually entering the information into the portal).

The Greek workshop has had multiple benefits for EHRI as it has helped ensure that the content fits the user. It was a time-efficient identification method which avoided duplication of work. At the same time, it was an investment in smooth communication with future Portal users. We found that the EHRI Portal can support Holocaust-research in Greece by improving access to information about the materials, be it awareness about and location of repositories or identifying relevant collections within repositories. Engaging with the research community can help EHRI further enrich the data by annotating and adding it to the portal. A second important role for EHRI can be to reach out to the institutions and offer them tools and a platform to share the information about their holdings to the research community.

B. Characteristics of the Greek archival system and specific challenges

A major challenge in Greece is that there are an unknown number of materials which remain largely invisible. As a consequence, there is no indication about their existence online and there is a huge (digital) description backlog, which requires thorough identifying and inventorying. As a consequence, uncatalogued materials remain hidden.

Finding aids are often only consultable at the repository itself. The limited amount of online information and locally available cataloguing systems make access to the physical materials time consuming, often costly, and inefficient (a research trip is hard to prepare).

Another challenge concerns receiving permission for consultation. Access to public archives in Greece often requires an application procedure before any access is granted. Two laws regulate the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal and sensitive archives (1991 and 1997). The time limit for keeping records restricted was reduced from fifty to thirty years (although there is room for flexibility in certain cases). In some cases it is not possible or there are limits to taking photographs as well as making scans or photocopies. Sometimes, a reading room’s lack of capacity can be an issue.

At the Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not all archives can be made publicly accessible for reasons of national security, among others. Moreover, there has been at least one case where a collection of documents concerning the Holocaust was removed from the original collections and was put in one separate collection, leading to a loss of context.

Another issue pertains to the destruction of archives. The destruction of archives does not only apply to Holocaust archives, but has included sources Holocaust-related sources. For example, the archives of the Greek Agency for War Crimes, which was founded in the autumn of 1945, were totally destroyed in 1975. In some cases, materials have been scanned before destruction. The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, which engages in such digitization projects, has preserved certain sources in this way.

Yet another challenge is that material is in the possession of private organisations which do not necessarily consider themselves archival institutions. These archives are hard to locate and often remain “hidden treasures”. Being able to share the knowledge on the mere existence of these hidden treasures by entering or annotating them to the EHRI portal could already be a major step forward for Greek Holocaust research, especially at the local level, in Jewish community archives.

C. EHRI identification and description results

C.I. In Greece

In Greece, EHRI identified 43 Holocaust-relevant repositories, and was able to present 96 archival descriptions by December 2018. While many archival institutions can be found, predictably, in the country’s capital, Athens, important collections are also held by regional branches of the General State Archives (GSA), especially in Greece’s northern regions, i.e. in Central Macedonia, as well as in Eastern Macedonia and Thrace.

The largest institution for EHRI’s purposes in Greece, the General State Archives (National Archives of Greece, GSA), are the national institution responsible for the preservation and promotion of the Greek archival materials. The institution was created in 1914 and its operation is organized by law. The Greek State Archives consist of a central service, 47 regional services and 16 local archives. Based on the location of the wartime Jewish communities in Greece – in at least 27 cities according to the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece (2009) – researchers will have to visit different GSA branches if they wish to consult archives relating to particular communities. It is also important to keep in mind that a large amount of the material in the GSA remains non-digital and not all the digitized materials have been included in Arxeiomnimon yet.

In March 2008, all branches of the GSA were asked to provide an overview of collections and documents related to the history of the Jews in Greece and the Holocaust in order to prepare the survey work of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). The responses were rather limited: fifteen to twenty local offices submitted such a report, which varied from a short note confirming there is such material available to an overview of records. These overviews have served as orientation tools for EHRI’s work in Greece.

Beyond the GSA’s collections, the Jewish Museum of Greece (JMG) conserves more than 2,000 artefacts, including books and pamphlets, periodicals, maps, documents, manuscripts (personal notes, correspondence, memoires, diaries, etc.), false IDs, personal objects, ritual objects, jewellery, textiles and costumes, clothing, badges, armbands, numismatics (coins, banknotes, stock certificates) and an art collection. The JMG’s Holocaust archive includes records of the Central Agency for the Custody of Jewish Property (the Ypiresias Diacheirisis Israilitikon Periousion, Y.D.I.P. archive), the Ο.Π.Α.Ι.Ε archive (O.P.A.I.E., the Heirless Property and Jewish Rehabilitation Fund), private and personal archives which include material pertinent to the Shoah, the JMG Archive of Oral Testimonies and a Photographic Archive. The JMG’s Holocaust Photographic Archive has a rich and expanding collection of photographic images spanning from the pre-war period to the early 1950s. The broad subject areas, each including several subcategories, capture Jewish life before, during and after the Second World War and the Holocaust. An extensive number of document scans and photographs of the museum’s collection have been uploaded in Judaica Europeana.

While EHRI has identified a considerable number of archives and institutions with Holocaust-relevant collections, many others are yet to be located. For example, the location of the Police and Army Archives remains unknown. The same goes for sources relating to two concentration camps in Greece where Jews were imprisoned. Archival documentation on their presence is currently missing. In other cases, EHRI is aware of the existence of archives that are likely to hold Holocaust-related materials, but is yet to ascertain the significance of their collections. Archives and institutions that fall under this category include: the Chamber of Commerce, the Court House and other juridical archives; municipal archives; church archives (for example: the archives of the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church); Communist Party Archives; Red Cross Archives; public and private company archives (electricity, water, port companies); and private collections kept in museums, at home, or in private institutions.

In addition to the identification of the relevant repositories, EHRI has also found that certain archives, which were originally thought to hold Holocaust-related materials, do not in fact have such material. For example, it was found that not all municipal archives of cities with a Jewish community during the Second World War, had kept their collections, but had transferred them to local GSA branches.

C. II. In other countries

Outside of Greece, archives and collections relevant to the period of the Holocaust in Greece can be found in a number of countries, some of which are partially covered by Holocaust-relevant archival guides. For Germany, for instance, there is Irith Dublon-Knebel’s overview German Foreign Office Documents on the Holocaust in Greece (2007), while for Italy, there are collections of documents edited by Daniel Carpi, Italian Diplomatic Documents on the History of the Holocaust in Greece (1941-1943), Tel Aviv, Diaspora Research Center-Tel Aviv University, 1999.

In Germany, relevant archival holdings are located at the Political Archive of the German Foreign Office in Berlin, the Federal Archives-Department Military Archives in Freiburg, the Federal Archives-The Central Office for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes in Lundwigsburg, and the Arolsen Archives. Finally, in Bulgaria archival holdings can be found at the Central State Archives in Sofia and the Central Military Archives in Veliko Turnovo.

In the United States, relevant archival holdings are located at the National Archives in Washington DC, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York, the Visual History Archive/USC Shoah Foundation in Los Angeles, the American Joint Distribution Committee Archives in New York, and the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Sterling Memorial Library (Yale University). A special note needs to be made about copies of the archives of the following Greek Jewish communities which were copied and made available for research at USHMM, but remain largely inaccessible for research in Greece itself for various reasons (including lack of resources). USHMM has completed its digitization in Larissa and Chalkida; digitization has been started in Volos, Ioannina, and Trikala; digitization may continue in Athens, Corfu and Rhodes.

In Israel, relevant archival holdings are located at the Yad Vashem Archives in Jerusalem, the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem, the Hagana History Archives in Tel Aviv, the Ghetto Fighters’ House Archives in Galilee, and the Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Oral History Division (Hebrew University).

In England, relevant archival holdings are located at the National Archives in Kew; in Spain, at the Archives of the Spanish Foreign Office in Madrid; in Switzerland, at the International Committee of the Red Cross Archives in Geneva; and in Austria, at the Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation (known as Centropa) in Vienna.