Fromer, cofounder of the Judah L. Magnes Memorial Museum in Berkeley, Calif., recounts one of the less-known episodes of the...

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THE HOUSE BY THE SEA: A Portrait of the Holocaust in Greece

Fromer, cofounder of the Judah L. Magnes Memorial Museum in Berkeley, Calif., recounts one of the less-known episodes of the Holocaust: the destruction of the vibrant Jewish community of Salonika, Greece. Fromer's tale focuses on one man in particular: Elias Aelion grew up in Salonika and its environs, the son of a comfortably self-reliant but not wealthy Jewish family. After working in the family's wine business, he served in the Greek army in its futile attempt to stave off the invading Germans at the outset of WWII. After that, he found himself forced into hiding along with many members of his family and his friends as the Nazis began to persecute Greek Jews. It wouldn't be until 1943 that the notorious Nuremberg racial laws would be put in force in Greece, and for a while Jews could still seek refuge in Athens, initially under Italian control. Aelion tells of shuttling back and forth between Athens and Salonika in a desperate effort to raise money for his many relatives to survive the occupation. When Italy surrendered, the Germans seized the remainder of Greece and soon there would be nowhere that Greek Jews could hide. Aelion recounts vividly his experiences hiding with guerrilla bands in the mountains and his eventual bittersweet return to Salonika at war's end. Salonika's Jewish population was devastated, 96 percent of them murdered in Auschwitz. Fromer has turned Aelion's story into a compulsively readable tale that moves swiftly between poignant memories of growing up in a warm and sometimes eccentric family and the suspense of hiding from the Nazi juggernaut. In a crowded field of Holocaust memoirs, this one has something a bit different to offer.

Pub Date: July 1, 1998

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Mercury

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998