Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Remembering Jewish Salonica, 1941-44

by Isaac Matarasso ; translated by Pauline Matarasso

Pub Date: Aug. 25th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-4729-7588-1
Publisher: Bloomsbury Continuum

Three generations of a Jewish family centered in Salonica reveal their perspectives on the World War II German occupation, which decimated the religious enclave.

The primary elements of this unusually constructed text, “the first account of the Shoah available in Greek,” appeared in book form in 1948 in Athens, with the title translated into English as And Yet Not All Died. The author was Isaac Matarasso (1892-1958), a doctor who survived the German death camps through a variety of maneuvers, some of which he initiated, others of which can only be described as serendipity or blessed coincidences. As did so many others, Matarasso experienced horrific physical and psychological violence. According to his daughter-in-law, Pauline Matarasso (b. 1929)—the translator of the present volume, which includes contributions from other members of the family as well as additional “more personal pieces” that Isaac wrote—he suffered in ways he almost certainly never fully revealed. Isaac divides his detailed, searing account into three chronological phases: the “partial toleration” of the Germans, aided by turncoat Greeks; the absolute oppression, marked by forced labor and deprivation; and the deportation to the concentration camps: “The Jews were herded like cattle into a concentration camp, where the full range of Nazi brutalities was brought to bear, ending with the deportation of about 46,000 Jews out of the city’s population of 50,000, crammed into cattle trucks.” Isaac's son Robert (1927-1982) experienced some of the nightmare as a teenager, and his memories are included here in the form of passages from an uncompleted memoir he worked on decades after the invasion. Robert covers many of the same events as his father, but unlike Isaac, he wrote in a more intimate first-person voice. Some readers may be distracted by the fragmented nature of the narrative, but the resurrection and enhancement of the 1948 manuscript is a triumph.

A unique Holocaust memoir.