David P. Boder Interviews Eda Button; August 5, 1946; Paris, France

  • David Boder: [In English] This is Spool 9-26 A and B. Apparently, the end which was on Spool 27 has been combined here with 26. This has to be checked again. October 22nd, 1950. Boder.
  • David Boder: July 5th 1946. [The correct date is August 5th.] Number 9 Rue Guy Patin. A home for adult displaced persons. Some the Jewish . . .
  • David Boder: [In German] So, tell me. What is your name, Mrs. Button?
  • Eda Button: Speak German?
  • David Boder: In German.
  • Eda Button: My name is Eda Button. I was deported from Athens in, eh, April '44.
  • David Boder: And where were you deported?
  • Eda Button: I was deported to, eh, Bergen-Belsen.
  • David Boder: Yes. So, tell me, eh, where is your husband?
  • Eda Button: My husband ran awa—, he was, in, eh, Palestine, in Tel Aviv.
  • David Boder: Is he now in Tel Aviv?
  • Eda Button: No. When I was deported, my husband ran away in Turkey and from Turkey in, eh, Palestine.
  • David Boder: Yes. And, eh, is he now in Tel Aviv in Palestine?
  • Eda Button: My husband is in Tel Aviv in Palestine.
  • David Boder: Do you receive letters from him?
  • Eda Button: Yes, I receive. And I'm waiting my permit . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Eda Button: . . . to travel to Palestine with my child.
  • David Boder: Aha. Is this the only child that you have?
  • Eda Button: The only child. From age 11 months I left him in, eh, [Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul?] in, eh, Saloniki.As will be made clear later in the interview, Mrs. Button had an infant daughter who was cared for by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, a congregation of nuns devoted to active charitable works. At the time of the interview her daughter was still her only child.1
  • David Boder: Yes. And who returned the child to you now?
  • Eda Button: The Sister, the Superieur of [Saint-Vincent?] of de Paul personally brought my child by plane from, eh, Saloniki to here. Because my child was ill and weak.
  • David Boder: Yes [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: So, eh, tell me, eh, Mrs. Button. eh, tell me the whole story. How were you deported? How did everything begin when the Germans came to Greece. Are you Spanish?
  • Eda Button: I am Spanish, I was, eh, Greek, from, eh, from Greece.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: My husband was Greek, but when I was a girl, I was Spanish.Most of the approximately 4,000 Jews of Spanish origin living in German occupied territories under Spanish diplomatic protection had received this status before World War I. Presumably this applied to Mrs. Button's parents as well because she indicates that "when I was a girl, I was Spanish" having received this citizenship from her parents.2
  • David Boder: As a girl you were Spanish.
  • Eda Button: I was Spanish. And then we
  • David Boder: Were you born in Spain?
  • Eda Button: No, no. I was born in Saloniki, in Greece.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And we, eh, divorcé . . .
  • David Boder: You divorced.
  • Eda Button: . . . divorced with my husband in order to get Spanish nationality to not, eh, deport, eh, to Germany.
  • David Boder: Yes, why? Was your husband of Spanish nationality?
  • Eda Button: My husband was Greek.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: Greek nationality and he had to go to, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, and why did you have to divorce, then?
  • Eda Button: Because we were once told in, eh, Greece that the Spanish and the Italians didn't want to be, eh, deported . . .
  • David Boder: Hmhm.
  • Eda Button: [correcting herself] wouldn't be deported.
  • David Boder: Aha. So you divorced . . .
  • Eda Button: [interrupting] . . . divorced
  • David Boder: . . . your husband and you became Spanish, eh, again.
  • Eda Button: Spanish again.By reinstating her Spanish citizenship as an adult, Mrs. Button became one of the 640 Spanish protected citizens in Greece. Since her husband had Greek citizenship, he could not become "Spanish again."3
  • David Boder: But tell me, eh, you didn't divorce of other reasons?
  • Eda Button: No, no, only for this.
  • David Boder: Only for this.
  • Eda Button: For this reason, in order to save my child.
  • David Boder: Yes. Now, let the child, eh, tell or sing us something, let's see.
  • Eda Button: Do you know something you'd like to sing? Something short.
  • Eda Button: [Mother sings a song. The child sings to the tune of the German children's song "Drei Chinesen mit dem Kontrabass." She sings in French]
  • David Boder: [In English] Sing something else with your mother together. Sing something else with your mother together, huh?
  • Eda Button: [Child and mother sing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" in Greek. The child sings a children's song to the tune of "She'll be Coming Round the Mountain" in Greek]
  • David Boder: [In German] The child underwent surgery this week? What was she treated for?
  • Eda Button: For the tonsils and for the nose.
  • David Boder: Oh, she was treated for the tonsils and for the nose. They took out the adenoids.
  • Eda Button: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • David Boder: [addressing someone in the room] Eh, send her up, please. Eh . . .
  • David Boder: Tell me, Mrs. Button. So when did they begin to persecute the Jews in Greece?
  • Eda Button: They really began in '42.The Germans conquered Salonika on April 9, 1941 and almost immediately confiscated Jewish apartments and looted Sephardic Jewish libraries with their great cultural treasures. The next fourteen months were relatively quiet, but beginning in the summer of 1942 persecution increased as some 2,000 Jewish males from Salonika were taken for forced labor. By October,1942, 250 had died.4
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: Because we had to go into, eh, into, eh, ghetto.
  • David Boder: Did they have a ghetto in Greece?
  • Eda Button: Yes, at the end of '42.In early February 1943, a special SS contingent came to Salonkia to enforce the Nazis' so-called racial laws. Jews had to wear a yellow star, were forbidden to use public transportation and were forced to move into a ghetto, where living conditions immediately became difficult.5
  • David Boder: In which city was that?
  • Eda Button: In Saloniki.
  • David Boder: And what was your husband's profession?
  • Eda Button: My husband was a lawyer.
  • David Boder: Your husband was a lawyer [together] in Saloniki. Where did he study?
  • Eda Button: At, eh, university. Greek university in Saloniki and Athens.
  • David Boder: He studied at the Greek university in Saloniki and Athens and he was a lawyer.
  • Eda Button: Yes.
  • David Boder: Uh, and how long had you been married when they, until when the Germans arrived?
  • Eda Button: I was married, eh, '39, eh, on October 22, '39.
  • David Boder: Married.
  • Eda Button: And a year . . .
  • David Boder: [he interrupts] Yes?
  • Eda Button: . . . a year later the Germans already arrived.
  • David Boder: Yes, and when was your child born?
  • Eda Button: My child was born in '42, May '42.
  • David Boder: The child was born in May '42. Now, tell me, eh, when, eh, did the Germans arrive and what did the Germans order the Jews to do?
  • Eda Button: They ordered that we leave our houses, leave all our furniture and that we have to go in, eh, ghetto. They marked several streets with, eh, how do you call it, with stars . . .
  • David Boder: Uh, with
  • Eda Button: with, eh, Magen David [Star of David] . . .
  • David Boder: Yes with Magen David.
  • Eda Button: with Magen David. And we ha—, we couldn't go out of these streets. There were police everywhere.
  • David Boder: Yes, but . . .
  • Eda Button: And we also have to wear the stars.
  • David Boder: And you also have to wear the stars. Now. Who did the houses in these streets belong to?
  • Eda Button: The, eh, the Jews. Mostly Jews and also Greeks.
  • David Boder: It was a Jewish quarter?
  • Eda Button: Yes, a Jewish quarter.
  • David Boder: Were the Greek evicted from there?
  • Eda Button: No, there were also Greek . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Eda Button: . . . but especially Jew and the Jews couldn't go into the shop. And my husband was, had to leave his, eh, office . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . and he had to stay in, eh, at home all the time.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Eda Button: At twelve o'clock, everyone had to be, eh, in the house.
  • David Boder: Yes. Now. And what did you live on, then?
  • Eda Button: On, eh, what we had. Our things, the things that we had salvaged, we sold that for the Greeks, for, eh, for not, eh . . .
  • David Boder: For very little.
  • Eda Button: . . . for very little, eh . . .
  • David Boder: And that's . . .
  • Eda Button: . . . what you lived on.
  • David Boder: . . . what you lived on.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And we have to be in a room with four, four people.
  • David Boder: Why? Four, eh, men and women together?
  • Eda Button: Yes, yes.
  • David Boder: And in one room. Did you, how many beds did you have?
  • Eda Button: One could sleep in the lower bunk in one room, in bed [unintelligible]. One family in one room.
  • David Boder: Yes. And when was the child born?
  • Eda Button: My child had already been born.
  • David Boder: Ah.
  • Eda Button: Had eleven months then.
  • David Boder: The child was eleven months old when you went into the ghetto. Well now. And when did you decide to divorce your husband?
  • Eda Button: [clears her throat] When my child was 10 months old . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . my husband was a lawyer, and he had said, when, when, eh, they told us then, that the Spanish and the Italians . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: coul—, weren't deported.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And my husband as a lawyer had thought, we should decide . . .Translator's Note: She is confusing the German verbs "divorce" (scheiden) and "decide" (entscheiden) that sound very similar and share the same root.6
  • David Boder: [correcting her] Divorce.
  • Eda Button: . . . decide. And in this way I would become Spanish again. And I could rescue my fortune, how does one say?
  • David Boder: Your [unintelligible]. What, you could what?
  • Eda Button: My fortune, my property . . .
  • David Boder: Your property, yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . rescue your property . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . and also my child.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: But, eh, we have to . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupts] And when you divorced, did you live together then?
  • Eda Button: No. Not with my husband but only for other papers.It is unclear as to which papers Mrs. Button might be referring. Perhaps they were some sort of false papers for her husband.7
  • David Boder: Only other papers. And did that help?
  • Eda Button: That did not help.
  • David Boder: That did not help.
  • Eda Button: My husband had to go away, to run away . . .
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Eda Button: . . . because at the time we needed, they asked for 24 million for rescuing three.Mrs. Button might mean rescue by Greek smugglers who would have attempted to transport them to a location of greater safety.8
  • David Boder: 24 million drachmas.
  • Eda Button: Million drachmas.
  • David Boder: 24 million . . .
  • Eda Button: Million drachmas they asked from us, eh . . .
  • David Boder: . . . asked for rescuing you.
  • Eda Button: . . . asked for rescuing three people. My husband and myself and my little child.
  • David Boder: Well, did you have the money?
  • Eda Button: No, we had no money. What I had, it was a house and, eh, terre—how does one say?
  • David Boder: And land.
  • Eda Button: And land. And I couldn't, I had no money.
  • David Boder: I see, eh.
  • Eda Button: And then my husband ran away into the mountain [unintelligible], my child was rescued by an Italian woman, she left my child in the church.
  • David Boder: What do you mean, left in the church?
  • Eda Button: She, she came at six o'clock in the evening. She took my child. She put a, a piece of paper on the, eh . . .
  • David Boder: On the chest
  • Eda Button: . . . on the chest, that her name is Gilbelle and she is Catholic and she put a small croix, how does one say?
  • David Boder: A cross.
  • Eda Button: A cross and something that, that we may, eh, reconnaître the child, that we may see . . .
  • David Boder: Yes that you might, eh, recognize the child.
  • Eda Button: . . . might recognize.
  • David Boder: What did she put on it so that you might recognize the child?
  • Eda Button: She place—, eh, she put a piece of paper. And she wrote Gilbette [The name is unclear and could be either "Gilbelle" or "Gilbette"], Catholic, the loving God please help her, please rescue her. And a small cross and something so that we might, eh, recognize the child.
  • Eda Button: Recognize. What did she put in so that you should recognize the child?
  • Eda Button: A, eh, how does one say?
  • David Boder: Locket?
  • Eda Button: A locket, yes.
  • David Boder: A locket.
  • Eda Button: But one piece was missing.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Eda Button: And I had the piece.
  • David Boder: Alright, and you had the piece.
  • Eda Button: The piece.
  • David Boder: Was it a piece of metal?
  • Eda Button: Metal, yes.
  • David Boder: And you broke off the piece of metal and took it with you?Mrs. Button had no way of knowing if she would ever see her baby daughter again, but should she one day be able to search for her the missing piece of the locket would help Mrs. Button identify her child.9
  • Eda Button: Yes.
  • David Boder: And then she simply left the child in the church?
  • Eda Button: Left her in the church. But she had already agreed with the Superieur of the [of Saint-Vincent?] of de Paul, of this, eh, couvent . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, of the convent, yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . convent. And the child was left in the church at six o'clock, and the woman ran away, and then they took the child.
  • David Boder: I see. And then, eh, what happened to you?
  • Eda Button: [clearing her throat] I went into hiding for three months.
  • David Boder: Oh, you went away from the ghetto?
  • Eda Button: From the ghetto.
  • David Boder: Your husband had left, and your child was cared for by the sisters, and you went into hiding. Yes.
  • Eda Button: And all the Greeks of Saloniki were deported.
  • David Boder: All Greek Jews.
  • Eda Button: All Greek Jews. Every two, three days, there was, were, eh, deportations.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: From [unintelligible, perhaps "Baldad"?]. That is a camp there . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . in, eh, Germany, in Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: In Auschwitz.
  • Eda Button: Auschwitz.Close to 44,000 Jews were deported from Salonika to Auschitz-Birkenau from March 20 to August 18, 1943. Most were gassed upon arrival.10
  • David Boder: And then, when were you arrested again? You went into hiding?
  • Eda Button: I went into hiding for three months.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: Then a Greek came. And I talked to my [unintelligible]. I sold everything, I gave him money and he [unintelligible] me with Greek papers, Greek . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: he took me, so that I was his wife, and then we walked from Saloniki to AthensAthens was then under the relatively benevolent rule of Fascist Italy which was allied with Nazi Germany at the time. Several thousand Jews from Salonika sought and found refuge in Athens, among them Mrs. Button. At the time, she had not yet received her Spanish citizenship papers so she feared deportation.11 we, eh, from village to village by, eh, horse and that is how . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: Twenty days from Saloniki to Athens.
  • David Boder: On foot.
  • Eda Button: On foot.
  • David Boder: How long does it take to drive from Saloniki to Athens?
  • Eda Button: A day.
  • David Boder: And you drove for twenty days?
  • Eda Button: Twenty days.
  • David Boder: And he was a Christian Greek?
  • Eda Button: A Christian Greek.
  • David Boder: Well, and that is how he took you with him, and then you came to Athens.
  • Eda Button: Came to Athens. In Athens, in Athens was occupied by the Italians. And the Italians didn't do the same that was done in Saloniki.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: They didn't apply martial law..
  • David Boder: Yes. So you were in Athens [unintelligible]. Yes. What happened in Athens?
  • Eda Button: In Athens, I found my sister, who had been living there for years.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Eda Button: And, eh, I stayed there, and, eh, four days later my husband came from the mountain, in order to, to receive news of me and my child.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Eda Button: He found me there. And he, eh, knew that my child remained there to the Catholic . . .
  • David Boder: Convent.
  • Eda Button: . . . and my husband was very ill and for that reason they brought him from the mountain in Athens and for two months he, eh, stayed in hospital.
  • David Boder: Yes. And then?
  • Eda Button: And then I, because I had no papers, I wasn't, not yet Spanish.
  • David Boder: And the Greek man who had taken you, left?
  • Eda Button: He left, and I signed him a paper that after the war I still wanted to give him five, eh, ten [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Yes, hmhm.
  • Eda Button: And he is, he, he was, he left me and he went away.
  • David Boder: Yes, hmhm.
  • Eda Button: And then I, we, I, eh, I suffered a lot. My husband was in hospital, and I had no money.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And my husband, when he was heal—, he began to . . .
  • David Boder: When he was healthy.
  • Eda Button: . . . when he was healthy he began to, in order to [unintelligible], how does one say? He began to . . .
  • David Boder: To sell.
  • Eda Button: . . . to sell things [unintelligible] so that we, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Had.
  • Eda Button: . . . had a piece of bread. And we stay—, we, eh, we still were in a, in my sister's house.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: Then, eh, six months later, my mother, too, ran away from Athens, too ran away from Saloniki in Athens.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And we all lived together.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: Eight days, eight months later, eh, Mussolini is . . .
  • David Boder: Yes. Mussolini was overthrown.
  • Eda Button: . . . was overthrown. And the Germans were in Athens again and, eh, the, eh, head of the Gestapo was in Athens again and he did the same things that were done in Saloniki, they began to do in Athens again.When Italy capitulated to the Allies, the Germans occupied Athens on September 8, 1943, and Mrs. Button and her family were again in danger. As her following testimony indicates, the Button family, with the help of friendly Christians undertook energetic measures to save themselves.12
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And we have to leave my, eh, my sister's house and again we went into hiding here and there.
  • David Boder: And where did your sister go?
  • Eda Button: My sister hid in a, eh, small apartment with a man.
  • David Boder: With her husband, right?
  • Eda Button: With her husband and with him the four children.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Eda Button: And the two grown children, two of eighteen and twenty years, we were told then that those married to a Christian might save themselves.Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens was sympathetic to the Jews as were many Athenian Christians. The Archbishop encouraged Jews to hide in Christian institutions, supported giving them false papers, accepted Greek Jews who sought to convert to save themselves and agreed to arrange fictitious marriages.13
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Eda Button: And, eh, we thought that [try?] for to save the girls they would, that they do a mariage blanc, a . . .
  • David Boder: Do a false . . .
  • Eda Button: . . . a false . . .
  • David Boder: . . . marriage.
  • Eda Button: . . . marriage. And I, I began, because then I already had my Spanish papers, I was free. And I began in order to find two gentlemen, Greek gentlemen, who wanted to marry my niece.
  • David Boder: Only as a mariage blanc?
  • Eda Button: Only . . .
  • David Boder: To save them, yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . only to sa— the children, to save the girls so that they might get Aryan papers and they might be able to, eh, work in order to fe— the family . . .
  • David Boder: To feed and support.
  • Eda Button: . . . to feed.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: Because the father was also in hiding as well as the mother.
  • David Boder: Yes. Of your sister.
  • Eda Button: My sister, yes.
  • David Boder: And then?
  • Eda Button: And then I thought, because my husband was in the same, I was Spanish, I was, I had thought that I was saved.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And I began to also find a wife for my husband.
  • David Boder: Yes, a Christian wife.
  • Eda Button: A Christian wife. And I found a young woman, twenty-two years old, and this young woman, she was a communist and she, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Eh, she agreed.
  • Eda Button: . . . agreed that she wanted to marry my husband.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And one had to . . .
  • David Boder: Also a kind of mariage blanc?
  • Eda Button: Mariage blanc. On October 6, all mariages blancs had to be de—, decl— how does one say?
  • David Boder: Eh, declared.
  • Eda Button: Had to be declared. And it was already October 15 [possibly she means October 5?] and my husband had not yet found a wife.Following the German occupation of the city, the Jews of Athens were ordered to register themselves with the community by October 7, 1943, hence Mrs. Button's concern about the date for the false marriage.14
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: At the last moment we, the young woman agreed, and they, eh, they did it quickly . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . and so they got married.
  • David Boder: Married.
  • Eda Button: Married.
  • David Boder: Yes, hmhm.
  • Eda Button: And then, then he came back to me in my house . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . and I was, eh, if the police should come, I was Spanish and decided [again, she means "divorced"] from my husband and I could, I didn't have to live with my husband.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: Because he was, he was married to a Greek.
  • David Boder: Yes, hmhm.
  • Eda Button: And then we had thought that my husband was saved.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And, eh, some months later. Then, eh, we left our house . . .
  • David Boder: Hmhm.
  • Eda Button: . . . and we, eh, in a, my husband was in an office, he stayed there in the evening, and I was hidden in a Greek, at a Greek woman.Sympathetic Athenian Greek Christians and Greek underground organizations sought to aid Jews to go into hiding and maintain them in their hiding places.15
  • David Boder: Why did you have to hide yourself again, you did have papers [unintelligible]?
  • Eda Button: Yes, because they began that all Jews have to each week declare the, eh, Jewish . . . [simultaneously] community . . . they have to declare themselves.
  • David Boder: Hmhm. Whether they are married to a Christian or not.
  • Eda Button: Yes, eh.
  • David Boder: Yes, hmhm.
  • Eda Button: And, eh, we were in a, eh, in a house of my, a—how does one say—eh, belle soeur?
  • David Boder: A sister-in-law.
  • Eda Button: A sister-in-law.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Eda Button: And we lived there. My husband came often, we lived there.
  • David Boder: Why was it safe with your sister-in-law? Wasn't she Jewish?
  • Eda Button: No, eh, she was Jewish, but she was, eh, declared with, eh, with false papers.
  • David Boder: A Christian, yes.
  • Eda Button: Declared a Christian through her husband.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible] and then you lived with her.
  • Eda Button: We lived.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: Then we knew a man, we knew a Jewish man [unintelligible] . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Eda Button: . . . and we didn't know that this Jewish man was on the side of the Germans.
  • David Boder: [surprised] Oh, he was in league with the Gestapo.There were a few Jews who attempted to save themselves and their families by helping the Germans by informing on their co-religionists. There were also some non-Jews who betrayed Jews by informing the Germans of their whereabouts. As Mrs. Button later relates, she had to bribe the Jewish collaborator to prevent him from informing on her.16
  • Eda Button: With the Gestapo [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And . . . [short pause]
  • David Boder: And?
  • Eda Button: Several, eh, days later, he also decided [divorced] from his wife . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, he divorced.
  • Eda Button: . . . decided [divorced] from his wife. And his wife was married to a Christian and he also to a Christian. And then he said to my husband, "Why don't you, eh, why don't you do the same thing, that your wife marries a Christian . . . "
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: ". . . why don't you do that?"
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: My husband, eh, asked me, "Do you want that, that you also [simultaneously] marry a Christian." I said, "No, I'm so much afraid of going in the church and all you have to do . . ."
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: ". . . you need. And I will stay like this. Maybe the war will be over, and I'll be able to save myself like this."What Mrs. Button meant by "like this" was continuing to place her faith in the protection her Spanish citizenship papers would afford her.17
  • David Boder: In which year did this happen?
  • Eda Button: That was in, eh, early in '44.
  • David Boder: Early in '44, hmhm?
  • Eda Button: Later my, my eh, mother-in-law . . .
  • David Boder: Mother-in-law, yes.
  • Eda Button: Mother-in-law . . .
  • David Boder: Your, your husband's mother.
  • Eda Button: Husband's mother and my in-law, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Sister-in-law.
  • Eda Button: Father. My father-in-law. They were hiding in a village. My father-in-law was 80 years old . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: and my mother-in-law was, eh, 70 years old.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And they ran away from village to village. Because they were of, from Greece and they knew the language very well . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . the Greek language. And in this way, they managed to save themselves.
  • David Boder: Hmhm?
  • Eda Button: And they came in Athens.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And we all, all lived together at, eh, my sister-in-law.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: Then, one day we heard that this man, who came to us, was, eh, was on the side of the Germans.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And, eh, I, I, we were afraid my husband and I and we ran away to another in-law, eh, sister-in-law . . .
  • David Boder: To another sister-in-law.
  • Eda Button: . . . sister-in-law, sister-in-law, who also lived in Athens in another quarter.
  • David Boder: Yes, hmhm?
  • Eda Button: And my mother-in-law stayed with the other sister-in-law.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And, the Jewish man, he reproved a little, how does one say?
  • David Boder: He was sorry?
  • Eda Button: He was sorry, in the end. And he said to my mother-in-law, "You should, I don't know what, the Germans know that you live in this house. And today the Germans will come and you . . ."
  • David Boder: Take you away?
  • Eda Button: Take away.
  • David Boder: Did this Jewish man do anything bad to you?
  • Eda Button: Yes.
  • David Boder: What did he do?
  • Eda Button: Because I was afraid and I [no verb, only the auxiliary past tense form; probably she meant "gave"] him a little something that I had salvaged from Saloniki, linen and clothes and such, and I had to give everything to him and . . .
  • David Boder: And run away?
  • Eda Button: To, yes, run away. I had no house to stay and nothing.
  • David Boder: And then he said to your mother-in-law . . .
  • Eda Button: No, he said to my in-law . . .
  • David Boder: Mother-in-law?
  • Eda Button: Said to my brother-in-law . . .
  • David Boder: To your brother-in-law.Translator's Note: In German, the words for brother- and sister-in-law do not follow the word construction with "-in-law"/ "Schwieger-" but are different terms; Button, however, wrongly uses the "-in-law" for brother-in-law as well; she says "Schwiegerbruder" instead of the correct "Schwager"18
  • Eda Button: To my brother-in-law, also a lawyer . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . that the Germans would, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Come?
  • Eda Button: Come, come in the house. And he should save himself, run away. But the mother, because she was old, and the father could stay in the house.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: But at the moment when my brother-in-law said this [given her faulty grammar, this could also mean "my brother-in-law was told this"], he came away from home and he told my in-law . . .
  • David Boder: Father-in-law?
  • Eda Button: Father-in-law, and my mother-in-law, who were still in the table . . .
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Eda Button: . . . in the dining-room . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: He told them [quickly?] they should . . .
  • David Boder: Run away?
  • Eda Button: . . . run away. And my father-in-law had no time to put on my jacket, something to wear, and my sister-in-law [again, she uses the wrong German word] and they ran away from the, the, the staircase in [unintelligible] . . .
  • David Boder: In the back, yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . in the back. And at the moment that they were, that they ran away they still let the lights on.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And then my brother-in-law [wrong German word again], he ran away with his wife. Then he went to the Jew who wanted to [unintelligible], had told him that they had already run away. And the Jew said, "And your mother ran away too?" Said he, "Yes, of course, could not save me and leave my mother and my father." Said he, "What have you done? The Germans will understand that I have told you that they should run away."
  • David Boder: That was the Christian [possibly not "Christian" but "helpful"?] man?
  • Eda Button: The Jew.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: He was a Jew.
  • David Boder: [surprised] Oh, he was a Jew who worked with the Germans?
  • Eda Button: Yes, yes, he was a Jew.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: A Greek Jew.
  • David Boder: A Greek Jew who worked with the Germans. So?
  • Eda Button: And he said, "What have you done? The Germans will understand that I have you told you this and that we should have done [she probably means "and what we should have done"]." Then my brother-in-law said, "I could not leave my mother, my father, an eighty-year old human, leave them in so [unintelligible]." And then we ran away. Then we again, the, the, my brother-in-law and my sister-in-law, eh, not the brother-in-law . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: the father-in-law . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . my mother-in-law, they came to us where we had only a kitchen with two rooms, where we were already 6, 8 people. And, eh, one would lie in bed, on the floor, and this way we stayed some days.
  • David Boder: Then, how were you deported?
  • Eda Button: I was deported even though [unintelligible] my husband had said that I had to drive in [to] Barcelona.Barcelona is located in northeastern Spain and is a major Mediterranean port and Spanish population center. The "drive" to Barcelona was to be by train not by car.19
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And because the first group from Saloniki, of the Spanish group,There was indeed a small group of Jews with Spanish citizenship who had been allowed into Spain. However, due to highly restrictive measures stipulated by the Spanish government for Jews with Spanish citizenship entering the country, those Jews from Athens with Spanish citizenship papers never made it to Spain.20 was five [possibly "twelve"] months in Belsen, then they were from Frankfurt . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . they were in Barcelona, really in Barcelona, and we letters from them re—
  • David Boder: Received?
  • David Boder: Received that they were in Barcelona already. They told us that all Jews from, all Spanish Jews from Athens would drive straight to Barcelona again.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: So my husband said to me, "Why do you want to hide yourself when [unintelligible], that your father just to Auschwitz was . . .The meaning of "that your father just to Auschwitz was..." is not clear. There is no prior indication that Mrs. Button's father was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The only reference to her father in the interview is that by March 1944 "my father had long been dead." Is it possible that he did not have Spanish citizenship papers and perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau?21
  • David Boder: Sent?
  • Eda Button: . . . sent. "Why do you want to do then, if you do not to, eh, Barcelona as well?"
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: "You will stay in Barcelona for one month; the World War will be ended. . ."
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: ". . . and you will return." And I was in Sunday, not Sunday, eh, [questioningly] dimanche [unintelligible]?
  • David Boder: Yes, Monday.
  • Eda Button: On Monday I was at the Spanish Consulate, and, to ask what the Spanish, what I must do. Because all Spaniards had been already classified, and all were already in the Jewish Community. And I was told on Sunday at nine o'clock you have, all must drive to Spain.
  • David Boder: To Spain?
  • Eda Button: Drive to Spain.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And I went to the Consulate to ask what I has to do, [corrects herself] had to do. There was a Catholic, eh, how does one say?
  • David Boder: Priest? Minister?
  • Eda Button: A, yes . . .
  • David Boder: Padre?
  • Eda Button: I said already. And he knew that my child was hidden in Saloniki.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And he said to me, "What do you have to be here for? [unintelligible] from one house to another. And it is better you should drive to Spain. There you will breathe fresh air and be free and one month later you will return."We later learn that Mrs. Button and other Jews with Spanish citizenship from Athens were sent to Bergen Belsen. The question therefore arises, was the Spanish consul being disingenuous or did he really believe that the Athenian Jews with Spanish citizenship would be sent directly to Spain?22
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And in the end I also asked the consul. The consul told me, "It is the best for you, you have to drive to Spain."
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: "In five days you will be in Barcelona and you will be free." Then I came home, with the, the priest
  • David Boder: With the priest?
  • Eda Button: Yes, with the priest I came home. With the car of the . . .
  • David Boder: Consulate?
  • Eda Button: Consulate. I should take something, a valise, some clothes, get something for me. And I came home and I had no time to tell my husband that I will drive away. Because in a quarter of an hour [short break in the recording] already one had to be at the station because the train had to drive away.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: Away. [Note: There is another break here, as if something is missing and she is backtracking a little bit] Consul, eh, I came home and my husband had no time, not even to hear what was up. I took a couple of things, no time, and I drove in the car with the Padre. We drove to, we again went to the consulate and the minister Spanish consul and his wife as well, was there, and, eh, he waited for us and we all together came to the station. At the station, I, eh, the car, eh, [unintelligible] arrêté [possibly she wants to know the German word for "arrêté," meaning "remaining seated"]?
  • David Boder: Went back?
  • Eda Button: No, [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Stayed [unintelligible].
  • Eda Button: Yes, and I started to cry. I told the consul, "I do not want to drive away." Said he, "No, the best is, because, you should drive to Spain. And in only one month the war is over and you will return."
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: I prayed [asked] the Padre he should, he should take care for my child in, eh . . .
  • David Boder: In the convent?
  • Eda Button: . . . in Salonika. Yes, in the convent. Says he, "Yes, yes, you will be back and you can . . ."
  • David Boder: [interrupts her] Now, [unintelligible], and how did you go away then?
  • Eda Button: I came to the station and I started to walk.
  • David Boder: And were there already other Jews there?
  • Eda Button: No. We were not from the right side, we came from the other side. We didn't know where the Spanish Jews were. Then we saw that all cars [railway cars] were barbelé, how does one say?
  • David Boder: With wire?
  • Eda Button: With wire.
  • David Boder: With wire. Yes?
  • Eda Button: And I did not see Jews, Jews. I did from the window with the wire . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: I said, "This is now [unintelligible], are we allowed to travel? I am afraid and I want to go back to Athens. I do not want to travel. I do not want to go away."
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: The wife of the Spanish consul then said to me, "You are right but the Germans said it wrong, we were told you have to with second class . . . "This would argue for the fact that the Germans were using deceptive tactics in order to convince the Spanish consul that the Jews were indeed being sent to Spain so that he would aid in their departure from the city. One frequently encounters Nazi deceit during the Holocaust. 23
  • David Boder: In the second car?
  • Eda Button: . . . drive in the second class Car. And the Germans us . . .
  • David Boder: [In English] The spool ended and I am making an attachment so that this spool will have probably more than 33 minutes. The story is becoming interesting and I decided to continue.
  • David Boder: [In German] So, say, you were there, start over again. Yes?
  • Eda Button: I was at the station and I saw the Jews, who were [locked] into the car with wire. I was so scared that I started to cry. So I asked . . .
  • David Boder: The wife of . ..
  • Eda Button: I said to the wife of the Spanish consul, "Where are the second class cars? I cannot drive that way. And I want to back in Athens . . .
  • David Boder: to Athens?
  • Eda Button: To Athens.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: She said to me, "You are right, the Gestapo have said wrong. And you can, you can go back."
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And slowly, slowly I went, went back, and the consul with his wife, and his secretary and the Padre . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . went in the train to greet the Spanish group. Those who had to go away to Spain . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . were, to greet them at the last moment."Greet" here seems to mean to see the Jews safely off on their journey.24
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And I was [unintelligible] in the car.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: I didn't know what to do because it was German police.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And I thought, what shall I answer if they ask, request my papers.
  • David Boder: Was there no chauffeur?
  • Eda Button: Yes, the chauffeur was too, eh, he also went to greet the Spanish group.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: Because he known everybody. [She either means "Everybody had gone" or "He knew everybody"]
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And I stayed. And then, eh, several minutes later the priest came back and he said to me, "Why are you here?" I said, "I am scared and I do not want to go. And I want to go back to Athens." Then he said to me, "And, I will, you cannot stay outside here. The Germans can request your papers. Come into the car." And I went, came into the car, I sat down. And I was so scared that the Germans will not request my papers.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: But since the Spanish flag was in the car . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . I thought that the Germans could not, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . request my papers. And I was there, I waited. Several minutes later, I was so scared, I waited, that the, the consul and . . .
  • David Boder: His wife?
  • Eda Button: . . . greeting, yes, greeting the Spanish group and that he returns to bring me to Athens . . .
  • David Boder: To bring you back?
  • Eda Button: To bring me back. Several minutes later I see my brother coming. My brother, too, was in the train car with my old mother of eighty years.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: As Spaniard, again.Both Mrs. Button's mother and brother had Spanish citizenship papers.25
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And my brother came and he asked me why I stayed here and why, why . . .
  • David Boder: [Apparently talking to somebody else in the background who disrupted the interview.]
  • Eda Button: Why, my brother said to me, "Why do you stay here? The Padre told me that you were here and you came here, and you should drive to Spain with us. And when you want to go again to Athens . . ."
  • David Boder: Return?
  • Eda Button: ". . . want to return, eh, you will again be, eh . . ."
  • David Boder: Betrayed?
  • Eda Button: ". . . betrayed again, and then you will directly to Auschwitz . . ."
  • David Boder: Go?
  • Eda Button: . . . go." And he said, "You have to come with us, we drive to Spain. We have a lot of bread in the train . . ."
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: ". . . and one has all the food of, of all the Jews have given money and they, they bought a lot of food. And we will make a very good journey. And you should not, eh . . ."
  • David Boder: Be afraid?
  • Eda Button: ". . . be afraid. You should join us." He took my valise and we came. [unintelligible] I came to the train that I had seen, into the car with my mother, my old mother, and . . .
  • David Boder: Where was your father?
  • Eda Button: My father had long been dead. Regrettably.
  • David Boder: I see.
  • Eda Button: And I saw my mother, and my brother and all the people that were in there. They were mostly the richest Jewish families in Greece.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And I saw all the people. I said, "What have I done, why have I come?"
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: But two minutes later the train already had to leave and I only had time to tell the Padre to look after my child.
  • David Boder: Now, your [unintelligible]. To where, eh, where to were you taken?
  • Eda Button: I was taken from Athens.
  • David Boder: Where to, where to?
  • Eda Button: In, to Bergen-Belsen. I was . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupts] Not to Spain?
  • Eda Button: No. It was wrong. We were told that we would to Spain but we drove in Bergen-Belsen.
  • David Boder: I see. And how long were you in Bergen-Belsen?
  • Eda Button: I was, eh, exactly, eh, from April 12, '44, we went from Athens and we were in Bergen-Belsen after fourteen days with the . . .
  • David Boder: [interrupts] Yes, and how long were you there?
  • Eda Button: And we were until April 5, '45 . . .Bergen-Belsen was actually liberated on April 15, 1945 by British armed forces.26
  • David Boder: '45.
  • Eda Button: . . . we were there, in Bergen-Belsen . . .It is a bit puzzling as to why Boder did not inquire about Mrs. Button's experiences in Bergen Belsen especially since there was additional time remaining on the spool.27
  • David Boder: [interrupts] Now, tell, how did you get your child back here in Paris?
  • Eda Button: I was, we were so, so long in Belsen.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And we were, we had very poor food, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . and everything horrible and each month the, eh, German, eh, chief came and he told us, "a little patience, just a few days more," and we would drive to Spain.
  • David Boder: Yes. So, [unintelligible]. You say, the "Mother Superior" returned your child.
  • Eda Button: Yes.
  • David Boder: Who paid for your trip?
  • Eda Button: I, I requested of, my husband wrote from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.The interview does not record how Mrs Button's husband managed to successfully escape from Athens to Palestine. Mrs. Button earlier related that he had escaped from Athens to neutral Turkey and then to Palestine. The Greek underground did assist in helping Jews escape across the Aegean to Turkey. Once in Turkey, Mr. Button might have received helped from Palestinian Jews.28 The Joint has to help us get our child. The Joint, a boss of, a director of the Joint sent me a letter . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . and I should come there. And, eh, the director said to me, "Do you want to drive to Greece to get your child?" I said, "No. I do not want to drive to Greece. I cannot see this, eh, country anymore. And I want to drive to Palestine to be free."
  • David Boder: And?
  • Eda Button: So he told me, "How will you get your child?" So I said, "I am going to Palestine now because the Jewish Agence Palestinienne gave me a permit,The Jewish Agency (Jewish Agence Palestinian) was responsible for the immigration and resettlement of Jews in Palestine29 and we all together, in a few days, will drive to, eh, Palestine. And from there I will try, with Greek papers, because I will again marry my husband . . ."
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: ". . . and I will have my Greek papers so that I will drive to Greece to get my child."
  • David Boder: I see. [unintelligible] Yet still the, the Sister Superior brought the child here.Mrs. Button had told Boder at the start of the interview that the Sister Superior of the Daughters of Mercy of St. Vincent de Paul had brought her daughter from Salonika to Paris. We now learn that this was accomplished with the help of the Joint.30 How did they return . . .
  • Eda Button: [interrupts] Because I saw that the, the Agence Palestinienne in the last moment had taken my permit away because they received a telegram that my husband had sent me a permit, for me.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: In the English Consulate.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And this permit that I had been given, was given in another woman, who now already [is?] in Palestine.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: And I stayed here. And again I started telegramming in order to get my child. Because the director of Joint . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: . . . uh, Mr. Grinley, wanted to drive to Greece. He went, and here the secretaries, they sent a telegram here that he should, when he returns, take, bring my child from, from the convent in Saloniki. And I sig—, signed papers that I give the authorization to get my child. And I was at the commissaire [commissariat?] and everything was alright. Then the sisters again did not give my child.
  • David Boder: Why?
  • Eda Button: Because the child was weak, they said. And she, the Superieure sent me a telegram that she herself wanted my child in August, bring my child in August.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: So I went to the, I went again to the director of Joint, and I said, "When they, in August I can, I already have a permit here maybe, and I can quickly drive to Palestine. And do you want, eh, the Sister brings my child earlier. Will you pay for, for the journey? The director told me, "Yes, we pay for the journey and they have to bring the child here."
  • David Boder: Now, tell, how long has the child been here now?
  • Eda Button: My child has been for fifteen days, my child here.
  • David Boder: Yes. Has it, you say the child has not grown accustomed to you?
  • Eda Button: The child has not gotten well accustomed because there they, there it had been very well, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Kept?
  • Eda Button: . . . kept, very good food, they surely loved her a lot. Maybe there they said that [I?] would not return.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Eda Button: They wanted to, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Keep?
  • Eda Button: . . . keep the child, eh
  • David Boder: [interrupts] And how, you said, did the child pray, how did the child pray, when you back . . .
  • Eda Button: [interrupts] My, my child was praying that dear little Jesus from her mother and her father, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Greet?
  • Eda Button: No, eh, [unintelligible].
  • David Boder: Receive?
  • Eda Button: Receive. His mother should very fast return, his mother should become a Catholic.
  • David Boder: Yes. And now the child says that sometimes, sometimes it says that it wants to return to the Sisters?
  • Eda Button: The child, for I have been deported and I have nothing that the Sisters there very much, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Have given?
  • Eda Button: . . . eh, food has and especially for my child. I have brought her here in [unintelligible]. They have, the doctor has, the doctors have . . .
  • David Boder: Examined her?
  • Eda Button: . . . examined her, and I had to have her operated on for throat and nose. And for this the child—that from the moment that she came to me she suffered—she believes that I made her bad [sick]. And especially if she, the little one, maybe she was told that her mother was bad . . .The reunification of hidden children with their parents after the war was often fraught with difficulties.31
  • David Boder: Oh well.
  • Eda Button: I don't know what she was told. And now slowly, slowly I must give her, eh, with, eh . . .
  • David Boder: A lot of attention?
  • Eda Button: . . . with attention and slowly she will, the child will belong to me. But . . .
  • David Boder: [unintelligible] Yes?
  • Eda Button: The child loves very much for the Sisters. And means very much. [She perhaps means "they mean a lot to her"?] And this week I took her to the Jewish, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Synagogue?
  • Eda Button: . . . Sisters. And means very much. And this week I took her to the Jewish, eh . . .
  • David Boder: Synagogue?
  • Eda Button: . . . to the synagogue and I said to her, "You shall pray here, a child [prays?] in the synagogue to the Father[?]."
  • David Boder: Yes. Now, everything will be just fine, Mrs. Button. I thank you very much. This is a very important story that you have told us.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool 26. There are additional twen—, hm, twelve minutes of wire on it that will have to be rewound. It's Illinois Institute of Technology recording, wire recording of a Greek Jewish Woman, Eda Button, of 34 years old, who now has, eh, whom now her child was returned that was kept in a convent in Saloniki. And she plans to reunite herself with her husband in Tel Aviv whom she will have to remarry because for needs of, for expediency she divorced him in Greece.
  • David Boder: [In German] Thank you very much, Mrs. Button.
  1. As will be made clear later in the interview, Mrs. Button had an infant daughter who was cared for by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, a congregation of nuns devoted to active charitable works. At the time of the interview her daughter was still her only child.
  2. Most of the approximately 4,000 Jews of Spanish origin living in German occupied territories under Spanish diplomatic protection had received this status before World War I. Presumably this applied to Mrs. Button's parents as well because she indicates that "when I was a girl, I was Spanish" having received this citizenship from her parents.
  3. By reinstating her Spanish citizenship as an adult, Mrs. Button became one of the 640 Spanish protected citizens in Greece. Since her husband had Greek citizenship, he could not become "Spanish again."
  4. The Germans conquered Salonika on April 9, 1941 and almost immediately confiscated Jewish apartments and looted Sephardic Jewish libraries with their great cultural treasures. The next fourteen months were relatively quiet, but beginning in the summer of 1942 persecution increased as some 2,000 Jewish males from Salonika were taken for forced labor. By October,1942, 250 had died.
  5. In early February 1943, a special SS contingent came to Salonkia to enforce the Nazis' so-called racial laws. Jews had to wear a yellow star, were forbidden to use public transportation and were forced to move into a ghetto, where living conditions immediately became difficult.
  6. Translator's Note: She is confusing the German verbs "divorce" (scheiden) and "decide" (entscheiden) that sound very similar and share the same root.
  7. It is unclear as to which papers Mrs. Button might be referring. Perhaps they were some sort of false papers for her husband.
  8. Mrs. Button might mean rescue by Greek smugglers who would have attempted to transport them to a location of greater safety.
  9. Mrs. Button had no way of knowing if she would ever see her baby daughter again, but should she one day be able to search for her the missing piece of the locket would help Mrs. Button identify her child.
  10. Close to 44,000 Jews were deported from Salonika to Auschitz-Birkenau from March 20 to August 18, 1943. Most were gassed upon arrival.
  11. Athens was then under the relatively benevolent rule of Fascist Italy which was allied with Nazi Germany at the time. Several thousand Jews from Salonika sought and found refuge in Athens, among them Mrs. Button. At the time, she had not yet received her Spanish citizenship papers so she feared deportation.
  12. When Italy capitulated to the Allies, the Germans occupied Athens on September 8, 1943, and Mrs. Button and her family were again in danger. As her following testimony indicates, the Button family, with the help of friendly Christians undertook energetic measures to save themselves.
  13. Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens was sympathetic to the Jews as were many Athenian Christians. The Archbishop encouraged Jews to hide in Christian institutions, supported giving them false papers, accepted Greek Jews who sought to convert to save themselves and agreed to arrange fictitious marriages.
  14. Following the German occupation of the city, the Jews of Athens were ordered to register themselves with the community by October 7, 1943, hence Mrs. Button's concern about the date for the false marriage.
  15. Sympathetic Athenian Greek Christians and Greek underground organizations sought to aid Jews to go into hiding and maintain them in their hiding places.
  16. There were a few Jews who attempted to save themselves and their families by helping the Germans by informing on their co-religionists. There were also some non-Jews who betrayed Jews by informing the Germans of their whereabouts. As Mrs. Button later relates, she had to bribe the Jewish collaborator to prevent him from informing on her.
  17. What Mrs. Button meant by "like this" was continuing to place her faith in the protection her Spanish citizenship papers would afford her.
  18. Translator's Note: In German, the words for brother- and sister-in-law do not follow the word construction with "-in-law"/ "Schwieger-" but are different terms; Button, however, wrongly uses the "-in-law" for brother-in-law as well; she says "Schwiegerbruder" instead of the correct "Schwager"
  19. Barcelona is located in northeastern Spain and is a major Mediterranean port and Spanish population center. The "drive" to Barcelona was to be by train not by car.
  20. There was indeed a small group of Jews with Spanish citizenship who had been allowed into Spain. However, due to highly restrictive measures stipulated by the Spanish government for Jews with Spanish citizenship entering the country, those Jews from Athens with Spanish citizenship papers never made it to Spain.
  21. The meaning of "that your father just to Auschwitz was..." is not clear. There is no prior indication that Mrs. Button's father was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau. The only reference to her father in the interview is that by March 1944 "my father had long been dead." Is it possible that he did not have Spanish citizenship papers and perished in Auschwitz-Birkenau?
  22. We later learn that Mrs. Button and other Jews with Spanish citizenship from Athens were sent to Bergen Belsen. The question therefore arises, was the Spanish consul being disingenuous or did he really believe that the Athenian Jews with Spanish citizenship would be sent directly to Spain?
  23. This would argue for the fact that the Germans were using deceptive tactics in order to convince the Spanish consul that the Jews were indeed being sent to Spain so that he would aid in their departure from the city. One frequently encounters Nazi deceit during the Holocaust.
  24. "Greet" here seems to mean to see the Jews safely off on their journey.
  25. Both Mrs. Button's mother and brother had Spanish citizenship papers.
  26. Bergen-Belsen was actually liberated on April 15, 1945 by British armed forces.
  27. It is a bit puzzling as to why Boder did not inquire about Mrs. Button's experiences in Bergen Belsen especially since there was additional time remaining on the spool.
  28. The interview does not record how Mrs Button's husband managed to successfully escape from Athens to Palestine. Mrs. Button earlier related that he had escaped from Athens to neutral Turkey and then to Palestine. The Greek underground did assist in helping Jews escape across the Aegean to Turkey. Once in Turkey, Mr. Button might have received helped from Palestinian Jews.
  29. The Jewish Agency (Jewish Agence Palestinian) was responsible for the immigration and resettlement of Jews in Palestine
  30. Mrs. Button had told Boder at the start of the interview that the Sister Superior of the Daughters of Mercy of St. Vincent de Paul had brought her daughter from Salonika to Paris. We now learn that this was accomplished with the help of the Joint.
  31. The reunification of hidden children with their parents after the war was often fraught with difficulties.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Claudia Deetjen, Christian Schmidt
  • English translation : Claudia Deetjen, Christian Schmidt
  • Footnotes : Elliot Lefkovitz, Christian Schmidt, Eben E. English