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

  • David Boder: [In English] This is Spool 99-25, that is a reproduction not from the original, but from the Spool 9-25 which was reproduced from the original before the latter was damaged in its first section.
  • David Boder: This is Spool 25, taken from Mister Jacob Button, a Spanish Jew, who lived in Greece, in Salonika. Mr. Button is very worried that the data will not be in proper chronological order, but we have convinced him that we want especially his personal experiences. This spool is from the collection of the Illinois Institute of Technology.
  • David Boder: [In German] So, Mr. Button, tell me again, what is your full name, how old are you, and where were you born?
  • Jacob Button: I call myself Jacob Button, was born in Saloni—, SalonikaThessaloniki or Salonika was home to the most flourishing Sephardic Jewish community in the world before the Holocaust. Nearly all of its prewar Jewish population of some 56,000 perished in the Holocaust, most of them in Auschwitz-Birkenau.1, and I am 41 years old today. I am sorry to speak in German—I would rather express myself in French or Greek or Hebrew—but out of necessity I will do it in German.
  • David Boder: . . . the, Mr. Button, if you want to express yourself in Hebrew, and want to have something corrected, maybe you can have it ready by tomorrow—[for] another conversation, and I will then ask you to read for me for half an hour in Hebrew. Is that good?
  • David Boder: Yes, I think I can give it a try.
  • David Boder: Good.
  • Jacob Button: . . . from . . .
  • David Boder: So let us proceed with the matter. Mr. Button, where were you when the war started?
  • Jacob Button: At the beginning of the war I was in Saloniki, and had a business of pharmaceutical [?] products. And [I] never wanted to speak German, know Germans, never wanted to have to do [anything] with Germans. And wanted to stay away from the Germans. As a Spaniard, I was held as [one of] the last Jews of Saloniki.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible] So, you were born in Saloniki, but you were a Spanish subject?Because their ancestors were originally from the Iberian peninsula, some Greek Sephardic Jews were able to obtain Spanish citizenship.2
  • Jacob Button: Yes, I was separately . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Jacob Button: . . . and also of Spanish citizenship.
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Jacob Button: And because of this we were the last Jews of Saloniki to be, ah, to be driven away.
  • David Boder: Now, ah, say, ah, were the other Jews taken first?
  • Jacob Button: Yes, first the Greek Jews were rounded up, and after a short stay in a ghetto at Baron Hirsch—ah . . .The Baron Hirsch neighborhood in Salonika was one of the three neighborhoods in the city that comprised the Jewish ghetto. Since the it was close to a key railroad station, the neighborhood became the departure point for Jews being deported to extermination and concentration camp centers.3
  • David Boder: . . . ah . . . and you [were] sent away?
  • Jacob Button: In a, ah . . .
  • David Boder: In a camp, or in a ghetto?
  • Jacob Button: They were assembled in a ghetto first, next to, of the train station of Saloniki, ah, and, ah, were sent to Silesia, to Upper Silesia in weekly or daily transports of 3,000 to, ah, 3,500 people.The first rail convoy to Auschwitz-Birkenau departed on March 15, 1943. Subsequent convoys left in the following weeks. The last convoy left Salonika on August 10,1943.4 From a, ah, German, I could later privately and personally l—
  • David Boder: Learn . . .
  • Jacob Button: . . . learn that Jews were sent to Auschwitz.
  • David Boder: [unintelligible]
  • Jacob Button: And I was made aware that it was supposed to be an extinction at work, at the trip. When the Spanish, Spanish Jews were summoned by the German police to make an announcement, I finally attended the assembly and was able to hide, and to later find a way to go to Athens.The rumor Mr. Button heard about "an extinction at work" was unfortunately accurate. Most of the at least 43,850 Jews from Salonikia who arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau between March and August, 1943 were gassed on arrival.5
  • David Boder: Yes, now?
  • Jacob Button: I had the first bad luck that a Greek sailor, a, a, ah, a ship, a captain of a sail boat cheated me, and took me, my wife and my two children, [took] my, ah, ah . . .
  • David Boder: Now?
  • Jacob Button: [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: Now, is it proceeding?
  • Jacob Button: No.
  • David Boder: Yes, on shore, what did he do to you?
  • Jacob Button: Left me and took my things and my money, he had, on the shore, taken my money already . . .
  • David Boder: Took it away . . .
  • Jacob Button: . . . took it away. Such . . .
  • David Boder: So, you stayed ashore with your wife and your kids?
  • Jacob Button: I was, I stayed ashore with my wife and two children, two little children of six and eight years, and was to, afterwards, go back to Saloniki that was "judenrein" [free of Jews] as the Germans said.
  • David Boder: Yes. Where did you want to go with the captain?
  • Jacob Button: I want[ed], I want[ed] to go to Piraeus,Piraeus is the port linked to the city of Athens.6 where in a part of Greece, where the Italian, that was under Italian rule . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: . . . and there were no measures, no measures taken against the Jews.
  • David Boder: Yes. And so you packed your things?
  • Jacob Button: And I had that, it was prepared like that, to go away, and was cheated at the last moment, and left behind.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: So, luckily I had some Greek friends who helped me, and when I came back to the city, I could hide, and after one, three days try again to go to Athens. This time I was also, in the, on the train, I was arrested because a man had recognized me as a Jew, and that [resulted in] three months of arrest in a [noise]—in a prison of, ah, in a German prison in Saloniki.
  • David Boder: Yes, and where did you . . .
  • Jacob Button: . . . and [my] wife . . .
  • David Boder: . . . you were arrested on the train?
  • Jacob Button: Yes.
  • David Boder: And where did your wife and children go?
  • Jacob Button: Fortunately, my wife and children were not recognized then, they were not with . . .
  • David Boder: . . . me . . .
  • Jacob Button: . . . me, and then they went on.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: I was arrested, and was going, ah, was treated very harshly, for eight days we in a prison in, ah, pro—, in a city in the province of Macedonia,The Germans occupied central Macedonia located in northern Greece.7 and from there afterwards we were taken by the German secret police to Saloniki—and there we were, were routed to a prison where we stayed for four months.
  • David Boder: After that, and where were your wife and the children?
  • Jacob Button: My wife and my children could continue to go, continue to Athens.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: I was, after many efforts, and—, of the Spanish Embassy, I was freed.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: And now I was free, too . . .
  • David Boder: Was that already the Franco government, was the Spanish Embassy not of the Franco government?
  • Jacob Button: Yes, but . . . .
  • David Boder: But they acted on behalf of the Jews?
  • Jacob Button: As Spanish citizen, I was to get their, ah . . .
  • David Boder: Have you then . . .
  • Jacob Button: . . . help, get their help, ah . . .
  • David Boder: Ah, you did receive [help], indeed . . .
  • Jacob Button: Yes, [I was] helped by the Embassy.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: I—was . . .
  • David Boder: And you were freed?
  • Jacob Button: I was freed, but in the meantime I had, ah, I was treated very harshly by the German, ah, pol—
  • David Boder: Police . . .
  • Jacob Button: Police, of the Gestapo, and I was, ah . . . one tried to . . . [unintelligible] [I was . . . ?]
  • David Boder: Murder?
  • Jacob Button: [unintelligible] [ . . . no, not murder, I don't know . . . what that was and what . . . ?]
  • David Boder: Aha. You were tortured, one did the torture, tortured [tries to express the term]—right?
  • David Boder: [In English] They tortured.
  • David Boder: [In German] They wanted to know where your things and your family were.
  • Jacob Button: Oh, oh, and where my, my, my children and my wife [were] and what I knew of other affairs regarding the Jews, the Jews . . .
  • David Boder: And what did you say?
  • Jacob Button: And—I did not say it, and I was, ah— [menacie, mena?]
  • David Boder: I was threatened, you were threatened . . .
  • Jacob Button: I was threatened to inquire, and to kill me, and to . . . but I . . .
  • David Boder: Were you beaten?
  • Jacob Button: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: One did, one did, one did beat me, and I did not say it, what I knew, because of my family.
  • David Boder: Aha. Why, they wanted to know where your family was?
  • Jacob Button: Yes.
  • David Boder: Did your family want to part with you, did they, didn't they send you anything? Didn't they [the police] know, anyway?
  • Jacob Button: I, I knew, I, ah, I was absolutely separated from my family, I had no . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, you had no contact, that . . .
  • Jacob Button: I personally had no contact, but the Germans wanted to . . .
  • David Boder: Know . . .
  • Jacob Button: Know who had, ah, given us the papers to . . .
  • David Boder: Ah so, from the Embassy.
  • Jacob Button: No, not from the Embassy, who gave us the papers, to get on a German train and to, ah, go to, to Athens, without, without permission.
  • David Boder: Hm. Now?
  • Jacob Button: So, after four months I went again to Athens, and found my family, meanwhile the Germans had counted [accounted for] the Greek Jews, and, ah, they were supposed to report, ah, weekly with the, ah . . .
  • David Boder: register with the police . . .The German army occupied Athens on September 8, 1943 following Italy's capitulation. On October 7, 1943, an order was issued for all Jews in Athens to register with the community. There was a very limited response, and the following month all Jewish property was confiscated in retaliation for the poor registration showing. Some Jews in Athens joined partisan groups. Most went into hiding although by March 1944 about 1,500 had registered either to receive permission to work or out of fear of reprisals against Christian neighbors who were sheltering them.8
  • Jacob Button: . . . synagogue, at the, at the, in the temple, every, every week, to come and report, and in March of '43, in—in March of '44, not '43, they were caught and after two days . . .
  • David Boder: Who was caught?
  • Jacob Button: The Greek Jews who . . .
  • David Boder: Reported to the synagogue . . .
  • Jacob Button: . . . reported to the synagogue, to, ah, were arrested and afterwards—one had the addresses of the other Jews who lived in Athens, and of the Spaniards in general, and they were arrested at their homes at night.At the outset of the Italian occupation of Athens, there were some 3,500 Jews in the city. This number rose to 8,000-10,000 due to Jews who escaped to Athens from German and Bulgarian parts of occupied Greece. Among these escapees were Mr. Button and his family. On March 25, 1944, the Germans rounded up 1,690 Jews from Athens ( a number of them refugees from Salonikia) for deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau.9
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • Jacob Button: First, we were [put] in a prison . . .
  • David Boder: Were you arrested, too?
  • Jacob Button: Yes.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: Yes.
  • David Boder: One did arrest you again?
  • Jacob Button: One did . . .
  • David Boder: And your wife and the children?
  • Jacob Button: My, my wife and my two young children were arrested with me, we were also assembled there in the prison, near Athens, in Haidari,The Haidary concentration camp was located in the town of Haidary near Athens. It operated from September 2, 1943 to September 20, 1944. The majority of Haidary's inmates were transported to Bergen Belsen or to Auschwitz.10 there, there we received a visit from the Spanish ambassadors in Athens, and I was, ah, we were told that the Germans had promised them to send us to Spain.This promise was not as empty as it sounds. The Franco government did agree to take Jews with Spanish citizenship but stipulated that they could only remain temporarily on Spanish soil. Only when one group had left the country could another be admitted. This policy greatly restricted the number of Jews who were admitted to Spain during the course of the war.11
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: But, on April 2 . . .
  • David Boder: '44 . . .
  • Jacob Button: . . . '44 we were sent from the prison of Haidari to the train station of Athens, ah, there were, we were with other—cars with, that were sealed, and [there were] other Jews present, and we were, one was told to get on, and with the same transport we were sent, sent to Germany.
  • David Boder: What kind of transport were you [on]?
  • Jacob Button: Some of the railcars, sealed, those were, ah, lorries [?]—freight cars, of, ah . . .
  • David Boder: It, yes—freight, freight trains . . .
  • Jacob Button: fr—, freight, freight trains . . .
  • David Boder: Transport trains . . .
  • Jacob Button: Freight cars were . . . we were . . .
  • David Boder: The cars were all locked up?
  • Jacob Button: Were, were locked, and, ah, . . .
  • David Boder: Seals from the outside . . .
  • Jacob Button: From the outside were, were also seals. We had, from the [mission?] of the Red Cross, some bread and some packages, where we were thirty-two people my car—there were other cars with some forty people on it, and we took a long journey of seven days, ah, from Athens to, to Bergen-Belsen.
  • David Boder: Were your wife and your children with you?
  • Jacob Button: With, with, with my wife and my two young children, and my brother also.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: We . . .
  • David Boder: And that was in the same car?
  • Jacob Button: In the same, we were in the same car. And . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, and wait, did one open the car, that people could go outside, or what . . .
  • Jacob Button: After, ah, two days of the journey we were able to descend from the car once, and we could . . . the . . .
  • David Boder: . . . the dirt?
  • Jacob Button: the dirt—ah . . .
  • David Boder: dispose . . .
  • Jacob Button: Dump, dump it, and, ah get some water . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: With us were—with us—in the Greek part, we were [united] with another transport that was, ah, with us . . . combined . . .
  • David Boder: . . . was combined with you, yes?
  • Jacob Button: Was combined . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: And we went to . . . through, ah, Serbia, Austria, and Germany.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: . . . and Hungary, and Hungary, we drove, drove to Germany. In Hungary I have—we saw the, in April of '44 the first Hungarians with the star . . . .Germany occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944. A special commando headed by Adolph Eichmann was part of the occupying force. Its task was to implement the "Final Solution" program. The Germans installed a collaborationist government which rapidly issued a host of anti-Jewish decrees including the wearing of the yellow star.12
  • David Boder: . . . who wore it [?]
  • Jacob Button: . . . wore it.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: And [we] had the opportunity to talk to one, and we were told that in the last days—how, how—what [kind of] laws and measures against the Jews in, ah . . .
  • David Boder: Hungary . . .
  • Jacob Button: In, in ah . . . [unintelligible]
  • David Boder: . . . were applied?
  • Jacob Button: . . . were, were applied.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: One part of our transport, ah, the largest part of the transport was ah, separated in, ah, a Hungarian border town, and was sent on in another . . .
  • David Boder: Direction.
  • Jacob Button: . . . direction.
  • David Boder: Did you not know where you were sent?
  • Jacob Button: [We] did not know.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: But he, the people did not have much hope, and they knew, and they knew that the whole [?] was sent to Upper Silesia and Auschwitz,
  • David Boder: Who [?] . . .
  • Jacob Button: Would be sent there.
  • David Boder: And?
  • Jacob Button: Our train with some cars continued to go to Germany, and we . . . arrived in, ah, Belsen—there we descended from the car, and the Germans forced us . . .
  • David Boder: Were you still with your wife and your children?
  • Jacob Button: [I was still] with, with my wife and my two children. And the Germans force, force—, forced us to get off and [to walk], from the train station to the camp, walk on foot, old and young, men and women.
  • David Boder: How far was that approximately?
  • Jacob Button: It was about seven kilometers away from the train station.
  • David Boder: Hm.
  • David Boder: And?
  • Jacob Button: Again, we arrived at the camp, and we also found some Greek Jews from Saloniki there. We were told that we arrived in a very harsh camp, and, ah, were also told that other Jews from Saloniki of Spanish citizenship had been there, but that these people were . . . were gone from the camp three months earlier, and [nobody] knew exactly in what direction and where.
  • Jacob Button: I stayed in the camp with my family, my wife and my two children, exactly for one year.
  • David Boder: Were you allowed to be together?
  • Jacob Button: We lived in large barracks, wooden barracks . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: And found there also Polish—some three hundred to four hundred Polish Jews . . .
  • David Boder: Men and women?
  • Jacob Button: Men and women, some children . . .
  • David Boder: In the same, ah, room?
  • Jacob Button: In, ah, a neighbor block, in the neighboring block, there were Polish Jews who had a South American citizenship, and as neutrals could not be forced to work . . .
  • David Boder: Could not?
  • Jacob Button: Were not.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: One was, when—, we were guarded by German soldiers, and every morning we were supposed to come out for a roll call, and, ah, were often made to wait two, three hours, one hour, if something was not right. When the numbers [?] were not in order, and when arrest [were made.] We—one promised us that we would have the opportunity with outside countries to , ah . . .
  • David Boder: . . . communicate?
  • Jacob Button: to connect get in touch, but those were only pro—, ah . . .
  • David Boder: Promises . . . .
  • Jacob Button: . . . only empty promises, we never had the possibility to get in touch with the outside world. One—for food, we had the food that everybody, that, that all internees had. Our food was not better or not worse than that of the others because the whole could not be worse. Early we had some warm water that one called infusion of coffee, and that had nothing to do with coffee. One, for lunch [following section is not coherent] very hungry person from last month could a fare of, a , a soup that with some vegetable . . .
  • David Boder: Yes?
  • Jacob Button: That one . . .
  • David Boder: Yes, well, so, mixed with some vegetables, and?
  • Jacob Button: And, and, grasses [?] and so on, that was our food—one had 300 grams of bread per person, and later we only had 250 grams, and even later nothing, and there was the same warm water and nothing else, that was the nutrition that diminished our strengths, and in the last days we were forced to stay hungry without [any] food, and to live without making any movement [?] , and to die of, ah, of hunger because our strength was so . . .Mr. Button is referring here to the last months that the camp was in existence as conditions deteriorated dramatically due to the influx of tens of thousands of prisoner evacuees and a typhus epidemic. From January to mid-April 1945, some 35,000 prisoners perished in the camp. Mr. Button and others in the "neutral camp" suffered during this time but were still afforded better treatment than the majority of the inmates as seen by Mr. Button's subsequent testimony regarding the cruelty and brutality he witnessed in Belsen during the winter of 1945.13
  • David Boder: Weakened?
  • Jacob Button: Weakened.
  • David Boder: Now, what did the children do in such a camp?
  • Jacob Button: The children were able to—when we, me and my wife were together, have some more of our rations.
  • David Boder: But did they do otherwise, read, play?
  • Jacob Button: The children did not have to do forced labor as the adults.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: I could, I can personally say what I saw around me.
  • David Boder: But what did your own children do, what did they do all day long?
  • Jacob Button: The children, the . . .
  • David Boder: Were they allowed to go outside?
  • Jacob Button: Outside, where outside, we were outside, next, ah, between the barracks outside . . .
  • David Boder: Barracks. Yes.
  • Jacob Button: And the children were allowed to, from those, ah . . .
  • David Boder: Barracks . . .
  • Jacob Button: From the barracks, [to go] away, 20, 25 meters away, go away, to get away further, and, ah . . .
  • David Boder: Tell me, Mr. Button, where are you, ah, where are your wife and children now?
  • Jacob Button: My wife and my children are now in Paris, where I also am still, living in a Centre de [unintelligible] of the Fédération des Sociétés Juives de France.The Jewish Committee for Social Action and Reconciliation, an arm of the organized French Jewish community, was able to provide food and shelter for some three quarters of the approximately 40,000 Holocaust survivors who came to France following their liberation.14
  • David Boder: You don't live in this house?
  • Jacob Button: I live in this house.
  • David Boder: And the wife and the children?
  • Jacob Button: And my children, too, yes.
  • David Boder: They, you live here, you have a room here?
  • Jacob Button: Yes, I have a room here. I would like to . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: . . . say something about the bad treatment of the Jews and other internees in Bergen-Belsen . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: . . . and—where I saw men and women who, in winter and in the snow and in, ah great cold, had large boards and carts to, ah . . .
  • David Boder: Haul.
  • Jacob Button: . . . were stretched on carts on which one would normally only have, ah, horses, and, ah . . .
  • David Boder: Mules . . .
  • Jacob Button: Mu—, Mules, ah . . .
  • David Boder: Yoked . . .
  • Jacob Button: Yo—, yoked. Under very bad . . .
  • David Boder: Conditions . . .
  • Jacob Button: Conditions, were under very bad conditions, were, ah, beaten, beaten by men and women. I saw how German women forced internees to work, and, ah, beat them, ready with large . . .
  • David Boder: Whips . . .
  • Jacob Button: With whips and, ah wooden, ah, and . . .
  • David Boder: Canes . . .
  • Jacob Button: . . . and wooden canes—and I also saw that some internees—maybe Germans or I don't know which nationality they were—were used to beat the other, other Jews. I, ah . . .
  • David Boder: Were those Jews who beat you?
  • Jacob Button: No, it . . .
  • David Boder: No, other prisoners?
  • Jacob Button: . . . it, those were other prisoners, Germans or Ro—, Russians or I don't know exactly how . . .
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: What they were . . . who were beating the Jews, the Jews. I have also seen that a woman who wanted to give a little—a, a little bread and salt, was seen by a German, ah, Gestapo woman, she beat her on the head so hard that I did not see her come out again after two days, and I learned later that she dropped dead—dead.
  • David Boder: Now tell me, Mr. Button, what are you planning to do now? What will you do, where do you want to go, or are you going to stay in Paris?
  • Jacob Button: First, I have applied to Palestine, and want to [go to] Palestine . . .
  • David Boder: You have applied, once again, you have for Pal— . . .
  • Jacob Button: I have applied for Palestine, and wanted to go first to Palestine where I also have other relatives.
  • David Boder: Yes.
  • Jacob Button: Unfortunately, I am waiting for a whole year here, and I have not received the permission to go to Palestine.At the time, Palestine was under the control of the British who severely restricted Jewish immigration. Like other survivors, Mr. Button had lost his home, his business, his belongings and the cultural and religious milieu into which he was born and was attempting to make a new life for himself and his family. 15 I had to try to find something to work here in France to make a possibility—to ensure a . . .
  • David Boder: To support, or . . .
  • Jacob Button: To make a living.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes Spool number 25, spoken by Mr. Jacob Button, a Spanish Jew born in Greece, he is now doing some work, he expects to go to Palestine. Illinois Institute of Technology recording.
  1. Thessaloniki or Salonika was home to the most flourishing Sephardic Jewish community in the world before the Holocaust. Nearly all of its prewar Jewish population of some 56,000 perished in the Holocaust, most of them in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
  2. Because their ancestors were originally from the Iberian peninsula, some Greek Sephardic Jews were able to obtain Spanish citizenship.
  3. The Baron Hirsch neighborhood in Salonika was one of the three neighborhoods in the city that comprised the Jewish ghetto. Since the it was close to a key railroad station, the neighborhood became the departure point for Jews being deported to extermination and concentration camp centers.
  4. The first rail convoy to Auschwitz-Birkenau departed on March 15, 1943. Subsequent convoys left in the following weeks. The last convoy left Salonika on August 10,1943.
  5. The rumor Mr. Button heard about "an extinction at work" was unfortunately accurate. Most of the at least 43,850 Jews from Salonikia who arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau between March and August, 1943 were gassed on arrival.
  6. Piraeus is the port linked to the city of Athens.
  7. The Germans occupied central Macedonia located in northern Greece.
  8. The German army occupied Athens on September 8, 1943 following Italy's capitulation. On October 7, 1943, an order was issued for all Jews in Athens to register with the community. There was a very limited response, and the following month all Jewish property was confiscated in retaliation for the poor registration showing. Some Jews in Athens joined partisan groups. Most went into hiding although by March 1944 about 1,500 had registered either to receive permission to work or out of fear of reprisals against Christian neighbors who were sheltering them.
  9. At the outset of the Italian occupation of Athens, there were some 3,500 Jews in the city. This number rose to 8,000-10,000 due to Jews who escaped to Athens from German and Bulgarian parts of occupied Greece. Among these escapees were Mr. Button and his family. On March 25, 1944, the Germans rounded up 1,690 Jews from Athens ( a number of them refugees from Salonikia) for deportation to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
  10. The Haidary concentration camp was located in the town of Haidary near Athens. It operated from September 2, 1943 to September 20, 1944. The majority of Haidary's inmates were transported to Bergen Belsen or to Auschwitz.
  11. This promise was not as empty as it sounds. The Franco government did agree to take Jews with Spanish citizenship but stipulated that they could only remain temporarily on Spanish soil. Only when one group had left the country could another be admitted. This policy greatly restricted the number of Jews who were admitted to Spain during the course of the war.
  12. Germany occupied Hungary on March 19, 1944. A special commando headed by Adolph Eichmann was part of the occupying force. Its task was to implement the "Final Solution" program. The Germans installed a collaborationist government which rapidly issued a host of anti-Jewish decrees including the wearing of the yellow star.
  13. Mr. Button is referring here to the last months that the camp was in existence as conditions deteriorated dramatically due to the influx of tens of thousands of prisoner evacuees and a typhus epidemic. From January to mid-April 1945, some 35,000 prisoners perished in the camp. Mr. Button and others in the "neutral camp" suffered during this time but were still afforded better treatment than the majority of the inmates as seen by Mr. Button's subsequent testimony regarding the cruelty and brutality he witnessed in Belsen during the winter of 1945.
  14. The Jewish Committee for Social Action and Reconciliation, an arm of the organized French Jewish community, was able to provide food and shelter for some three quarters of the approximately 40,000 Holocaust survivors who came to France following their liberation.
  15. At the time, Palestine was under the control of the British who severely restricted Jewish immigration. Like other survivors, Mr. Button had lost his home, his business, his belongings and the cultural and religious milieu into which he was born and was attempting to make a new life for himself and his family.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription : Stefan Meuser
  • English translation : Stefan Meuser
  • Footnotes : Eben E. English, Elliot Lefkovitz