‘No one could leave’: The last Greek Jewish Holocaust survivor shares her story


“We were like animals,” one of the last Greek Jewish Holocaust survivors said in an interview with Ekathimerini.

At the age of 96, Esther ‘Naki’ Matathia Bega has recounted her harrowing story about being a Jew in Greece and how after being caught by the Nazis she faced a 14-month fight for survival at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, as well as the long march to liberation across Germany.

On March 1944, the Germans started rounding up the Jews where she had been living with her brother’s father in Volos near Trikala, Greece.

“They dragged us to the square, packed us into cars and took us to Larissa… Then the Germans put us in the train cars, with one tiny window and box where we did our business, and 13 days later, we arrived at the camp,” Esther said in her interview.

Bega was taken to Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. She detailed the horrific scenes and tormenting smells she endured at the time.

Esther ‘Naki’ Matathia Bega shows the tattoo of her number, 77092. Photo: Ekathimerini

“When anyone tried to escape, they were killed and their bodies were propped up with shovels along the road so we could see them. No one could leave,” Bega explained and added that with time, prisoners came to understand what was happening at the gas chambers as well.

By January 1945, the Nazis began evacuating the site and Bega would begin a 22-day march in Germany’s freezing cold.

“We’d walk all day and at night they’d put us in some field so we could rest and then we’d start walking again in the morning,” she said.

With Germany under attack, Bega’s group, which included five Greek women, were released by the Nazis. She remembers begging for clothing at nearby houses. Eventually, she returned to Greece on August 15, 1945.

“I remember that day, because there were flags everywhere.”

Greece was celebrating the feast day of the Mother of God, Panagia.

Source: Ekathimerini

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