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Rena Gani

Preveza, Greece

Rena and her family were Romaniot Jews, a group that had lived in Greek cities and the Balkans for more than 1,100 years. The town of Preveza, located on the Ionian seashore, had 300 Jews. Rena's father had a small textile shop and her mother stayed at home to care for Rena, her sister and her three brothers.

1933-39: When we moved to the nearby town of Ioannina, I completed Jewish primary school there. The school was sponsored by the French organization Alliance Israelite Universelle, and I learned French, Greek and Hebrew, as well as mathematics, history and social studies. By the time I began secondary school in 1933, my parents moved back to Preveza. In Preveza I studied at a Greek public school.

1940-44: The Germans invaded Greece in 1941, but Preveza was not occupied until March 1943. One year later, we were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenaucamp in Poland. My parents were sent directly to the gas chamber. My brothers were sent to work at the crematorium, and I to dig ditches. One Sunday when we didn't have to work I asked the head of my block, a Polish Jew, if I could visit my brothers at their nearby barracks. Infuriated, she snarled at me and slapped me in the face. Several weeks later, all of my brothers were killed.

Rena was sent to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp for women, and liberated during a death march in May 1945. She later emigrated to the United States.

 

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