Avraham Ashkenazi was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 1939 to a traditional, affluent family. Avraham’s family owned a tannery, and his maternal grandfather owned a wholesale store. In April 1941, with the German invasion of Greece, the city came under attack, and the family hid in the basement of a relative’s store in the center of town. After the Germans occupied the city, the family returned to their house and tried to continue their daily routine, but in the beginning of 1943 they were forced to flee after they found out about the upcoming deportation. Avraham’s father remembered how, in July 1942, together with some 9,000 other Jewish men aged 18-45, he was humiliated by the Germans in the town square, in what later became known as “Black Saturday.” Seeing the writing on the wall, he gathered his family together and declared: “We will not sign up for deportation to Poland, we are escaping!” “That was his greatness, and because of that I admire him until today,” relates Avraham.
The family – Avraham and his father, mother, grandfather and uncle – obtained false identity papers from Greek Christian friends. With the papers, the family masqueraded as Christians, and managed to move to the Italian-occupied zone of Greece. They arrived in Larissa and then moved to Athens, where they worked in a tannery set up by Avraham’s father. While in Athens, the family was subject to threats of denouncement and informers, and was thus forced to move from one sanctuary to the next, and to bribe Greek officers. On Sundays they even went to church, and Avraham remembers how as a boy he would remind his parents to take him every week.
With the help of the Greek underground, the family eventually escaped Greece by fishing boat, with some 40 other refugees, a few of them Jewish. After a voyage through the islands in the rickety boat, the family reached Turkey. Turkish soldiers caught them in the evening, starving and thirsty, cross-examined them, gave them bread and let them sleep in a school hall. From Turkey the family crossed to Syria, where they met members of the Haganah, and decided to immigrate to Israel. In 1944, the family boarded a train, reaching Israel via Lebanon.
Avraham settled in Tel Aviv. On reaching adulthood, he worked as a marketing and sales director, and today is the administrator of a marketing services company.
Avraham is married to Yaffa, and they have two children and five grandchildren.