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Yad Vashem Monastir. The Story of a Sephardic Community in Macedonia

Monastir During the Holocaust

Artifacts

The Accordion

The accordion that Shabtai Shami from Bitola, Macedonia, received from his parents as a barmitzvah gift, 1939 The accordion that Shabtai Shami from Bitola, Macedonia, received from his parents as a barmitzvah gift, 1939

This is the accordion that Shabtai Shami from Monastir, Macedonia, received as a barmitzvah gift from his parents in 1939.

When the racial laws began and the Jews were forbidden from owning musical instruments, Shabtai gave the accordion to a Moslem friend who had played with him in an orchestra. Shabtai was caught in Saloniki and deported to Auschwitz. He was then taken to Bergen-Belsen, where he died. Shabtai’s friend gave the accordion back to his sister at the end of the war.

The Shami Family

Moshe and Sara Shami had four children: Shabtai, Gita-Allegra, Avraham and Yosef. The family led a traditional life and made a comfortable living from their large clothing store. Gita was active in the Hashomer Hazair youth group.

In March 1943, the day before the deportation of the Jews of Macedonia, Shabtai and Gita fled to nearby Greece, together with seven other youths. They came to the city of Kastoria, where they joined family members that had arrived there a year before.

In September 1943, Kastoria was occupied by the Germans, and in March 1944 Shabtai and Gita were deported, with their uncles and aunts, to Birkenau. On arrival, the uncles, aunts and children were sent to the gas chambers and murdered. Shabtai and Gita were placed in work units. In late January 1945, the prisoners of Auschwitz-Birkeanu left on a death march westwards; among them were Shabtai and Gita. They reached Bergen-Belsen.

Gita was sent with a group of 300 women to a camp in the mountains, to forced labor at a factory making airplane parts. At the end of April she was sent to Mauthausen, where the Americans liberated her on 2 May.

Shabtai, who remained in Bergen-Belsen, died two days after liberation.

At the beginning of July 1945, Gita returned home to Monastir where she found that out of her entire family – her parents, the three siblings and her grandparents – she was the only survivor. In Bitola she met Sami-Shmuel Kalderon (one of the youths with whom she had fled at the beginning of her wanderings), who had returned to Monastir after spending the war years with a partisan unit in Greece.

The couple wed in the summer of 1946. Their oldest daughter was born in Monastir, and in December 1948 the family made aliya.

The online exhibition was made possible through the generous support of:

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.