Monastir During the Holocaust
The Coat of Moshe Shami
This is the coat that Moshe Shami from Monastir, Macedonia, sewed in the winter of 1943 when rumors began regarding the deportation of Jews to a forced labor camp. Since it was forbidden for Jews to own warm coats, he was forced to give it to a neighbor; he was sent to a labor camp in Bulgaria without the coat.
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 5 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.