From the testimony of Yvette Leon
The Leon family owned a soap factory in Thessaloniki. They had a similar one in Skopje, Serbia [Macedonia]. The raw material used for the manufacture of the soap was olive oil, which they bought from George Mitzoliotis from the island of Skopelos. That is how they met and became friends with him. Stefanis Korfiatis was Mitzeliotis’ sister’s husband.
…The Germans entered Thessaloniki on April 9, 1941. No anti-Jewish measures were taken until the beginning of July 1942. On July 11, 1942 all men aged between 18-45 were ordered to gather on Platia Eleftherias (Freedom Square) where they were forced to remain standing from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in a temperature of 40°C with no sunglasses nor hats. They were forced to do physical exercises. If somebody fainted or fell on the ground, the Germans threw water on him to revive him. German women watched from the balconies of the buildings around the square; they applauded and laughed at the spectacle. New orders were issued on July 13. The men were registered and were given personal numbered cards. Thus, based on their card number they were called each month and were sent to forced labor, such as building roads, airports, etc. Judah Leon, Jaceques Leon and Maurice Leon were among the men present on July 11 in Platia Eleftherias. On his second attempt Maurice succeeded to escape to the adjacent street. This gathering convinced them (the brothers) not to respond to further German orders and they began to look for ways to escape….
From November 1942 to February 1943 all Jewish businesses and stores were seized; on December 6, 1942 the Jewish cemetery was expropriated and destroyed. On February 12, 1943 the Jews were ordered to wear the yellow star of David along with their identity card number, and they were also ordered to move to a ghetto. One was located in Vardari and the surrounding neighborhoods (Baron Hirsch), the second was in the center of the city and a third was in an area called “the suburbs”.
On March 1, all the heads of families were to declare all their property, including money, jewelry and real estate. On March 15 the first transport left Baron Hirsch to Auschwitz…..
As far as the Leon family was concerned, they lost Isaac’s brothers, uncles, aunts and cousins, but thank God, nobody was lost from the Isaac Leon family.
All the family left their home that was in the suburbs ghetto on Italias Street on the same day, but in small groups, so that nobody would be caught and shot. The others scattered in various Christians’ homes and from there they left to their final destination….Jacques went to the home of the factory’s accountant, Elizabeth, who lived in Kalamrai. From there he sent a telegram to George Mitzoliotis addressing him Sotirios (Savior) Mitzeliotis. At the village the telegram was delivered to George because he was the only one called Mitzeliotis; Goerge knew that Jacques was aware of his real name, but as he was addressed ‘Sotirios’ (the one who saves), he realized that there was something wrong. He got in a small boat and sailed to a small port called Epanomi, near Thessaloniki. He went to Elizabeth’s house, took Jacques to the sailboat and sailed away to Skopelos….
It was decided that each one would leave as they thought best in order to survive. Maurice Leon was able to depart only on his third attempt. The first time he was with his nephew Sam Leon. A railway employee gave them uniforms and embarked them in a railway car with other railway personnel. However, the controller realized that Maurice was not a railway employee and threatened to reveal his identity to the Germans, but let him go after Maurice gave him all the money he had. The second time he was with his friend Marcel Natzari, but they were unable to board the train. The third attempt was organized by Yannis Teoharis…When they reached Platamona they had to go through German control before crossing into Italian occupied territory. Ioannis Theoharis had received some money from the Leons to give to the Greek interpreter of the Germans, Anexinis was his name. The man looked at their identity cards, told the Germans they were in order, so they were able to get through.
….Isaac Leon, Riketta Leon, Maurice leon and Bertha Leon left Athens after Italy surrendered and went to Halkida by truck; from there they went to Aghia Anna (a village in northern Evia) on another truck and stayed for one night at the home of Kostas Katsanos who was George Mitzeliotis’ cousin. The next day they went to Skopelos on a small sailboat. Mitzeliotis was waiting for them there.
…The entire village knew that these people were Jews, but nobody betrayed them. When the Germans came to the island about one month after Italy surrendered, the village teacher told Mitzeliotis that he was endangering the lives of the whole population of the village. Mitzeliotis replied that he was going to send them to Pilio, a mountain in Magnisia. But instead, he scattered them in different huts up the mountains where he owned pieces of land in Mahlas, Klima and Panayia Eliotissa. This way the villagers thought that they (the Jews) had left. Eventually the villagers realized what had happened, but they did not protest. Only once the Germans asked someone to give them oil and he told them in Greek to go ask the Jews, but apparently they did not understand….
The Leons did not circulate so that they would not be seen by neither the villagers nor the Germans. Members of the mitzleiotis and Korfiatis families would come out at night on mules to bring them bread that they had baked and other foods such as beans, olives, onions, oil, water, etc. Isaac and Riketta Leon, Bertha, Maurice, Eli and Jeanne Cohen and Sarina were staying in one of the huts in Pouri. Then there was a change. Jacques came to Pouri, while Maurice, Eli and Jeanne left and went further up on the mountain to another hut on a piece of land owned by Mitzeliotis. There they were joined by Solon Molho and Ino Rousso. Judah and Victoria with their children stayed at the home of Korfiatis’ mother in Mahalas. In all these huts the daytime had turned into nighttime, and nobody would go out during the day. There were no toilet, no kitchens, and of course no running water.