Heinz Kounio, is one of only 1,950 Jews from Salonica who survived the Holocaust. Deported from Greece in 1943, he survived Auschwitz, and at the conclusion of the war returned to his hometown. Kounio, the former head of the Jewish community in Salonica, has spent years gathering and documenting the names of 37,500 victims of the Holocaust in order to commemorate the memory of his fellow Salonicans who did not survive. This week, he presented these names to Yad Vashem to be preserved in the Hall of Names.
Sixty-seven years ago, the deportation of the Jews of Salonica and other Jewish communities in Greece began – most of whom never returned. They were deported to a destination previously unknown to them – Auschwitz-Birkenau. More than 53,000 members of the Salonica Jewish community - out of a total of 56,000 - were murdered there. The deportations of the Jews of Salonica to Auschwitz began in March 1943, and lasted until August 1943. Most were murdered on arrival at the camp. At the end of the war in 1945, only 1,950 Jews remained from the extraordinary community of Salonica. A city with an illustrious Jewish culture, rich in spirituality and creativity was cut off and lost from the world.
The addition of some 40,000 names will double the number of the names of Holocaust victims from Salonica, Greece that are recorded in the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names. (The Database previously included some 22,000 Salonican names, but some of the names just received are duplicates of ones already recorded in the database.) The new names will be digitized and available online within a few short months. At the present time, the database currently contains some 3.8 million names of victims of the Holocaust, and efforts are actively being made to gather as many names as possible before it is too late.