Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Bella Camhi - November 18, 1999

German Occupation of Salonika

Do you remember when they came to Salonika?

Uh, I remember, yeah, sure I remember. I remember, I was, I was took uh, I got once caught by a German shepherd because I went to organize a loaf of bread. So he got me before the bread. I was lucky. You see, they didn't have to use us, they used to put the dogs.

Do you remember the first time you saw a German soldier? Did you see them marching in?

Oh yeah, and I spoke the languages like I speak English. That's what saved my life.

Because you knew Yiddish? You didn't know Yiddish.



You know. I spoke seven languages when I came here. Just like you hear me English. Broken you know, broken you know, seven languages.

But your family didn't speak Yiddish at home, they spoke Ladino.

Just uh, Spanish. It's not even Ladino, it's Spanish.

It was straight Spanish.


What was it like to see the Germans marching into Salonika?

To me, it was no...not surprise because I was reading it. My folks, "Oh, they say, "she's, she's young, she doesn't know what..." I hear this from my kids now, mother you don't know anything about it.

But you read the newspapers.


Did you ever read...

Right! It was in the paper you know, that uh, uh, we're all going to go, the factories are ready where we're gonna work. And condominiums they're ready for everybody. Oh gee whiz. Yeah. I--to me it was not a surprise seeing that.

Was this in the newspaper, um...

You know, the daily news.

???? is that what...

Like ??? or Salonika Press or whatever, you know.

But not the Jewish Press, ???.

No, no, no, no, no, no. Uh, we didn't even have any, any Hebrew that we learn, it was in school. You didn't even know you were Jewish.

So there was--oh--so there was no Jewish paper in Salonika.

None that I recall, you know. But ??? was big in school.

Did you have a radio?

Oh, a radio? We didn't have a toilet! [laughs]

[laughs] Okay, okay, I'm sorry.

I mean, we had to go like from here four houses down. And if you went there's a big ??? like this watching you going to the bathroom. Wasn't a good thing. I mean, concentration camp was not any better, living--growing up in that regime. You had to be a fighter to survive. Rough. And then 1933, oh my God. People were dying like the flies.

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