Daniel Bennahmias was born in 1923 in Thessaloniki, Greece, and lived there with his parents, Mark and Harriet. Daniel and his family all had Italian citizenship, which was obtained by his father’s family after the incorporation of Thessaloniki into the Greek state in 1912. During the period when Italy was at war with Greece (1940-1941), Italian citizens – including the Bennahmias family – were imprisoned.
They were released in spring 1941, after the Nazi invasion, and returned to Thessaloniki, before moving to Athens when deportations started in March 1943. They went into hiding after the Italian surrender in the September of the same year.
Sadly, the family were betrayed – it is unknown who by – and subsequently discovered in March 1944. They were arrested and imprisoned in Haidari concentration camp, 8km from Athens, for one month, after which they were deported to Auschwitz. Daniel’s parents were murdered upon arrival, while he was selected to become a member of the Sonderkommando – a notoriously brutal posting.
The Bennahmias family were discovered and sent to Auschwitz, where Daniel’s parents were murdered upon arrival
The Sonderkommando was made up almost exclusively of young, male Jewish prisoners working in the gas chambers and crematoria. It wasn’t common for those in this role to survive. They were routinely murdered as they knew too much about the inner workings of the death camps.
Daniel was selected to become a member of the Sonderkommando, a notoriously brutal posting which involved working in the gas chambers and crematoria
Το Μαουτχάουζεν ήταν ένα ναζιστικό συγκρότημα στρατοπέδων που ιδρύθηκε από τα γερμανικά SS στην Αυστρία το 1938 αμέσως μετά το Anschluss, την ενσωμάτωση της Αυστρίας στο Τρίτο Ράιχ, με δεκάδες υποστρατόπεδα. To Έμπενζεε (1943-1945) ήταν ένα από τα σημαντικότερα υποστρατόπεδα του Μαουτχάουζεν. Σχεδόν 200.000 κρατούμενοι πέρασαν από το σύστημα του στρατοπέδου του Μαουτχάουζεν μεταξύ Αυγούστου 1938 και Μαΐου 1945. Τουλάχιστον 95.000 πέθαναν εκεί. Περισσότεροι από 14.000 από αυτούς ήταν Εβραίοι.
Τα μέλη του Ζοντερκομάντο, το οποίο ήταν ειδική μονάδα εργασίας στα ναζιστικά στρατόπεδα θανάτου. Αποτελούνταν από άνδρες, κυρίως Εβραίους, κρατούμενους που αναγκάζονταν να εργάζονται μέσα και γύρω από τα κρεματόρια των ναζιστικών στρατόπεδων θανάτου. Οι αρχές του στρατοπέδου αντικαθιστούσαν τα μέλη του Ζοντερκομάντο τακτικά. Τα νέα μέλη ήταν υπεύθυνα να μεταφέρουν τα νεκρά σώματα στα κρεματόρια, αφού και αυτοί είχαν δολοφονηθεί στους θαλάμους αερίων.
Το Χαϊδάρι είναι μια συνοικία που απέχει 9 χλμ. από το κέντρο της Αθήνας. Κατά τη διάρκεια της ιταλικής κατοχής στην Ελλάδα χτίστηκε στην περιοχή στρατόπεδο, το οποίο λειτούργησε μόνο για λίγες μέρες. Από τον Σεπτέμβριο του 1941 η Sicherheitdienst (SD), μια ειδική υπηρεσία ασφαλείας των Γερμανών, είχε τη διοίκηση του Χαϊδαρίου, το οποίο αρχικά χρησίμευε ως διαμετακομιστικό στρατόπεδο στα μεγάλα στρατόπεδα συγκέντρωσης στην Ευρώπη, ιδιαίτερα στο Άουσβιτς και στο Νταχάου. Λειτουργούσε κυρίως ως κέντρο κράτησης εσωτερικών πολιτικών αντιπάλων. Το Χαϊδάρι ήταν διαβόητο για τον υποσιτισμό, την καταναγκαστική εργασία, τα βασανιστήρια και τις εκτελέσεις.
Haidari is a quarter located 9 km away from the center of Athens, the Greek capital. During the Italian occupation of Greece, a military camp was built in the area, which operated only for a few days. From September 1941 the Sicherheitdienst (SD), a special Nazi security service, had command of Haidari, which initially served as a transit camp to major concentration camps in Europe, especially Auschwitz and Dachau. It functioned primarily as a detention center for internal political opponents. Haidari was notorious for malnutrition, forced labor, torture and executions.
Mauthausen was a Nazi camp complex established by the German SS in Austria in 1938 right after the Anschluss, the incorporation of Austria into the Third Reich, with dozens of subcamps. Ebensee (1943-1945) was among the most important subcamps of Mauthausen. Almost 200,000 prisoners passed through the Mauthausen camp system between August 1938 and May 1945. At least 95,000 died there. More than 14,000 of them were Jewish.
As Allied troops approached the concentration camps, the Nazis attempted to destroy evidence of their crimes, and this included evacuating the camps, forcing prisoners to walk from wherever they were in Europe towards Germany. Anyone who could not keep up was shot, and, with limited food and inadequate clothing, many thousands died on these enforced death marches.
The Sonderkommando, or ‘Special Squads’, were work units in the Nazi death camps. They consisted of male, mainly Jewish, prisoners who were forced to work in and around the crematoria of several of the Nazi death camps. Members of the Sonderkommando would be regularly replaced, with the new members being responsible for taking the bodies of their predecessors to the crematoria once they too had been murdered in the gas chambers.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is the most infamous of all Nazi camps and actually consisted of three main camps, known as Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II – Birkenau and Auschwitz III – Monowitz-Buna. There were also around 45 sub-camps around these sites. Over 1.1 million people were murdered at this site, and over 90% of them were Jewish.
The first Nazi concentration camp was established just months after the Nazis came to power. These were part of the Nazi system to persecute and intimidate the population. Concentration camps were not specifically set up to kill their inmates, but the harsh conditions and cruel treatment resulted in large prisoners dying, with many being murdered by camp guards. It is estimated that there were over 40,000 camps across Nazi-occupied Europe; some of these were labour camps, some were extermination or death camps.
Buchenwald Concentration Camp was established by the Nazis in 1937 and was one of the largest camps in Germany. Jews, Roma people, political prisoners, gay men Jehovah’s Witnesses and prisoners of war were imprisoned at Buchenwald, as well as ‘asocial’ prisoners who were incarcerated due to their inability to find work. Between 1937 and 1945 approximately 250,000 people were imprisoned at Buchenwald, over 56,000 of whom were killed. Many prisoners died due to illness, malnutrition, executions, medical experimentation, and the hardships of slave labour. In January 1945 approximately 10,000 prisoners – mostly Jewish – arrived at the camp after being forced to endure death marches. In early April, as US forces approached the camp, the Nazi paramilitary group SS began to force inmates on further marches out of Buchenwald. The US Army liberated 21,000 prisoners from Buchenwald on 11 April 1945.
Ravensbrück Concentration Camp was built in 1939 and was the largest women’s concentration camp. A small men’s camp was added in April 1941 and a youth camp, Uckermark, became part of Ravensbrück in June 1942. In total around 120,000 women and children and 20,000 men from over 30 different countries were imprisoned at Ravensbrück, including Jewish and Sinti and Roma people. Around 20,000 to 30,000 prisoners died in Ravensbrück, through starvation, from having been experimented on, from being worked to death, or selected for death for being considered too weak to work. A gas chamber was built in January 1945 and approximately 6,000 prisoners were gassed here. Shortly before the end of the war, the International, Danish and Swedish Red Cross evacuated around 7,500 prisoners to Sweden, Switzerland and France. Around 20,000 prisoners were taken on death marches. The Soviet Troops liberated the camp on 30 April 1945 and found around 2,000 prisoners who had been too sick to go on the death marches.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is the most infamous of all Nazi camps and consisted of three main camps, known as Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II – Birkenau and Auschwitz III – Monowitz-Buna. There were also around 45 sub-camps around these sites. Over 1.1 million people were murdered at this site, and over 90% of them were Jewish.
In early 1940, Hartheim Castle in Austria was converted to be used as a killing centre for those with physical or mental disabilities (or those perceived to have these). From May 1940, people were killed using carbon dioxide in gas chambers. It is estimated that around 30,000 people were murdered in Hartheim Castle.
Historians estimate that between 200,000 and 500,000 Roma and Sinti (historically often labelled as ‘Gypsies’) people were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators in what is now called the Roma genocide. Many more were imprisoned, used for forced labour or subject to forced sterilisation and medical experimentation. Roma and Sinti men, women and children were already being targeted for persecution and imprisonment before the Second World War. As the Second World War began, the genocide of Roma and Sinti people intensified – including in occupied territories such as Austria. The persecution of Roma and Sinti and the Roma genocide took place alongside the Holocaust that saw the murder of six million Jews.
Dachau Concentration Camp was established in March 1933, initially to house political opponents. Dachau was used as a model for all later concentration camps. In the 12 years of its existence, over 200,000 people from all over Europe were imprisoned in Dachau, including gay men, Sinti and Roma, ‘asocials’, criminals, Jews and, later, Soviet prisoners of war. Once the Second World War started, living conditions in Dachau drastically worsened. Approximately 41,500 people were murdered in Dachau; one third of these died in the final six months of the war. Approximately 25,000 prisoners were sent on death marches as Allied troops approached. The camp was liberated by American troops in April 1945.
The Nazis planned the mass-deporation of European Jews to extermination camps in German-occupied Poland. The Jews were forced to gather at local sites, such as a synagogue or town square, and then crammed onto freight or passenger trains, with limited or no food or sanitary conditions. Journeys often lasted several days, and sometimes they took a few weeks. Many of those packed onto these trains died during the journey to the camps through starvation or overcrowding.