Daniel Bennahmias

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.

Kaiti Ruben, as a child, with Daniel Bennahmias, her father’s cousin, early 1950’s.

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

1923

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

Daniel, however, managed to survive. While the Soviet army was approaching in January 1945, the Nazis evacuated Auschwitz and led inmates on a  ‘ Death March ’ to the  Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. Daniel was then sent to Ebensee (a subcamp of Mauthausen) before he was finally liberated by American troops in May 1945. The majority of people in Daniel’s position had been murdered and their individual stories lost forever, which makes his survival all the more remarkable. After the war, Daniel returned to Athens. He married and moved with his wife to America, where he studied chemistry at UC Berkeley. He died on 22 October 1994.

1994