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January 17, 2014

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PAGE-10A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 17, 2014 Seeking Kin: Preparing for a unique graduation in Salonika He hopes to locate pupils or their relatives to invite to a ceremony presenting the diplomas at the Salonika institute on Jan. 27, Inter- national Holocaust Remem- brance Day. To publicize the search, an Athens newspaper article about Crescenzi was posted on a website run by a Greek- Israeli man. That led to mid-December mentions on "Kol Shishi," an Israeli radio program hosted by Yaron Enosh, a Grecophile. The list also is being circulated in the 3,000-memberAthens Jewish community, the 1,000-mem- ber Salonika Jewish commu- nity and Greek-Jewish groups elsewhere. Nearly all the 157 Jewish students were born in the 1910s, so they would have graduated during the 1920s and 1930s, long before the Nazi occupation decimated Greek Jewry. Athens resident Manon Maissa speculated that many graduates on the list merely By Hiilel Kuttler forgot to pick up their di- plomas. That's likely what occurred with her father, Salomone Maissa. After graduating Umberto, he attended uni- versity in Italy, joined the Greek army, returned to Saionika and was deported to Auschwitz. He survived, but his parents, Abramo and Maria, were murdered there. Salomone Maissa married, rejoined the army, settled into a medical practice as a dermatologist and started a family. "His priority was not to go to the school and [retrieve] his diploma," Manon said. Salomone Maissa died in 1992 at age 79. The private school was one of several where well-off Sa- lonika families sent their chil- dren in the decades between the world wars, explained Lily Eiss of Tel Aviv. Her father studied at the German school in Salonika and her mother at the French school. Eiss described Salonika then as cosmopolitan, given the Turkish, Armenian and French names she identified on Crescenzi's expanded list. "For me it's very exciting," Eiss, whose family settled in Salonika following the Spanish Inquisition, said of Crescenzi's search for graduates. Nelly Arouch, who runs the Jewish youth education programs in Saionika, said that even in a small way, Crescenzi's list will help document the individuals murdered in the Holocaust. Now, she said, only 15,000 BALTIMORE (JTA)--Scan- ning the list of students, Benny Natan wondered if he would recognize any names from his youth in Salonika, Greece. One of the 157 names jumped out: Nissim Tazartes. Natan, a space and aeronau- tics professor at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology, beamed. Tazartes was his first cousin, someone he had heard much about growing up but never met. The list of children who attended the Umberto No. 1 Italian School in Salonika between the world wars was compiled by Antonio Crescen- zi, an events coordinator in the city's Italian Institute of Culture. Crescenzi had discov- ered middle- and high-school diplomas that some Umberto graduates apparently had nev- er received and surmised that many of the 157 Jews among them were later deported in the Holocaust. HANDYMAN SERVICE Handy man and General Maintenance Air Conditioning Electrical Plumbing Carpentry Formerly handled maintenance at JCC References available STEVE'S SERVICES Call Steve Doyle at (386) 668-8960 ! Attention Advertisers. Reach Every Known Jewish Family in Central Florida With a Special Community Mailing Pub!!cation Date: February 7. 2014 Advertlsmg Deadline: January 29. 2014 For more information Please call Jeff at 407-834-8787 courtesy Antonio Crescenzi Antonio Crescenzi hopes to present the diplomas from 157 Jewish pupils from the Umberto No. 1 Italian School in Salonika to the graduates or their relatives at a ceremony on Jan. 27. names of the estimated 50,000 Greek Jewish victims are known. An open window in 2003 launched Crescenzi's effort. At the time he was teach- ing history and Italian at the cultural institute, which until 1944 housed the Umberto school. One stormy day he shut one of the building's basement windows and moved away wet cartons. He noticed a yellow paper and placed it in a carton before returning to the room several days later for a closer look. It was a composition penned by an Umberto pupil, Alberto Modiano, titled "The Nicest Day of My Life," on the boy's joy when his father promised to buy him a bi- cycle. Another composition, by Ester Saporta, described her happiness on a family boat trip to South America in 1934. Crescenzi soon found more papers: the diplomas, tests and class registers. In the past decade, Crescenzi said he has cleaned off, read and categorized the documents, and recently began seeking the Jewish owners of the diplomas. Crescenzi said he became interested in Salonika Jewry because of an experience in 1992, after moving there to marry a city native he had met in his native Italy. Stop- ping at a water fountain in a yard off a narrow street, he noticed he was standing on a slab of marble from a Jew- ish gravestone. Crescenzi recalled being ashamed that it adorned the fountain. "I was feeling that rather than standing on that stone, the same stone was pressing my headvery hard. I had to do something," Crescenzi said. He contacted the Salonika Jewish community office and returned to the yard two days later prepared to uproot the stone himself. It was gone. Crescenzi said he learned much by researching some of the Umberto students. One, Shlomo Venezia, was the rare Auschwitz inmate to survive the Sonderkom- mando units charged with cremating those murdered in the gas chambers. Venezia would move to Rome and publish a memoir before he died at 88. Modianowas hidden during the occupation and survived; Saporta and her mother were sent to Auschwitz. "I do not know how many times I have read the two wonderful compositions" by Modiano and Saporta, he said. "I realized that the in- nocent and wonderful fedings expressed in those lines came from Jewish children who ... later would be obliged to handle serious matters when the war came." Upon locating Maissa, their telephone conversation was "very emotional for me and for her," Crescenzi said. Maissa said she "of course" will attend the Jan. 27 cer- emony. "After so many years, to find someone who discovered part of my father's life and history--it's very touching for me," she said. Natan, now on sabbatical in Italy, said he or his Athens relatives also will attend. His cousin, Tazartes, escaped deportation to Auschwitz because his late father held Spanish citizenship. Tazartes settled in Italy, working as a journalist under the name Giorgio Tazartes; his mother, Regina, and sister, Elsa, moved to the United States. The three have died and neither Giorgio nor Elsa had children, Natan said. Crescenzi sees the cer- emony as timely beyond the Holocaust-commemoration day, since Salonika will serve as the EuropeanYouth Capital in 2014. "What would be better for the young people of today to remember," he said, "than what should never occur again." Please email Hillel Kut- tier at if you know the whereabouts of anyone appearing on the Salonika list or their relatives. If you would like "Seeking Kin" to write about your search for long-lost relatives and friends, please include the principal facts and your contact informa- tion in a brief email. "Seek- ing Kin" is sponsored by Bryna Shuchat and Joshua Landes and family in loving memory of their mother and grandmother, Miriam Shuchat, a lifelong uniter of the Jewish people. Hamas signals readiness for reconciliation with Fatah By Khaled Abu Toameh have also accused Hamas of tors who fled in 2007. Some involvement in terror attacks fled to the West Bank, while The measures, announced against Egyptians--a charge others found shelter in Egypt by Hamas Prime Minister that has been strongly denied and otherArab countries. Ismail Haniyeh during a press by the Islamist movement. Fatah leadersand members conference in Gaza City, are The Hamas measures in- who wish to visit the Gaza seen as a direct result of the clude allowing Fatah mem- Strip are also free to do so, deep crisis facing Hamas in bers who fled the Gaza Strip Haniyeh said, adding that the aftermath of the ouster of duringthe Hamas takeoverof the measures were aimed at EgyptianpresidentMohamed the area in 2007 to return to enhancing trust between the Morsi. their homes, two parties. The Egyptian authorities Haniyeh announced that The Hamas leadersaidthat have since tightened their his government would also his governmentwas prepared blockade of the Gaza Strip, release Fatah members who to do all that was needed to sealing the Rafah border were arrested for politically endthesplitbetweentheWest crossing and destroying most motivated security offenses. Bankand Gaza Strip. He urged of the smuggling tunnels He said that among those both sides to "absorb" the along their shared border, who would be allowed to re- "positive messages" coming The Egyptian authorities turntoGazaareFatahlegisla- from Hamas.