A 98-year-old Holocaust survivor was the first to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in the inoculation campaign which started in Thessaloniki’s nursing homes on Tuesday.
Zana Santicario-Satsolgou, a survivor of the horrific Auschwitz concentration camp, received the inoculation Tuesday morning, serving as a figure of hope to her country.
After Greece received the first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, healthcare workers were the first to be inoculated, followed by residents and workers of long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes.
Santicario-Satsoglou was one of the few Greek Jews to survive the Holocaust. After being sent to the brutal concentration camp at 18 years of age, Santicario-Satsoglou emerged years later as the only member of her entire family to live through the horrors of the Holocaust.
Unlike the great majority of the country’s Jewish citizens, Santicario-Satsoglou was able to return to her home country of Greece.
Greece’s Jewish History
Thessaloniki once was the cultural hub for Sephardic Jews who had been expelled from Spain in 1492. Before the Nazi occupation of the city, it was home to about two-thirds of all Jewish Greeks.
But the Jews in Thessaloniki suffered a terrible fate during the Nazi occupation of Greece.
The Nazis confined them to ghettos, forced them to wear a yellow star on their clothing and banned them from public spaces. Jewish newspapers were closed, and synagogues, businesses, and hospitals looted.
Tragically, some 54,000 Jews from the city were sent to Nazi extermination camps, mainly Auschwitz-Birkenau, in 1943. More than 90 percent of the city’s Jewish population was murdered.
Some 59,000 Greek Jews perished during World War II, murdered by the Nazis; this comprised approximately 83 percent of the country’s total Jewish population. This is tragically one of the highest percentages in all of Europe.
Currently, the Jewish community in Greece comprises just a few thousand people.