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Sephardic Jews Deported to Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp During World War II

Background

Located in Lower Saxony, the Bergen Belsen camp was established in April 1943 as a detention camp for prisoners who were to be exchanged with Germans imprisoned in Allied countries. During the year of 1943, Germans interned there Jews holding nationality of neutral countries such as Spain, Argentina, Turkey etc. In early 1944, the camp became a regular concentration camp.

This database consists of Sephardic Jews from European countries that were deported to Bergen-Belsen. The collection includes Jews that were born in Bulgaria, France, Great Britain, Israel, Italy, Libya, Netherlands, Turkey and Yugoslavia. It is to be noted that for many of these people there are no Pages of Testimony in the Yad Vashem Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names.

Below is some specific information for some of those countries.

France

85,000 Jews were deported from France from March 1942 till August 1944, when France was liberated by the allies and French Resistance forces. Fourteen Jews interned in Bergen Belsen were born in France, 13 in Paris and one in Marseille. Two of them had surnames found in North-Africa while the others have surnames found in the Balkans. They may have a nationality of one of the neutral countries.

Greece

Between October 28, 1940 and April 1941 Italy tried to invade Greece but was repelled by the Greek army, jointly with 13,000 partisans. Many Jews served as soldiers or officers in the army or were part of the partisans. On April 7, 1941, coming from the newly conquered Yugoslavia and from its ally, Bulgaria, the German army invaded the whole territory of Greece. Soon after, Germans divided Greece between the Axis Partners; Bulgaria and Italy. On January 1943. Himler gave the order to apply within 6-8 weeks the "Final Solution" in the German zone. On March 15, 1943 occurred the first deportation transport that left Salonica. By the end of July 1943, the Jewish population of Salonica was liquidated in 19 transports. Nevertheless, while 46,000 Salonica Jews were deported to Auschwitz, a very last transport of 441 Jews, including 367 Jews who all were Spanish nationals, arrived to Bergen Belsen concentration camp.

In the meantime, Eastern Greek Macedonia, Western Greek Thrace, Yugoslavian Macedonia and the Serbian city of Pirot that were first invaded by the German army, were occupied by the Bulgarian army from 1941. Between March, 3 and 19, 1943, 11,343 Jews were sent to their death to Treblinka Concentration Camp. From March 1944 the Germans began to deport Jews from other places in Greece, including the Jews of the islands of Rhodes, Cos, Corfu and Crete. On the eve of World War II, the Jewish population counted 78,000 souls, 67,000 perished in the Holocaust.

Israel (Eretz Israel)

With the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WW I, Sephardic families who lived in a same place for four centuries and more, moved to western Europe, mostly France or Belgium, others to Eretz Israel that just became a British Mandate, while some made their way to Latin America. It is possible that some people from Eretz Israel went to France or Belgium to visit their relatives or to study in French or Belgian universities or for trade purposes. Blocked there with the outbreak of the war, later on they were caught as Jews by the police or the Gestapo. Probably as British nationals or Turkish citizens, they were sent to Bergen Belsen camp and not to death camps such as Auschwitz.

Libya

Between 1911 and 1943, Libya was an Italian colony. The Jewish population of Libya counted some 30,000 souls on the eve of WW II and while most lived in the two main cities, the capital Tripoli and in Benghazi, the rest were dispersed in many villages.

With the rapprochement of Italy to Nazi Germany, the first racial laws were applied against Libyan Jews as early as 1938. Just as in occupied European countries, Jews' lives became progressively much harder. After Italy entered the war on the side of her ally Germany, all the Jewish French and British citizens were interned in Giado concentration camp situated at 240 km south of Tripoli. Cyrenaica was conquered by the British army in June 1940 and re-conquered back by the German Afrika Korps in May 1941, thus restoring Italian rule. Afterwards, the Jewish French citizens were sent to Tunisia, while the 300 Jewish British citizens were deported to several temporary internment camps in Italy. From there they were sent to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp located in Lower Saxony, Germany.

The Libyan Jews were sent to several concentration camps located on Libyan soil itself. Conditions were harsh causing many to perish from hunger, epidemics and the like. The British army which includes the Jewish brigade, liberated Libya at the end of January 1943. Afterwards the surviving Jews were liberated from the concentration camps.

Netherlands

Netherlands was part of the Spanish Empire but in 1581 the Northern provinces declared independence; the main reason was to freely practice the Protestant religion. A century earlier, in 1492 Jews were expelled from Spain but many remained there as conversos who continued to practice Judaism in great secret. The independence of the Dutch provinces created a unique opportunity for these conversos to leave Spain and settle in a country where they could openly return to Judaism. They began to establish themselves in the Netherlands, mainly in Amsterdam from 1593 on. Ashkenazi Jews began to settle there too.

The Germans invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. The conditions of life of the Jews became progressively harsher. The 1941 Nazi census counted 121,000 Ashkenazim and 4,000 Sephardim. Their deportation in 98 transports began on January 1942 from Westerbork, a local internment camp, to various concentration camps; Auschwitz, Sobibor, Theresienstadt and Bergen Belsen.

Netherlands Jews were the first Jews to be interned in Bergen-Belsen when eight transports arrived there.

Turkey

During the year of 1943, Germans interned their Jews holding nationality of neutral countries such as Spain, Argentina, Turkey etc.

After World War I many Turkish Jews chose to live in France and in Belgium. Some of them kept their Turkish nationality. This is the reason why, once arrested, they were interned in Bergen Belsen that became a death camp by the beginning of 1944.

Yugoslavia

On the eve of the German occupation 82,500 Jews lived in the former Yugoslavia. Only 14,000 survived.

Jasenovac, a large concentration and extermination camp for men was founded on the soil of Croatia and managed by the fascist Croatian Security Police, called Ustase. It was located at about 100 km south of Zagreb. The women were interned in the camp of Stara Gradiska, which was further away. Jews as well as Serbians were interned there before soon being cruelly slaughtered. Between 20,000 and 25,000 Jews were already murdered there when deportation of the Croatian Jews to Auschwitz for extermination began in August 1942.

The Jews of Yugoslavian Macedonia and Thrace were controlled by Bulgarian occupation forces, which after rendering them stateless, rounded them up and turned them over to the Germans for deportation on March 1943. 387 Jews born in Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Croatia, all provinces of former Yugoslavia, were found among the internees in Bergen Belsen camp.

Database

This database consists of 1,151 Sephardic Jews from Bulgaria, France, Great Britain, Greece, Israel, Italy, Libya, Netherlands, Turkey, and Yugoslavia.

The fields in the database are:

  • Surname
  • Given Name
  • Year of Birth
  • Birthplace – City / Town
  • Birthplace – Province
  • Birthplace – Country
  • Source – page # from book

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the tremendous contributions and lifelong dedication of Mathilde Tagger, z"l, who made this index available. For many years, and right until her untimely death, Mathilde Tagger was a very close friend and collaborator with Jeff Malka. Together they worked to promote Sephardic genealogy research and educate the public about its enormous potential. Mathilde compiled this information based upon the original source material: Klarsfeld, Serge. Mémorial de la Déportation des Juifs de France. Paris, 1978.

In addition, we express our grateful appreciation to Dr. Jeff Malka for his monumental ongoing effort to collect and make accessible Sephardic genealogical information, and for his generosity in contributing his extraordinarily valuable collection to JewishGen.

Finally, we thank Mike Kalt, HTML Volunteer Coordinator, for placing this description online, and Nolan Altman, Director of Special Projects and Coordinator of the Holocuast Database, for his continued devotion and dedication to JewishGen's important work.

May 2021


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The Sephardic Jews Deported to Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp During World War II can be searched by via the JewishGen Sephardic Collection, the Jeff Malka Collection, or the JewishGen Holocaust Collection


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