Interviewee: Eda Button
Interviewer: David P. Boder
Recordist: David P. Boder
Transcriber: Claudia Deetjen
Transcriber: Christian Schmidt
Translator: Claudia Deetjen
Translator: Christian Schmidt
Annotator: Eben E. English
Annotator: Elliot Lefkovitz
Annotator: Christian Schmidt
Writer of added commentary: Elliot Lefkovitz
Editor: Eben E. English
Creation location: Jewish Committee home for adult Jewish refugees
Eda Button was born in Salonika Greece, the world center of Sephardic Jewry. She married in October, 1939, and the couple had one child, born in May 1942. Mrs. Button's husband was an attorney. The interview was conducted in German in a home for refugees in Paris. There is no indication that Eda Button was related to Jacob Button whom Boder also interviewed.
The Germans occupied Salonika on April 9, 1941. Persecution of Jews began in earnest in the summer of 1942. In early 1943, the Jews of Salonika were ghettoized, and other restrictions and humiliations were imposed upon them. Mrs. Button's husband fled to the mountains. Mrs. Button entrusted her baby daughter to an Italian woman who turned the baby over to be cared for by a convent of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Mrs. Button herself fled to Athens which was then still under the rule of Fascist Italy, an ally of Nazi Germany. The Italians resisted German demands to deal harshly with the Jews.
In Athens, Mrs. Button stayed first with her sister and then with her husband's relatives. He joined her in the city. Her brother and elderly mother were there as well. Mrs. Button attempted successfully to reinstate the Spanish citizenship she had held as a child. This would prove a life saving measure. On September 8, 1943, the Germans occupied Athens following the surrender of Italy to the Allies. Mrs. Button and other Athenian Jews went into hiding when the Germans ordered all Jews in Athens to register with the community. She and others lived in constant fear.
Mrs. Button's husband was able to successfully escape by boat to neutral Turkey and from there to Palestine. On April 12, 1944, Mrs. Button, her brother and mother along with other Jews with Spanish citizenship were deported to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp rather than to Auschwitz-Birkenau where they would have faced almost certain death. They were interned in the so-called neutral camp in Bergen-Belsen from which Mrs. Button was liberated by the British army on April 15, 1945. Once freed, Mrs. Button went to Paris where, fifteen days before the interview with Boder, she was reunited with her child. At the time of the interview, Mrs. Button was preparing to join her husband in Tel Aviv.
Mrs. Button's interview vividly demonstrates how the Holocaust ripped families asunder. This is illustrated by Mrs. Button's heartbreaking separation from her baby daughter and then from her husband. The interview ends on a positive note with the promise of family reunification. Many families were not nearly as fortunate.