David Boder interviewed David Lea, a twenty-eight year old Greek Jew, on August 12, 1946 in Paris at the headquarters of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. It appears that the interview was conducted in German and then in Spanish. Due to language problems, Mr. Lea had some difficulty communicating his responses to Boder’s questions so parts of the interview are a bit hard to interpret. The language barrier may also account for some inconsistencies in Mr. Lea’s account, but these may also be due to the terrible traumas he experienced.
Mr. Lea was born in Salonika, a port city in northern Greece with a large pre-Holocaust Jewish population and a renowned center of Sephardic Jewish culture. After serving in the Greek army during World War II fighting against Italian and German invaders, Mr. Lea returned to Salonika from where he was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau along with thirty-six members of his family. After a month in the camp, Mr. Lea was the sole survivor. He then was among a contingent of Greek Jewish prisoners sent to Warsaw in the wake of the Warsaw ghetto rebellion (April 19-May 16, 1943) to clear the ruins of the ghetto and comb it for anything of value.
Mr. Lea was then returned to Auschwitz-Birkenau where he worked in the Sonderkommando in the deepest circle of the Nazi hell. In this capacity, he witnessed the destruction of several hundred thousand Hungarian Jews in the late spring and early summer of 1944. Mr. Lea was in the sickbay in Auschwitz during the memorable October 7, 1944 revolt of the Sonderkommando in which Greek Jews played a vital role. Following the evacuation of Auschwitz on January 18, 1945, Mr. Lea ultimately was transported to Landsberg, a sub camp of Dachau. Mr. Lea remained incarcerated there until his liberation by the Americans on April 29, 1945.
Mr. Lea was among the only 2% of his native Salonikan community of some 54,000 Jews who survived the Holocaust. Mr. Lea’s interview demonstrates the savage and sadistic brutality of the Nazi regime and the incredible determination, resiliency and courage as well as good fortune it took survive the worst of man’s inhumanity to man. Despite all that he had gone through and all the painful losses he had suffered, Mr. Lea at the time of the interview was working to aid other survivors and retained the hope of immigrating to Palestine where he planned to rebuild his life.