The House by the Sea: A Portrait of the Holocaust in Greece

Rebecca Fromer, Author Mercury House $16.95 (162p) ISBN 978-1-56279-105-6
Although this biography does not offer the wide scope that its subtitle promises, it does work as a look at one man's experience. Elia Aelion was from Salonika, a major Sephardic center that claimed a Jewish population of 56,000 before WWII. Of those, 96% died, but Aelion was one of the lucky few to survive. After a helpful introduction into the history of this era, Fromer (The Holocaust Odyssey of Daniel Bennahmias, Sonderkommando) jumps into a contrived first-person account: ""I have not used a tape recorder, and we were not conducting interviews. In invoking the past, we spoke as the storytellers of old, without impediments, and in earnest to inform."" Unfortunately she tells her subject's story with this same cloyingly artificial tone and thereby robs it of a more natural dignity and clarity. Still, the details are moving. Aelion lived a rather cloistered life as a child, mostly traveling from his grandparents' house (the idyllic family home mentioned in the title) to his own parents' house and to a private Jewish school. Eventually he moved from Salonika to Athens, and when the city became occupied by Germans he struggled across the mountains to reach free Greece. Photographs and small details of his family's daily life give individuality to an often incomprehensible loss, while informative sidebars help clarify the history. (July)
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
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