Rebecca Pissirilo

Rebecca Pissirilo

Born: March 16, 1923

Kastoria, Greece

Rebecca was the oldest of three children born to Ladino-speaking, Sephardic-Jewish parents. The Pissirilos lived in Kastoria, a small town in the mountainous region of Greek Macedonia near the Albanian border. Rebecca's father was a successful fabric merchant. The Pissirilo children attended public schools.

1933-39: After finishing elementary school, Rebecca went on to study at secondary school. She liked to sing and enjoyed studying. Rebecca kept a diary, like some of the other girls in her class. The girls used pseudonyms, usually the name of an actress that they admired. Rebecca's pseudonym was "Marlene Dietrich."

1940-44: Italy attacked Greece in 1940, and in 1941 Italian officers were billeted in the Pissirilo home. During the Italian occupation Rebecca married Leon Franko, a Jewish refugee from Yugoslavia. In September 1943 Italy surrendered. The Germans occupied Kastoria and deported the town's 700 Jews to Salonika. There the Red Cross interceded on behalf of Rebecca, who was about to give birth, and rushed her to a hospital. On April 1, 1944, the day Kastoria's Jews were deported to Auschwitz, Rebecca gave birth to a daughter.

Rebecca tried to hide in the hospital, but was betrayed, and was executed by the Germans on September 8, 1944. A nurse in the hospital saved her infant daughter.

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