Personal Experiences in Post-Shoah Greece: The Case of Isaak Menahem Rousso

Published: Jun 19, 2019
Memory Studies Holocaust German reparations Subjectivities
Anna Maria Droumpouki

In December 1971, twelve years after his first letter to the West German government, 73-year-old Isaak Menahem Rousso exclaimed: “I ask you, what did I do to you for you to destroy my wealth, my shops? You killed my parents, and now you want to pay me a pittance”? The article focuses on the individual struggle of a Jewish survivor to receive compensation from the Federal Republic of Germany, as can be traced in the personal archive of Isaak Menahem Rousso. It examines the numerous letters he sent to German officials during the 1960s and 1970s, documents and contextualises his feelings of despair, fear and anger, and elucidates upon them. These feelings are typical for the Greek Jewish survivors that sought compensation. Survivors complained that the claims evaluation process constituted an unpleasant and inhumane experience. Many found it very difficult to return to the past and remember their suffering, as some of them already felt guilt or shame for having survived, not to mention the pain that reliving these traumatic experiences incurred. Many victims suffered from post-traumatic disorders and it was not easy to revive these experiences. Through Isaak Menahems’ story, I want to explore the survivors’ feelings in their search for recognition and compensation.

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Author Biography
Anna Maria Droumpouki, Freie Universität Berlin

Anna Maria Droumpouki holds a BA in History and Archaeology, an MA in Museology and a PhD in Contemporary Greek and European History (all from the University of Athens). She was a Visiting Research Scholar at the Simon-Dubnow Institute for Jewish History and Culture in Leipzig (2009), and a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Research Centre for Modern History of Panteion University, Athens (2014-16) working on “Repairing the Past: Holocaust Restitution in Greece”. She is the author of Μνημεία της λήθης: Ίχνη του Β΄ παγκοσμίου πολέμου στην Ελλάδα και στην Ευρώπη [Monuments of oblivion: traces of the Second World War in Greece and in Europe] (Athens: Polis, 2014) and Επανορθώνοντας το παρελθόν: Οι γερμανικές αποζημιώσεις για το Ολοκαύτωμα των Ελλήνων Εβραίων [The endless negotiations: the postwar reconstruction of Jewish communities in Greece and German reparations, 1945-1961] (Athens: Potamos, 2018). She is a founding member of the Workshop on the Study of Modern Greek Jewry (

She is currently (2018) research assistant and scientific coordinator of the Greek-German Project “Memories of the Occupation in Greece” at Free University Berlin (

She has coedited the books Η Θεσσαλονίκη κατά τη γερμανική κατοχή [Thessaloniki under Nazi Occupation] (Potamos, Athens 2014), edited in collaboration with Iassonas Chandrinos; Η μακρά σκιά της δεκαετίας του '40: Πόλεμος, κατοχή, αντίσταση, εμφύλιος  [The long shadow of the 1940s in Greece: War, Occupation, Resistance and Civil War, Festschrift for Hagen Fleischer (Athens: Alexandria, 2015); in collaboration with Katerina Gardikas, Vangelis Karamanolakis and Kostas Raptis; The Day after the Holocaust (Thessaloniki: Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki, 2017), with Evanghelos Chekimoglou; From persecution to rehabilitation: aspects of the history of Greek Jews, with Philip Carabott and Iassonas Chandrinos (forthcoming).

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