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May 16: Avraam Eliezer Benaroya and the Greek Communist Party

May 15, 2015
220px-Benaroya1914Avraam Eliezer Benaroya, a Sephardi Jew from Bulgaria who was a key founder of the Greek Communist Party in 1918, died at 92 on this date in 1979. In 1910-11, Benaroya edited the Ladino newspaper of the mostly Jewish Socialist Workers’ Federation in Thessalonika, of which he was founder. Federacion, as it was called in Ladino, was the most significant socialist organization within the Ottoman Empire, with strong unions, influential intellectuals, and extensive international ties. In 1913, Thessalonika was incorporated into Greece, and the Jewish community quite successfully integrated into Greek society after the fall of the Ottoman Empire; only 4 percent would survive the Nazi onslaught, however, including Benaroya, who spent two years in labor camps and wrote about the resistance of Greek Jews against Nazism. (Benaroya had already suffered more than two years in exile owing to his principled opposition to World War I.) In 1923, Benaroya was expelled from the very Communist Party he had co-founded. He worked principally, then, on behalf of the Jewish community against racism and anti-Semitism. In 1953, he moved to Israel, where he ran a small newspaper and magazine kiosk and lived in poverty. By that time, the Greek Communist Party had been crushed in a post-war civil war that was the first real proxy war of the Cold War. Benaroya’s books included The Jewish Question and Social Democracy. “In Thessaloniki he had a difficult life, especially after the Liberals’ nationalist turn, by the end of the 1920s, and the repeated coups d’État of 1935 that destroyed the Republic as well as the hopes of the democratic left. In the 1940s he lost a son in the war against Mussolini, survived the German concentration camps, and led a small socialist party after his return to Greece. He went to live in Israel in 1953, to Holon where he ran a small newspaper kiosk. He died in 1979, aged ninety two, in utter poverty.” —