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It was shortly before Passover in 1944 when 6-year-old Solomon Kofinas saw his father and sister for the last time. The war had taken its toll on Athens, where Kofinas grew up, since the invasion by Germany’s Nazi forces three years earlier. There was no money. Families bartered for bread. Kofinas’ father, who sold men’s suits, traded clothing to keep the family fed. “Give them a shirt, get a little flour,” Kofinas said. “Give them some socks, get maybe a couple of eggs.”
He recalled one day when his father, Haim, unexpectedly brought home a young chicken, the first the family had seen in years. He tied its leg with a string so it wouldn’t fly away. “We hoped it would give us an egg or something,” Kofinas said. But finally, he said, the family became so hungry they killed the chicken for food.
One Friday, his mother, Rachel, asked his father and 15-year-old sister, Perna, to go to the market in advance of Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest traditionally observed from sunset on Friday until Saturday evening.
By then, the Germans had issued an edict advising Jewish families to register at the Melidoni Street synagogue in central Athens. Nazi forces said families who registered would be given handouts, including flour and sugar rations.