The German Army, with its Italian and Bulgarian allies, invaded and conquered Greece in April 1941. Greece had a Jewish population of some 72,000. Al together, over 60,000 Greek Jews ultimately perished in the Holocaust.

The Germans divided Greece into three parts. The Italian army occupied central and southern Greece, including Athens. About 13,000 Jews lived in this Italian zone. The Bulgarians occupied Thrace, which had a Jewish population of 10,000. The Germans occupied Macedonia in northern Greece, including Salonika, where the vast majority of Greek Jews lived.

Although the Italians held more of Greek territory, the Germans had acquired more of the Greek Jews. About 13,000 Jews lived in the Italian zone, but the number of Jewish inhabitants in German-controlled Macedonia and eastern Thrace was over 55,000. The pre-war Jewish population of the city of Salonika alone was over 50,000.

In July 1942, the Nazi authorities in Salonika arrested 9,000 Jewish men and sent them away for slave labor. In March 1943, a ghetto was established in Salonika, and Jews were required to wear the yellow Star of David. From March to August 1943 the Jews of Salonika were deported to Auschwitz. The cargo trains one after another departed from Salonika heading via Belgrade and Vienna to Auschwitz. About 46,000 Jews were deported in all. Some 37,000 Jews from Salonika were gassed upon arrival at Auschwitz, while the rest were sent to the slave labor camp at Birkenau. Only 2,000 of the deported Salonika Jews ever returned to Greece. 

In Thrace, the Bulgarian Army under German pressure allowed the Nazis to deport 4,000 Jews to the Treblinka death camp in March 1943. All 4,000 perished.

Before and after the deportation started, Italian and Spanish diplomats attempted to protect the Jews holding their citizenship.  At the end of July 1943 Mussolini was succeeded by Marshal Badoglio, and by September 8, 1943, Italy officially left the Axis bloc. The German Army now turned on its former ally. All of Greece, together with Albania, Montenegro, and Dodecanese Islands, came under German control. Some of 16,000 Jews lived in these territories.

The Jews living in Athens and in other areas within the Italian zone fell under Nazi control after the Germans occupied Italy late in 1943. They proved luckier than the Jews of Thrace and Salonika. Archbishop Damaskinos of the Greek Orthodox Church in Athens protested the planned deportations, and the Greek resistance worked hard to protect the Jewish population of Athens. The Nazis were able to arrest only 800 Jews. The rest escaped to the countryside where Greek villagers gave them refuge.

The terror was not over, however. In June 1944, the 2,000 Jews who lived on the island of Corfu were deported to Auschwitz, where they were gassed. Later that summer, the 1,500 Jews living on the island of Rhodes were also deported--the last Jews to be deported from Greece before the war ended. In total, three out of every four Jews in Greece died in the Holocaust.