Isaac’s Story – Sephardic Jewish Community

Isaac Pizer: A founder member of  Derby’s Holocaust Memorial Day Planning Group.


My maternal family line is Sephardic.

Sephardic Jews settled in large numbers in the Greek city port of Salonika, following the Spanish Inquisition of the late fifteenth century. Their language is Ladino, a hybrid of Hebrew and Castilian Spanish.

The Sephardic Jewish community of Salonika comprised a population of 56,000 at the beginning of the Second World War. The community was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau by train in the summer of 1943. About a third died on the way. Only 2% of the people of this community survived the Holocaust.

Through my Grandfather’s ingenuity, the core family unit entered the UK in the early 1930s. He held just a thirty day pass! Only one of the family members who remained in Salonika survived the Holocaust. This catastrophe deeply affected my mother; having lost her grandparents, aunts, uncles & cousins. It has been a profound influence upon my life too.

In 2014 and 2015, I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau for two spiritual retreats. These were healing and enlightening experiences for me, through which I established a deep connection with three German people of my generation. I understand that the trans-generational trauma resulting from genocide is carried through the families of both victims and perpetrators. It is my belief that such human truths need to be held, if healing and progress is to take place.