Bensanchi, Mentesh

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BENSANCHI, MENTESH (Mordecai ; 1882–1943), Greek journalist and member of parliament. Born in Salonika, he worked as a journalist for the Judeo-Spanish newspaper La Epoca, and the French newspaper Salonique. With the termination of La Epoca, in 1912 he was the founding editor of El Liberal. He also worked for the government newspaper La Liberta. Later, he became editor of several Salonika newspapers, including El Imparcial and L'Indépendant. As a Zionist, he was active in the Kadima society, which promoted Hebrew culture and language, and as its general secretary he was active in Zionist propaganda and took an interest in problems of Jewish settlement in Ereẓ Israel. He was one of the editors of the Zionist weeklies La Esperansa and El Congreso Jidyo, which appeared in French and Judeo-Spanish during wwi. During the years 1926–30, he was the head of the *Jewish National Fund in Salonika. A liberal Zionist and an outstanding orator, he was sent by Salonika Jewry as its representative to the Greek parliament. In the 1925 Greek national elections he was elected as a Kafandarist (Progressive Liberal). He was reelected in 1928. As an active Jewish-Zionist public figure, he often clashed with ultra-Greek nationalists. After the 1931 antisemitic Campbell riots in Salonika, he gave a strong speech in parliament against the disturbances and the support of the local government for the rioters. Before wwii, the Jewish Agency decided to make him an emissary to Eastern Jewish communities for fundraising and Zionist propaganda. He was an eloquent speaker in Judeo-Spanish and French. In the 1930s, in the press, he exposed the antisemitic Kleiber, who had infiltrated into local Salonikan Jewish circles and eventually became a Nazi collaborator. Bensanchi wrote numerous articles against Germany and was blacklisted by the Germans. In the summer of 1942, he was caught by the Germans hiding with his family in a village in Crete, was interned in Larisa and Salonika, released, and in 1943 finally was deported to Auschwitz, where he died.


D. Recanati (ed.), Zikhron Saloniki, Gedulatah ve-Ḥurbanah shel Yerushalayim de-Balkan (1972), 329; Saloniki, Ir ve-Em be-Yisra'el (1967), 103, 115, 328; M. Molho and J. Nehama, Sho'at Yehudei Yavan (1965), 34, 54.

[Yitzchak Kerem (2nd ed.)]