Maestro, Yaakov

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MAESTRO, YAAKOV (Jacko ; 1927– ), Greek Holocaust prisoner. Maestro was born in Salonika. In 1943, at age 15, he arrived at Auschwitz in the first deportation from Salonika. In Salonika, he had learned German from his father, who was a tourist guide, and had done odd jobs during the German occupation of Salonika as a shoeshine boy and porter, coming into contact with German and Italian soldiers. Upon arriving in Auschwitz, camp commander Schwartz, who had replaced Rudolph Hess, noticed that he was a German speaker. He became a translator and was in charge of work assignments for 16,000 prisoners in Auschwitz. He worked under the political prisoner Yeze Pozinski during the morning hours in the Fuhrerbarrack in the office of the Arbeitsdienst. The two prisoners coordinated the work schedule according to demand and registered the details of the prisoners on card files in the Kartei Department. Maestro could ease conditions for prisoners by not sending them to difficult work groups. He could also arrange for them to remain in the barracks to avoid hard labor. He helped many Jews, possibly hundreds, to survive. He concerned himself with the needs and fate of the Greek Jewish prisoners and passed notes between separated family members in the camp complex. He also supplied additional food, and in order to manipulate the work schedule he often bribed the Nazi commanders with money, food, cigarettes, or vodka, which he acquired on the black market in the camp or from political prisoners, or from civilian workers, who could buy him various items on the outside in exchange for payment. He also bribed Nazi guards and commanders to save prisoners from punishment and helped keep musselmen from being sent to death.

On three occasions his sister Esther (whose married name was Sidikario after the Holocaust) saved a total of 181 girls from Bloc 25 in Birkenau who were destined for gassing, sneaking them out through the windows to an adjacent shack.

After the war Maestro immigrated to Israel and ran a car repair garage.

[Yitzchak Kerem (2nd ed.)]