Albert Bourla, the Thessaloniki-born CEO of American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, spoke publicly for the first time last week about his Greek Jewish family’s story of tragedy — and survival — during the Holocaust.
Bourla’s remarks came in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is recognized annually on January 27. The CEO spoke alongside others from the organization Sephardic Heritage International for Washington D.C.’s annual Congressional Holocaust Commemoration.
“Many Holocaust survivors never spoke to their children of the horrors they endured because it was too painful,” Bourla said during the virtual event. “But we talked about it a great deal in my family. Growing up in Thessaloniki, Greece, we would get together with our cousins on the weekends, and my parents, aunts and uncles would often share their stories.”
Before World War II, Bourla’s Sephardic Jewish parents, Mois and Sara, lived in a once-thriving religious community in Thessaloniki, known among Jews as “La Madre de Israel,” meaning “The Mother of Israel” in Spanish.
But after the Nazis invaded Greece and occupied the city, circumstances drastically changed. The Germans arrested Jewish leaders, evicted hundreds of families and confiscated their apartments; in less than three years, they wiped out a community.
“When the Germans invaded Greece, there were approximately 50,000 Jews living in the city,” Bourla said. “By the end of the war, only 2,000 had survived. Lucky for me, both of my parents were among the 2,000.”
Watch Bourla tell the full story in the video below. He also published his remarks on LinkedIn here.
Featured image credit: From Pfizer via Fierce Pharma.
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