Roza Eskenazi was a Greek diva who saved fellow Jews during the brutal German occupation of Greece. Roza was born to a poor Sephardic Jewish family in Istanbul and raised in Thessaloniki. Roza was discovered by a Greek tavern owner who heard her singing while working as a house cleaner. By the early 1930’s, Roza was a star performer who recorded 300 songs for Columbia records. She was the charismatic queen of rembetika, the Greek blues, and often compared to Billie Holiday.
Germany invaded Greece in 1941. Roza, then running a popular nightclub, avoided deportation because of a faked baptismal certificate. She risked her own safety by hiding Jews and resistance fighters in her own home, saving dozens from deportation to Auschwitz. Roza was arrested and imprisoned by the Germans, but was released before they found out she was Jewish. She spent the rest of the war in hiding. After the war, Roza’s career waned, but her music was rediscovered in the 1970’s, a few years before her death in Athens in 1980.