Abravanel, the Blog

Jewish life and not only in Greece / Εβραϊκή ζωή και όχι μόνο στην Ελλάδα

Archive for 24 Ιουλίου 2008

Shame on the Municipality of Thessaloniki

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 24/07/2008

Thessaloniki has been maybe the most important town of the worldwide Shefardic Judaism. The presence of the Jewish Community dates back from when Apostle Paul preached in the local Etz Haim Synagogue for 3 consecutive Sabbaths in 50 C.E., while the bulk arrived in 1492 when Jews of Spain where expelled and moved mainly to the Ottoman Empire.

Thessaloniki constituted a unique example in the whole Jewish world: an important city (second largest in the Ottoman Empire and more important than Athens) where Jews where the majority of the population but also were dominant in all social strata. The visitor arriving in Thessaloniki would notice that the port remained closed in Saturdays and not Sundays, that jewish port workers would unload his baggage, shop from jewish lower middle class shops in the streets teamed with jewish workers heading for huge jewish factories. All this earned Thessaloniki the title of Madre d’Israel – Jerusalem of the Balkans, while even David Ben Gurion visited the town to see how a real jewish city looked like.

When the Greek Army liberated the city in 1912 the majority of the population was jewish and christians only the 3rd largest religious group after the muslims. The population exchange in 1923 removed the muslims from the city, while a mass influx of Asia Minor Greeks shifted the demographic balance. The economic depression of Thessaloniki, zionist immigration and antisemitic riots caused 10.000 thessalonicean jews to immigrate but the community still remained strong at the eve of WW2. The Shoah caused the extermination of 55.000 jews and while some christians helped their compatriots, many more profited from their plight appropriating jewish property. An example is the destruction, by greek initiative, of one of the largest jewish cemeteries in the world, home to 350/500.000 tombs and the confiscation of the land. This attitude bears a striking difference to the one in other greek cities like Athens where the local Jewish Community was helped by a myriad of organizations and personalities like ArchBishop Damaskinos, or even Zante where the whole community was saved due to the help of the local population.

Why I make this brief historic synopsis? So that all can understand the size of the historical ignorance and intollerance towards the thessalonicean jews, that the Municipal Council has shown in a recent deliverance. A small minority group presented a request that the Municipality of Thessaloniki joined the association of greek cities, «Association of Martyr Towns«, which suffered great losses during WW2 due to the german, italian or bulgarian occupiers. The City Council rejected the proposition on the grounds that:

  1. The extermination of the Jews happened on foreign soil, ergo Thessaloniki is not a martyr town.
  2. The Jews of Thessaloniki arrived only in 1492. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

Posted in antisemitism, greece, Shoah, thessaloniki | Με ετικέτα: , , , | 16 Σχόλια »

 
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