Abravanel, the Blog

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

Archive for the ‘Shoah’ Category

Ανεπιθύμητοι Συμπατριώτες / Unwanted Compatriots

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 23/03/2008

Ανεπιθύμητοι Συμπατριώτες / Unwanted CompatriotsΑνεπιθύμητοι Συμπατριώτες (220 pages – 2005)

Υπάρχουν μερικά σημεία στη σύγχρονη ιστορία της Ελλάδας που γεννούν σκληρά ερωτήματα. Με το 70% του προπολεμικού εβραϊκού της πληθυσμού να έχει εξοντωθεί στα στρατόπεδα του ναζισμού, η χώρα βρίσκεται σε μια από τις πρώτες θέσεις στη θλιβερή σύγκριση, ξεπερνώντας ακόμα και το ίδιο το Ράιχ. Φταίνε μόνο οι ξένοι κατακτητές γι’ αυτή την επίδοση;
Την ίδια εποχή, στη διάρκεια του τελευταίου Παγκοσμίου Πολέμου, μια ιστορική μειονότητα, οι μουσουλμάνοι Τσάμηδες της Ηπείρου, «εκκαθαρίστηκαν» με τον πλέον απόλυτο τρόπο.
Δεν είναι παιχνίδια προπαγάνδας- ανθελληνικής ή φιλελληνικής- αυτά τα ζητήματα. Είναι θέματα ιστορικά, με καίριο και πολύπλευρο ενδιαφέρον. Η τυχόν αποφυγή των απαντήσεων, της έρευνας για το τι έγινε και πώς έγινε, υπονομεύει καθοριστικά την ιστορική και πολιτική μας παιδεία και ανοίγει τον δρόμο για νέες «απρόσμενες» εξάρσεις των παθών και των εγκλημάτων. Αλίμονο στα έθνη και στις κοινωνίες που πιστεύουν ότι βρίσκονται πάνω και πέρα από την ιστορία και ότι είναι «εξ ορισμού» αναμάρτητες…

http://www.protoporia.gr/protoporia/product.asp?sku=269876&mscssid=L2TGV5MUA6N98P2ADMUP83

Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

Posted in Books and stuff, greece, Shoah | Με ετικέτα: , , , , , , , , , | 18 Σχόλια »

Greek newspaper condemned on racist remarks (!)

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 11/03/2008

anti-semitism020430.pngWow, I can’t say that I’m not impressed! On March 5th a greek court condemned the publisher, the editor and the journalist of the newspaper Eleftheros Kosmos for the article of the latter that «insulted the religious group of the Jews«. The article appeared in 2006 and the lawsuit was an initiative of the Greek Helsinki Monitor which again proves worthy of it’s fame!

What did they guy said? The usual stuff like «Thank God not even 1500 Jews aren’t left in Thessaloniki…» , «…the supposed saponification of the Jews…». Nothing new that I can’t hear every other day in some obscure or less obscure media. This time, maybe following the recent conviction of nazi-admirer K.Plevris, a greek court decided that this constitutes a violation of the renown but never applied anti-racism law 927/1979. The court decided that they expressed hate and denied the extermination of thousands of jews. For this Zafiropoulos Dimitrios, Georgiou Theodoros and Chatzigogos Theodoros were convicted to 7 months of probation the first two and 7 months to be bought with 5 euros/diem for the latter.

For the first time it was also allowed for the Central Jewish Board, (ΚΙΣ), to appear as civil part which overruled the previous scandalous decision during the Plevris trial. The well-known politicians S.Vougias and G.Boutaris were absent despite the fact that initially they had testified since the article had involved their names too.

What can I say? That I didn’t expect it but still it’s some great piece of news. Certainly will not deter any other racist journalist but acts as a statement that the greek Justice system recognizes that this stuff is the expression of pure hatred and Greece, at least in principle, does not accept it. In other words it’s a nice moral support which certainly is a positive step to the right direction – congrats on Petropoulou Salata, Tsangari and Velissariou who were the court members for their courage to apply the law and of course the Greek Helsinki Monitor.

DeviousDiva also posted about it and has the english translation of the  court decision. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

Posted in antisemitism, greece, Shoah | Με ετικέτα: , | 14 Σχόλια »

Chams, Czechs and Jews

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 09/03/2008

A guy runs into an ancient Hitler in a bar in Argentina. He asks him what his plans are for the future.

«This time,» he says, «we’ll kill all the Jews, and three circus clowns.»

«Why three circus clowns?,» the guy asks.

«See,» Hitler says to the bartender. « Nobody gives a damn about the Jews!»

 

What really gets me sometimes is the fact that I cannot open the TV without having to endure some idiocy on jews, despite our infinitesimally small number in Greece. A good example is a recent symposium on the fate of the moslim population of albanian descent that lived in the area of north-west Greece, called Chams/Çamë. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

Posted in greece, Shoah, the jews did it! | Με ετικέτα: , , , , | 23 Σχόλια »

The Jews of Ioannina on Sky TV

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 20/02/2008

Bundarchives,Koblenz GermanyΝέοι Φάκελοι/New Folders is a television program in Greece which presents various documentaries on current and past issues pertaining greek interest. On Jan 29 they broadcasted a 16min documentary on the destiny of the Jews of Ioannina during the Holocaust/Shoah. It hosted testimonies of survivors of the camps, interviews of christian and jewish greeks, photos of the actual deportation as it was immortalised by the Propaganda Office of the German Army and included the prickly issue of the post war problems that Ioanniote jews faced after the return from the camps.

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Posted in Books and stuff, greece, greek please, romaniote, Shoah | Με ετικέτα: , , , | 5 Σχόλια »

Remembering

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 27/01/2008

Remember… That is the imperative that one finds in the writings of people who took part in the Holocaust/Shoah as witnesses and involuntary victims. Remember…is what is repeated each year when the ceremonies for the Shoah take place or when the monster of hate rises to threaten jews and non-jews alike.

Still the imperative “remember” assumes different meanings for the different people who utter it. This is fairly obvious in the different ways society deals with the Day of Remembrance. Right-wing politics flock to show that despite their friends, their sayings and their stands they still are not “jew haters”. Left wing politics fail to even show up, since the jews are the new “fascists” to compete against. The Institutions simply see it as a burden to bring forward in the less obvious way possible, lest be accused in succumbing to the jews. The Media simply broadcast the same old archives from foreign documentaries and deal with it the same way they deal with the tsunami, a bad thing but that happened far-far away to “others”. The rest of the Society doesn’t know or care and frankly, seen how Politics, Institutions and Media deal with the Day, they have their fair share of excuses.

On the other hand I grew up in a house where no one ever had to tell me to remember. For me the Holocaust was strange tales about a place far-far away the grownups in my house were involved in. The only tangible aspect of these stories were the blue numbers tattooed on their arms. I used to be so stupefied by these numbers for they transformed a tale into a reality which I could touch, scrutinize and fantasize upon. I was just a kid but it was fairly obvious that something had indeed happened and these numbers told of a story which I could only get glimpses and half truths from its comprehensibly reluctant narrators. Still to them it was not the historical event that later became the Holocaust; to them it was simply τα στρατόπεδα/“the camps” were they had gone but even if they wanted they could never truly shed from them since the mark of the camps was not only in their minds but on their physical shelves. This number, hard as they might have tried should they have wanted, could not be erased and hard as I might have tried should have I wanted could not be forgotten.

At that time I didn’t have the faintest idea how different the war had been upon them. I remember that I used to harass them regularly to have them tell me stories which were adapted to suit a 5 year old and which invariably fascinated him. From these stories I can only remember parts that I, as a small pampered kid, could understand remotely: having to rise with shouts – getting beaten – being hungry. Hell, I remember that hearing “Raus” and “Schnell” seemed extraordinarily funny and I repeated them same way today a kid will parrot a phrase from the telly.

As I grew up my perception of the Holocaust changed and its memory was perpetuated through the Absence than through the Presence. It was no longer necessary to see the numbers on the arms or hear stories to remember; it was enough to seeremembrance08 what was missing. There were no stories that passed from generation to generation, no relatives to visit, any family relics or photos. When I was little this absence didn’t weigh on me since I didn’t actually realize it and the immediate present was just enough. As I grew up, the natural urge we all have to discover our past and make bonds with it also kept growing only to find itself bump against an invisible wall which defined Before and After. One could, through research, get to know more about what had happened 500 years ago to his family than know more about the generation immediately prior to the Holocaust. The Absence was what defined the Holocaust and the generations past it; people focalizing on this specific moment trying to secure little threads of memories which could be extricated from the WW2 maelstrom. In my family a single photo whose members but one were dead by 1943, reconstituted from the pieces it was torn, is the sole remainder of all the generations that passed before; it struggles to rise up to the immense role of filling the Absence but it isn’t the only one that defines the past – the tangible absence of all the others is a monolith to whom this humble photo has to confront with.

Remembering for me is not only a token of respect to those who were murdered, gassed and burned. It is a vital need to fill up the void, a deep drive to give meaning to all those who lived before me and found their entire lives clinging upon a meager photo before fading in the oblivion. And if the Holocaust physically erased thousands of persons it managed to go even past the Holocaust generation and burn itself unto the generations that were to come by eliminating their Past and through the Absence it created make it a part of their life in a painfully contemporary way.

So I must admit I lied when I said I keep the memory vivid in me; I’ve never had to remember because the cataclysm the Holocaust had been, never actually left me.

 

PS. Yad Vashem has a page for the schools approved by the Greek Ministry of Education and Religion – visit it.

Posted in me myself and I, Shoah | Με ετικέτα: , , | 4 Σχόλια »

The Jewish Cemetery of Thessaloniki – part 1

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 05/05/2007

Part 1 – The Destruction

DD, some time ago, published an academic paper by Hesse and Laquer on the destruction of the jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki, (else known as Salonika), during WW2 with ultimate beneficiary the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. This cemetery, for most part of it’s history, was the largest jewish cemetery in the world covering more than 350.000 square meters and having between 400.000 and 550.000 bodies in 1940, (since jews do not exhume bodies, each tomb actually contained the remains).

The cemetery was already disputed before WW2 as Thessaloniki tried to expand eastwards and the cemetery was hindering this growth. A mass influx of greek christian refugees from Asia Minor had increased Thessaloniki’s population to heights never reached before, forcing the city to expand outside it’s traditional borders. This vast area in the outskirts of Thessaloniki of 1940, (now it lies in it’s very centre), was the perfect place to house the newly-founded Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

In 1937 the Greek State and the Jewish Community decided together that the Community would grant 30.000 square meters to the University; the University would move the graves found in this area into new cemeteries that would be founded away from the city. The rest of the cemetery, ie the 320.000 sq.mt. remaining, would be closed for new burials and would become a park but no existing tombs would be touched. Despite the agreement, neither the Municipality, nor the Community took any action to implement it and the cemetery continued to work uninterrupted until 1942. At that time a german envoy arrived in the, now occupied, city to plan the deportations of the 55.000 Thessaloniki jews, who would take place in 1943. As a first measure the germans decided to commandeer thousands of Thessaloniki jews into forced labor in the greek provinces of Chalkidiki, Veria and Katerini; there an undisclosed number of them died from malaria and the hardship.

The Jewish Community, highly-wrought, tried to offer ransom to the germans who accepted the idea and asked for 3.5 billion drachma, a huge amount. The german envoy, Max Merten, communicated to the heads of the Community that a deal could be made for 2 billion and the land of the cemeteries; various sources inform us that he was approached by various prominent members of the greek society who were pressuring him into asking the land of the cemetary, (an example is a specific Thessaloniki architect with ties with the german Befehlshaber Baelke Abteilung Militaerwaltung Saloniki-Aegae). The Community refused but finally an agreement was reached for 2.7 billion which would lead to the liberation of the jewish captives and the savior of the cemetery.

After the agreement the danger for the jewish cemetery wasn’t over. On October the 17th the Governor of Macedonia V.Simonidis sent an letter to the Jewish Community ordering them to cooperate with the Municipality and dismantle the cemetery. It should be stressed that the germans at that point had no further demands from the jews; this action was an initiative of Simonidis that satisfied the demands of far too many thessaloniceans. Greek historian prof.Enepekidis didn’t hesitate to describe Simonidis as being “more german than germans themselves” due to his actions concerning the cemetery, the deportations and the looting of jewish properties that went on. Merten had to play the umpire between the greeks who asked for the complete destruction and the Jewish Community who tried to save it. Merten decided that a part would be given to the University and the rest would remain intact. But, even in the confiscated part, the graves less than 30 years old were to be spared. The testimony of Y.Yacoel, an official of the Jewish Community who participated in the meeting and later perished in the Holocaust, offers is indicative: a greek official from the Technical Department kept pressuring the germans to deny even some months of delay by saying that the Community tries to buy time hoping that the “English will come to save them”.

Finally the Municipality, by it’s own initiative, on the December of 1942 sent 500 workers to dismantle it and within two weeks as many as half a million tombs were destroyed; neither the graves less than 30yrs old were spared, nor time for the transfer of the bones was allowed to the general public contrary to the german decisions. Only a few families managed to transfer the remains of their beloved ones into the new cemeteries and the community managed to transfer some important rabbis. But even these graves were desecrated afterwards; local habitants destroyed them, after the deportations, hoping to find mythical jewish treasures that they fantasized that the jews had buried. The marble tombstones were so many that the price of marble in the local market plummeted at an all-record low as sources tell us. As far as how the whole process took place in Thessaloniki, the US consul in Istanbul said: “Recently buried dead were thrown to the dogs.”.

This was the only important jewish cemetery in all of Europe to be completely destroyed during WW2 since, even at the heart of Nazi Germany, cemeteries survived. Even in Warsaw, where the whole Ghetto was reduced to ashes, the famous local cemetery with 150.000 graves and 10.000 sq. mt. survived intact. Also the decision to expand the university in the midst of a raging war, while the greek population starved seems untimely to the casual observer, (unless one takes into account that probably the University wanted to alter the status quo while it still had the chance). These two facts, coupled with the fact that even the germans had not agreed to the complete destruction, render highly improbable the interpretation that the cemetery was destroyed by the Nazis; who we already have seen had absolutely no interest for the dead jews. Needless to say that without their approval nothing would have happened; but it is foolish not to recognize that Simonidis and the Municipality were the key players taking initiatives that hardly one can account to simply following orders. The germans were only too happy to oblige the local population, (Y.Yacoel informs us that some christians committees visited Merten to thank him for taking care of the jewish cemetery), but if it wasn’t for the greek authorities nothing would have happened. We can conclusively say that the main driving force was the need for new space to house the New Thessaloniki, greed by local contractors and a virulent form of nationalism, endemic in Thessaloniki of that time, that tried to make “disappear” all non christian-greek elements of the city and often evolved into open racism.

Three months afterwards, on the 15th of March 1943, the first 2.800 were deported in cattle wagons to the extermination camp of Auswitch/Birkenau. As Molho said in the final chapter of the 1970 edition of “In Memoriam”:

“Before heading to their own extermination, the Jews from Thessaloniki, witnessed the annihilation even of their own dead”.

Posted in greece, Shoah, thessaloniki | Με ετικέτα: , , , , , , | 6 Σχόλια »

The Jewish Cemetery of Thessaloniki – part 2

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 05/05/2007

-> «Part 1 – The Destruction» can be found here.

Part2 – After the War

Until this point we witnessed the events leading to the destruction of the cemetery. Some argue that we simply deal with a hateful initiative, facilitated by the WW2 conditions. But when referring to this story people usually limit themselves to 1943, the year when the destruction happened. Even limiting the time frame, the responsibilities of the Municipality of Thessaloniki and the General Governor of Macedonia, are simply concealed. One can argue many hours on the length of the german involvement and many more can argue that «this way goes the war». But what cannot be explained and what cannot be justified is the shameful conduct after the war.

The last convoy for Auswitch left Thessaloniki on 10/8/1943 with the last 1.800 jews; Thessaloniki was officially judenfrei. The Greek State swiftly acknowledged the mutated status quo. The Finance Ministry on October 14, 1943 issued an order to seize the entire Jewish Cemetery on the grounds that it had been deserted by its owners. (!!!) This settled once and for all the propriety of the land; if the jews had perished, why shouldn’t one profit from their dead? After WW2 the Greek State in 1946 issued a decree that allowed jews who had returned from the extermination camps to collect the gravestones; of course no mention was made to restitute the graves to the ones who had survived. A decimated Jewish Community, where more than 90% of its members was ashes and only 2.000 had survived, lacked the economic means and the people to take advantage of it; the looting continued. After the war no mention was ever made to restitute the land and even worse there was and is imposed a complete silence over this matter. Attempts, decades later, to contact the University to agree on some kind of commemoration failed again and again and there is a strange silence in greek academic circles over this matter.

The bones of most of the half million Thessaloniceans still lay there. I talked to friends who attended the University in Thessaloniki in the ’60 and ‘70s; they told me stories of how during construction works, bones were found constantly. In one case the workers presumed that probably they were bones of dogs and were marveled on how big these dogs should have been (since human bones are much longer of those of dogs). Other testimonies talk of bones found & discarded, during construction of sewages.

The grave stones were used in construction works of privates, military works, a swimming pool for the german occupying forces, churches or even as new tombstones. In a visit to Thessaloniki in the early ‘90s, I saw myself jewish grave stones used in the courtyard of a church in the suburb of Panorama. I still can’t understand how the local priest accepted looting from the dead while in theory he should be the first one to understand how pure evil this act was.

Today tenths of thousands of young persons are enrolled in the University. They laugh, they fall in love but not even one of them knows that they’re still surrounded by the ghosts of our families. The University avoids all talk on this subject, since it knows that it is morally and legally compromised, both for accepting the land and failing to speak afterwards. The Jewish Community stays silent, since if it ever spoke the racist hawks would claim that this is done only to claim financial recompensation!

So what needs to be done? Certainly not only a commemorative plate which everyone would forget the next day, in my eyes this would seem a further insult. This should only serve as the starting point of a far longer path. The University should accept it’s origins and try by itself to perpetuate the memory of those whose graves has violated. If a grave is a place where the living can come and mourn the ones who left, a way to honor their memory, then the University should become the house of such initiatives. It is unacceptable and insulting that 64 years later there is nothing to remind of our families while their bones still lay there; to have young students protest about jews controlling the world or being behind 9/11, while they sip their coffee on top of the people whose voice still reechoes in our memories! Nice way of controlling the world! Again I feel the need to stress that this isn’t about returning any land or any kind of monetary compensation – only a virulent antisemite would claim this, as to portray jews obsessed with money. This is only about respect about the dead who still lay down there.

After the war the Aristotle University chose to continue building on top of the dead. The Greek Government chose to accept the looting of the land afterwards. The society of Thessaloniki chose to keep using the tombstones without any moral indignation. The University after building its new campus chose to refuse putting a commemorative plaque and chooses today to keep a shameful silence. Even its students today ignore where they lay upon and are happy to attack the jews, whose graves helped building their fine university.

These choices constitute today the second desecration of the dead who still lay there. Even the ones disagreeing on the responsibility of the Thessaloniki Municipality and the Macedonia Governorship conveniently omit referring to the acts of the free Greek State after the war. And if one thinks that it was the war who brought out the worst side of the people, then the choices after the war show that this side had no need of the war to flourish. We may not be able to choose our past or change it, but we can certainly shape the future. The choices Thessaloniki made and makes after the war validated the conduct of it’s leaders during the war and unquestionably compromise it’s moral standing. Each new generation after the war has the same chance as the generations before it had: to deny and forget or to join the dead in their grief for their stolen homes.

The dead may have lost their homes but they still lay down there; hopefully one day the city will decide to listen to their deafening silence.

-> « Part 3 – Photos after the Holocaust« can be found here, there you can also comment.

Posted in greece, Shoah, thessaloniki | Με ετικέτα: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki – part 3

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 05/05/2007

-> Part 1 – The Destruction can be found here.

-> Part 2 – After the War can be found here.

Part 3 – Photos after the Holocaust

Here I included some photos concerning the Jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki and its fate today. The ones deriving from books I kindly ask not to have them reproduced elsewhere since I’m not certain about the copyright. For all pictures you may click on them to get better resolutions. I also included a small bibliography for those interested reading more, plus a couple of interesting links.

  • GoogleEarthThis is a screenshot I took with GoogleMaps. I used the maps I already had to draw a line of where the cemetery stood and what lies above it today. The drawing is approximative of course but I plan on improving it in the future. The names you see are in greek and 80% of them are the names of the university schools which lay there. Among them is the AHEPA hospital, the Medical School, the Dental School and others.

It’s borders today according to the site of the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki are:

The vast proportions of this necropolis can still be traced. The western limit extended along the flank of the PAOK soccer stadium and the eastern limit followed approximately Pavlos Melas Street. The northern limit lay within the entire campus of the present day University of Thessaloniki, including an orphanage and a number of adjacent buildings and military barracks. The southern limit ended in the neighborhood known as Saranda Ekklisies (Forty Churches) and a collection of private dwellings. Along its entire length it was divided by a fairly wide path that had been created by Ottoman soldiers in the 19th century

  • Map of the cemeteryA map of the cemetery before the war, with the buildings that the University planned on building if the land was to be confiscated. One can see that the exact size of the cemetery was total 357.796 square meters.

  • Bones and broken gravestonesBroken tombstones and bones to the mercy of dogs after the War. Unfortunately only a few gravestones survived and one can see them in the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki and in the new jewish cemetery.

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  • Gravestones at the courtyard of St.Demitrius church Various gravestones deriving from the Jewish Cemetery, in the courtyard of St.Demetrious Church; the main church of Thessaloniki dedicated to its patron saint. Some of these were used for reconstruction works of the temple.

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  • Map of the cemetery with christian cemet.adjacentA map of the prewar Thessaloniki Jewish Community. With yellow one can see the cemetery while the map below is portraying the Thessaloniki of 1960’s. Using this map one can pinpoint exactly the borders of the Jewish Cemetery, in relation to Thessaloniki today.

A thick red line indicates the christian cemetery of Evangelistrias, immediatelly adjacent to the jewish one. This cemetery was founded in the ’20s and its removal was never asked by the University or the City itself. It still survives today surrounded amidst the town and with the University a few meters away.

Bibliography :

  • M.Mazower – Salonica,City of Ghosts/Θεσσαλονίκη,Πολη των φαντασματων – (exists both in greek and english)

An excelent book which covers briefly how the cemetery was destroyed and has some valuable information on its fate after WW2.

  • Γιομτωβ Γιακοελ, (επιμελεια Φ.Αμπατζοπουλου) – Απομνημονευματα 1941/1943 – εκδ.Παρατηρητης 1993

A prominent member of the Jewish Community who took part in the negotiations with the greeks and the germans and comments the events. The book is extremely interesting because it was written in 1943 and contains the thoughts and climate of the period untouched by later knowledge of the events, since Y.Yacoel died in Auschwitz in 1944. As he said: “The hurried manner and the excessive zeal shown by the Greek authorities make it obvious that it wasn’t only out of motives aimed at the city’s beautification that they were moved to dismantle the Jewish monuments so quickly.”

  • In Memoriam – J.Nehama,M.Molho – 1974

A monumental work dedicated to the extermination of the Community of Salonica; its third volume is dedicated to the fate of the cemetary. In addition to giving us its history thoughout the centuries, it also gives us a detailed account of how and who destroyed the cemetary. M.Molho was also a prominent member of the Community and had participated first hand in the talks. The pictures in black and white derive from there.

  • Π. Ενεπεκίδη – Οι διωγμοί των Εβραίων εν Ελλάδι 1941/1944 – Εκδ.Παπαζήση 1969

A book which tries, very approximately, to describe the Holocaust of the greek jews. It isn’t by all complete and completely ignores the matter of the jewish necropolis while it over emphasizes greek achievements. Still, even by such an enthusiast, the conduct of the greek authorities of Thessaloniki leaves a bitter aftertaste.

  • Haggadah – JCT 1970

The traditional book for Passover contains also some interesting information about the Community before the war. That is the source for the last picture.

Links :

The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki. It houses a small collection of gravestones that survived, plus it has some valuable information material. Click on The Jews of Thessaloniki -> Necropolis to get a brief story of the cemetery plus some more photos. [English-Greek]

Gravestones everywhere. A post in the AgitProp blog which tells us of the author’s experiences with tombstones in modern Salonica. The first one was in the Aristotle University campus, near the Biology Department and the second one was near the suburb of Panorama. There you can also see a photo that the author took of a gravestone incorporated in a modern building today. Take the time to visit the rest of his blog since it often houses articles of ladino interest. [Greek]

Invisible Revisited. A series of posts by DeviousDiva that host the academic paper by Laquer and Hesse «Bodies Visible and Invisible». A major source of information which deals extensively with the historical context of the destruction and the german policy towards the cemeteries throughout Europe. A must-read for anyone wishing to learn more about the subject.

Posted in greece, Shoah, thessaloniki | Με ετικέτα: , , , , | 59 Σχόλια »

Yom HaShoah

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 16/04/2007

Lilian and Arnold Buschel in Antwerp. Both Were Deported to Auschwitz in September 1943

Lilian and Arnold Buschel in Antwerp. Both Were Deported to Auschwitz in September 1943

 

Today in Israel the extermination of 6.000.000 jews is remembered throughout the country. The day, instituted in 1951, is similar to the Holocaust Memorial Day which is celebrated in Europe early on January.

At 10am the sirens sound for two minutes and all of the country stands still. People remain silent, cars pull over and this marks the beginning of the ceremony at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum in Israel. There, survivors lay wraiths and light candles in the memory of those who didn’t make it, while all shops and cafes remain close and TV transmits documentaries. There isn’t much to say about this, I just didn’t want to let the day pass unmarked.

For more information you can visit the Yad Vashem’s page in english here -> http://www.yadvashem.org

Posted in Shoah, the world | Leave a Comment »

Greek History textbooks.

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 06/03/2007

DeviousDiva has been very kind and has published a small article I wrote on the absence of the Shoah in the Greek History textbook used in the last class of greek highschools. I’m going to post it here later but for the time being you can read it & comment there; while being there I’d also suggest taking the time to read other posts and especially the Roma series. :)

Again a huge thanks to DeviousDiva! More here -> http://deviousdiva.com/2007/03/06/guest-blogger-2/

March 11th update – here’s the complete article.

Greek Textbooks

sxolika-vivlia.jpgOften when treating themes concerning human rights we often resort to the exhortation: Educate, educate and again educate (and here the emphasis classically is placed upon the “youths, the hope of our nation” as they’re so often described). Sometimes this concept is stressed so heavily that one could argue that it is a wicked and devious way to shift responsibilities from our shoulders and bestow them on the shoulders of the generations to come, sparing us from the responsibility to do something today. But this mischievous behavior doesn’t change the fact that indeed it is the only durable solution that really secures a future and a necessary premise for any initiative to counter racist behaviours in the society.

A core part of this process is played by the school, which together with the collective conscience and the family, are the ones who determine behaviour and in general the collective ideas of what’s acceptable or normal and what’s not. The importance of this institution is not to be diminished, a fact that state diplomacies take heavily into account.

Recently Germany and France agreed to have a common History textbook in an effort to highlight the things that unite rather than the things that separate them. To the same effect, the conference of the Balkan states agreed that a revision of the textbooks was in order in attempt to overcome a difficult past and promote a more peaceful approach between neighbours.

Greek readers also know that each new “generation” of textbooks reflects the current political sensitivities of the era. Still, a common denominator in all textbooks from all eras is the almost complete lack of any mentioning to the Greek Shoah and the extermination of 60.000 Greek Jews, 80% of the original population with peaks as 97.5% of Thessaloniki. In the post war years, one could argue that neither was the communist-led resistance during WW2 mentioned, (due to the civil war that followed and the anti-communist hysteria during the Cold War by the conservative parties that dominated the political scene), so it was just the “typical” anti-Semitic Right view of History. But there are no excuses for the modern textbooks, which were revised by the socialist party PASOK in the ‘80s, to mirror the nation’s unity against the Nazi-fascist invader, to promote National Reconciliation and to finally close the Civil War chapter by recognizing the importance of the communist-led Resistance.

In Greek textbooks WW2 is extensively studied in the last year of high school with two chapters covering WW2, the Greek involvement, the Resistance and the Greek casualties. In total, there are 53 pages in a 500 book pages, of which 20 are dedicated to the Resistance and the civil casualties due to famine or German executions. This includes both the main text which is obligatorily and the extra testimonies, and photos which are present but not mandatory to read and officially not among the material that a student can be examined on, (in Greek called πηγές/sources).

The Shoah from the whole WW2 takes a total of 8 lines in 3-column page for a staggering 1/6th of a page. The Greek Jews are not mentioned even once in the main text but qualify for a total of 3×4cm mention among the sources!

In detail, we see that in the non-obligatory sources pages the testimony of the commander of Auschwitz states that “more than 3.000.000 people died” and “Among the victims there were 100.000 German Jews and a large amount of Jews of the Netherlands, France, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Greece”. The casual reader figures that from the millions of dead in Auschwitz only a small fraction are Jews maybe as many as 200.000 in total since the largest group among them appears to be the 100.000 German Jews with the smaller populations following.

In the main text we find only a generic reference to “millions of dead in the concentration camps” without saying that 6 million of these were Jews though we must admit with great generosity, that it does refer to the hunt down of Jews as “genocide”; again it should be noted that no mention about Greek Jews is made.It is of relevance that these two small mentions to the Shoah are a part of the chapter that is occupied with the generic events of WW2 and not the second chapter referring to the Occupation of Greece as if these didn’t impact directly on the Greek human casualties.

While the executions of Greek civilians by the Italians, Bulgarians and Germans at the villages of Doxato, Kalavryta, Choriatis and other are minutely recorded both in the main text and in the extra material with photos and testimonies for pages and pages, there is absolutely no mention of the Greek Shoah. The author’s description of the events is detailed enough for us to learn the exact numbers of executions, a total of an 49.188 executions and estimated 300.000 deaths from famine; in addition we learn the numbers and detailed descriptions of the aforementioned massacres but still they fail to give any indication if any Greek Jews died and how many of them.

While heroic acts of the Resistance are told together with German and Bulgarian atrocities, there is no mentioning of the deportation of many of the Thessaloniki Jews into labor camps at Lagadas before the deportation to the death camps, where many of them died of malaria and hardships. Nor we find any mention to the proud answer of the Thracian Jews who denied acquiring Bulgarian citizenship and were deported and exterminated while the Bulgarian Jews were saved!

In the end no mention is made to the only revolt that was made in Auschwitz, which was organized, by Greek and Polish Jews (and some state they died singing the Greek national anthem!)

The reader should bear in mind that this isn’t “the usual Jewish whine” about the Shoah, (as many anti-Semites often remark), but an impressive omission of Greek heroic acts while the book is not stingy about referring them when treating non-Jews in its effort to install patriotism among the children. Even if we’d forget the objections that a liberal would make about this particular way of teaching History, even the most cynical, the most “patriotic” right wing reader would agree that some of the events mentioned before would be a source of pride for the Greek nation and an example of how a “real Greek” should behave and at the same time give international glory to Greece, something all nationalists covet.

Why then are these not mentioned? Brevity is not the reason since an entire chapter is dedicated to the Resistance and the Greek civilian casualties. Interestingly the word “Holocaust” is used but it’s reserved for the massacre of 165 Greeks at Metsovo.

How can one ask for Christian Greeks to consider their Jewish compatriots as true Greeks when they lack the most basic of knowledge about them or how they fulfilled their duty in WW2 only to find death in the crematories 3 years later? How can one ask the Thessaloniki Left movements, who marched and desecrated the Monument to the Shoah, to respect their city’s dead when nobody tells them they existed?

These students who today fail to learn anything from their school about a Greek tragedy like this one, (because unless we begin to consider this as a Greek tragedy and not a Jewish one, nothing will change), are the ones repeating their usual mantra. They say that the Shoah maybe indeed happen but is exaggerated in numbers, that the Jews should leave if they don’t like it in Greece, that after all they whine too much and it wasn’t something more terrible than the rest of the world had etc. And to top this they say that the Jews show no allegiance to the Greek state despite every time the Greek State has asked the Greek Jewish community to act, it has answered their call.

If one wishes to extend this line of thought, one can argue that even if today the textbooks changed, we would need two generations to have this history known because the teacher and the family who influence the children would simply not be convinced, partly nullifying the work done by the official school policy.

Are things as dramatic as I depict them? My experiences, as a Greek Jew, tell me they indeed are and the situation will not improve since no real effort is being made other than symbolic efforts to have something to present when international pressure is exerted on Greece. One example is the way the Shoah is presented in the new History textbook for 6th grade, and that’s the subject of my next installment.

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