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KAVALA Print E-mail
Friday, 12 June 2009 10:55

THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF KAVALA

    In 1526, when the Turks left Hungary they took along many Jewish prisoners. These Hungarian Jews were amongst the first residents of the new city of Kavala.
    Later on, the arrival of Spanish speaking Sephardic Jews from Thessaloniki and other cities of the Ottoman Empire, soon absorbed the German speaking Ashkenazi Jews.
    According to the 1569 census 23 Jewish families, 113 Muslim ones and 56 Christian ones lived in Kavala.
    In the second half of the 19th century Kavala developed into a significant tobacco production and trade center. As a result, many Jews from other Romaniote communities of Greece settled there, in search of a better life.
    In 1885 the Jews were able to build a synagogue, and in the beginning of the 20th century the Jewish Community of Kavala had over 2,000 members.
    A Hebrew elementary school and kindergarten functioned under the supervision of Alliance Israelite Universelle. These schools offered a high quality education and were attended by Jewish children as well as by Christian and Muslim children.
    The Jewish community was comprised of well-to-do bourgeois classed, tobacco merchants and scientists on the one hand, and poor tobacco workers and artisans on the other.
    During World War II, Eastern Macedonia and Thrace were under Bulgarian Occupation. The Jews of Kavala refused to co-operate in any way with the Bulgarians - although they were asked to do so - and therefore suffered persecution and were finally sent to their deaths in the Holocaust.
    Certain prudent ones had succeeded to escape to Athens, while several Jews from Kavala fled to the mountains where they joined Resistance Organizations and fought as guerrillas.
    On March 3, 1943, the Bulgarians gathered the Jews in tobacco warehouses and transported them to Drama. Then they transported them to Danube by train. Many of these Jews drowned in the river when some of the barges that carried them turned over. The rest were deported to Treblinka concentration camp and the crematoria. The Jewish Community of Kavala suffered the loss of 1,800 people.
    In 1945 the few who survived the Holocaust tried to re-build the Jewish community. However, this was no longer possible. The old Synagogue had been destroyed by the Bulgarians and prayers were held in the upper hall of a house that belonged to the community, on Pavlou Mela Street. The community was officially dissolved in 1980.
    A few years ago, this prayer-house was demolished, marking the end of the Jewish presence in Kavala.
    The mansion of Sabethai Tsimino, descendent of a wealthy tobacco trading Jewish family, is located on Kolokotroni Street.
    He is the last member of the Jewish community of Kavala who survived the occupation, because he and some other Jews had been arrested and taken into forced labour in Bulgaria.
    Today he is all by himself, the last member of the Jewish community of Kavala and takes care of the forgotten tombstones in the cemetery.




   

The Monument of the Victims of the Holocaust
in the Jewish Cemetery of Kavala




   

Exterior view of the Tsimino residence




   

Ruins of the old Synagogue


** The photos come from the archive of Mr. Thrasyvoulos Papastratis
 

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