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GREEK JEWRY
THE GHOSTS OF THESSALONIKI ARE STILL HERE Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 December 2017 11:56

LEON SALTIEL*

Seventy-five years ago today, during the German occupation of Greece, began the destruction of the historic Jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. The cemetery was established in ancient times and on the eve of the Second World War counted approximately 500,000 graves in an area of 350,000 square meters, making it probably the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe and maybe the world. Within a few weeks, wrote an eyewitness, “the vast necropolis, scattered with fragments of stone and rubble, resembled a city that had been bombed, or destroyed by a volcanic eruption.” According to a report by the US consul in Istanbul, “recently buried dead were thrown to the dogs.”

This act was not a purely German initiative. Besides, one can visit Jewish cemeteries today in the center of Berlin. The initiative came from the local authorities, which for a long time had tried to remove the cemetery from its location, close to the city center. “And this damned German occupation had to come, when, with the collaboration of an ironic fate, this old unsolvable problem of Thessaloniki found its dramatic solution,” in the words of Thessaloniki intellectual Georgios Vafopoulos. In its place today is the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

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Menachem Simantov: a different rescue story of 600 Christians from Serres Print E-mail
Friday, 24 November 2017 12:24
 
By VICTOR ELIEZER (E.J.P., Nov. 20, 2017)
It was a June 2017 morning when my phone rang and on the end of the line I heard the kind voice of a lady:   - "I want to talk to you about the Jews of Serres, (a city in North Greece),  and the history of my family", she tells me and somehow she surprised me because –to tell the truth– I did not believe there was a single Jew from Serres that was alive. - "I had no idea", I answer, "that you are from Serres, and of course I am interested in your story".

ATHENS----It was a June 2017 morning when my phone rang and on the end of the line I heard the kind voice of a lady:  
- "I want to talk to you about the Jews of Serres, (a city in North Greece), and the history of my family", she tells me and somehow she surprised me because –to tell the truth– I did not believe there was a single Jew from Serres that was alive.

- "I had no idea", I answer, "that you are from Serres, and of course I am interested in your story"
And so, on the evening of Friday, June 13, Mrs. Mimika Simantov-Samouilidou welcomes me in her apartment just opposite the Acropolis. The dining table was full of photos, publications and books. Her discourse is accompanied by photographs of a distant past. Favorite faces, houses and streets that no longer exist. Her voice trembles with emotion when she shows me the photos.
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OLD JEWISH TOMBSTONES FIND NEW LIFE IN THESSALONIKI Print E-mail
Friday, 07 July 2017 09:05

By Zack Bodner*,

I recently saw one of the most unnerving things I’ve ever seen in my life.

The largest cemetery in Europe — with more than 350,000 graves — was the Jewish cemetery in Thessaloniki, Greece, the epicenter of the Greek Jewish community and the preeminent location of Sephardic life after the Inquisition. The cemetery was destroyed by the Greeks after the Nazis invaded in 1942 and the marble tombstones were then used to pave sidewalks, build walls, homes, buildings and even swimming pools. So much marble flooded the market that the cost of marble went down to almost nothing.

I was in Thessaloniki recently, traveling through Greece with 16 relatives on my wife’s side to investigate her family roots; my father-in-law’s parents were born in the city.

Eight adults and eight kids spent more than two weeks touring the country and learning the history of the Greek Jews. In our investigation into the family roots, we learned that a tombstone of a member of the Alcheck family might be built into a wall in a particular neighborhood. So we drove there — the Thessaloniki suburb of Panorama, an upscale neighborhood with beautiful three-story villas.

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