Greek Jewry in the Twentieth Century, 1913-1983: Patterns of Jewish Survival in the Greek Provinces before and after the Holocaust

Greek Jewry in the Twentieth Century, 1913-1983: Patterns of Jewish Survival in the Greek Provinces before and after the Holocaust

Greek Jewry in the Twentieth Century, 1913-1983: Patterns of Jewish Survival in the Greek Provinces before and after the Holocaust

Greek Jewry in the Twentieth Century, 1913-1983: Patterns of Jewish Survival in the Greek Provinces before and after the Holocaust

Excerpt

This book examines post-Holocaust Jewish survival in the provinces of Greece. Following the Nazis’ murder of 89 percent of Greek Jewry from 1941 to 1944, Jewish community life in the Greek provinces has been in a state of perpetual weakness. Whereas most historical accounts of the Jewish presence in the Balkan Peninsula concentrate on the years prior to the end of World War II, this book is not a Holocaust study. Rather it examines in great detail the period 1956–83, the rehabilitation years that followed the destruction brought on by the Holocaust and the Greek civil war. Greek-Jewish identity and community life experienced changes in this period because of the significant numerical decrease in the Jewish population during the Holocaust and the destruction of so many Jewish communities across Greece by the Nazis.

Most scholars equate the history of Greek Jewry with that of Salonika’s Jewish heritage. This book calls attention to the many other proud Jewish communities in Greece that have not yet been submitted to enough scholarly scrutiny. The Salonika and Athens Jewish communities are discussed in this book only in so far as they shed light on the plight of the small Jewish communities in the provinces of Greece, for they are the subject of this work.

Historically speaking, the provincial Jewish communities in the northern and central parts of the Balkan Peninsula had different cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions. These communities were situated in towns along the main trade route from Istanbul to Italy. When the modern boundaries of Greece took final shape in 1913, Judeo-Spanishand French-speaking Ottoman Jews living in the northern provinces of Macedonia and Thrace were incorporated into a state that had mostly Greek-speaking Jews, many of them of Romaniot descent. The domestic policies in Greece of the period up until World War II were aimed at uniting the Greek people around a common national heritage. This created pressures to conform upon Greek Jews who had been accustomed to speaking many different languages, attending Jewish schools, praying in synagogues, and commanding a powerful role in the country’s economy.

The hellenization policies continued until the Axis powers invaded Greece in 1940. After plundering, destruction of synagogues and grave-

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