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

By Joshua Eli Plaut | Go to book overview

2
The Jewish Community’s Response to
Economic and Cultural Restrictions in Greek
Society, 1913–1935

Political Developments in Greece from 1913 to 1935 and their
Impact on the Greek-Jewish Community

THE Jewish communities were affected by the boundary changes which were taking place throughout the Balkan peninsula as a result of the slow disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. The Greek acquisition of Macedonia and Thrace at the end of the Second Balkan War brought together for the first time into one state the 15,000 hellenized Jews residing in communities under Greek rule prior to 1913 with the 105,000 Sephardi Jews living in communities formerly under Turkish sovereignty. The demise of the Ottoman Empire and the absorption of the Ottoman Jews into Greece was accompanied by a reemergence of anti-Semitism. For the first time in centuries Balkan Jews were exposed to outbreaks of mob violence and massacres.1 The increase in Christian hostility towards the Jews of the empire was linked to the steady advancement of Jews in such key sectors of the Ottoman economy as light industry, exports of agricultural products and raw materials, and imports of manufactured goods.2 Most disturbances coincided with the approach of a Jewish or Christian holiday, when accusations of ritual murders were commonplace. During the Easter season Jews were often attacked by mobs.

Violent incidents increased in the new territories taken over by Greece. After Greece assumed control of the Ionian Isles from the British, riots erupted in 1891, causing many Jews to migrate. Over the next twenty years two thousand Jews from the islands of Corfu and Zante emigrated to Italy, Egypt, or Turkey. Anti-Semitic outbursts occurred elsewhere in Greece. At the end of the Turko-Greek war of 1897, in which ten thousand Greek Jewish soldiers fought, suspicions quickly arose that the Greek Jews were in league with the Turkish enemy. Conse-

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