Greek Jewry plight commemorated for first time

While the vast majority of  Holocaust victims were Ashkenazim, Sephardim from the Balkans, Greece and Bulgaria were also deported to Nazi death camps.  For the first time, this year’s commemoration of the Holocaust focuses on the plight of Greek Jewry. Israel National News reports:

The Nazis arrive in Salonika

On Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom Hashoah), Thursday, May 2, more than
10,000 Jewish and non-Jewish youth from 40 countries and dozens of
Holocaust survivors and dignitaries from around the world participated in the 31st annual International March of the Living, the
three-kilometer march from Auschwitz to Birkenau, to pay tribute to all
victims of the Holocaust and call for an end to anti-Semitism.

This year, for the first time, the event’s main ceremony
will honor Greek Jewry, which was almost completely annihilated by the
Nazis and their collaborators.

Read article in full 

Alan Rosenbaum in  The Jerusalem Post traces the history of Greek Jewry (with thanks: Imre):

The Holocaust
of the Greek Jews was one of the most tragic stories about the
Holocaust. Though all communities suffered greatly, Greek Jews suffered
even more because they were different and
even when they reached Auschwitz, their suffering was even greater.”
The Greek Jews, notes (Professor Gideon)  Greif, were not used to the frigid climate of
Eastern Europe and could not communicate with their fellow Jews from
Eastern Europe, because they didn’t speak German,
Yiddish, or Polish. They were mocked by Ashkenazic Jews because of
their differences, he says. Many of them were compelled to work within
the killing installations as Sonderkommandos and were forced to aid with
the disposal of gas chamber victims during the

Greif explains that the rate of death within Greek Jewry was
among the highest in the Holocaust, “because the Germans used their
repertoire of deceit efficiently and hid their murderous intentions.” In
addition, he says, the Greek Jews were led
by Rabbi Zvi Koretz, the head of the Jewish council, who was naïve, and
thought that cooperating with the German authorities would improve
their situation. Because he was so obedient, says Greif, one transport
followed another until April 1944.

Professor (Devin) Naar notes that while the
destruction of the Jews of Saloniki was echoed throughout most of
Greece, some communities experienced different fates. The Jewish
population of Athens on the eve of the war was approximately
1500, and it doubled and tripled over the course of the war, as many
Jews fled there. The Nazis were less successful in deporting the Jews of
Athens, and Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens called on the citizens to
intervene and speak out against deportations.  

Read article in full 


  • Of interest in New York
    Kehila Kedosha Janina (the Holy Community of Janina) is the only Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. Romaniote Jews are a unique community of Jewish people whose history in Greece dates back over two thousand three hundred years to the time of Alexander the Great. The Romaniotes are historically distinct from the Sephardim, who settled in Greece after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.
    Yom HaShoah Holocaust Remembrance Day Ceremony
    April 28, 2019
    Join us on Sunday April 28 at 12pm.

    This Yom HaShoah we are honored to host filmmaker Rita Sara Cohen for a stirring presentation of her latest documentary film “Memoirs of a Hidden Child.” Rita's parents survived the war in Athens by being hidden by righteous Christians. Our program will start in the sanctuary for our traditional lighting of the candles in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Afterwards we will show Rita’s film in our Ada Finifter Communal Room and Education Center.
    Refreshments will be served.
    Please RSVP to


  • There were a few thousand Jews from Libya and Tunisia who were sent by the Germans to concentration camps in Europe while those two countries were under German occupation. Many other Jews in those countries were put in forced labor camps.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This website is dedicated to preserving the memory of the near-extinct Jewish communities, of the Middle East and North Africa, documenting the stories of the Jewish refugees and their current struggle for recognition and restitution.

Point of No Return

Jewish Refugees from Arab and Muslim Countries

One-stop blog on the Middle East's
forgotten Jewish refugees - updated daily.