A Short History of the Jews of Greece
The entire story of the almost total destruction of Greek Jewry can not be written here. It
can only be said that in 1939 there were over seventy thousand Jews in Greece living in communities that had histories
stretching back over two thousand years or whose family memories took them back into the rich brocade of medieval
Islamic Spain. In 1945 the total Jewish population of Greece was given as ten thousand. Those who had not returned
had died in Poland. In some towns a few Jews either survived the deportations, emerged from hiding or even survived
the camps, but returned to find emptyness. Of the Jews from Crete none survived and Chania has only an empty synagogue,
abandoned by Jews and Christians alike and not even a monument to commemorate the tragedy. In Zakynthos all the
Jews were saved through the efforts of its archbishop and mayor while in Corfu the mayor and chief of police
declared a public holiday on the day the Jews were deported. From Salonika 15 train loads over a period of eighteen
months emptied the city of its Jews. The Bulgarians in the manner of Pilate handed the five thousand Jews of Thrace
to the Germans on the Danube. Their fates were sealed at Treblinka.
It is said that the few remaining Jews of Greece are now vanishing and it has been predicted that within twenty years there will be no Jews, only individuals living isolated and secularized lives. This remains to be seen. Unlike the Jewries of Europe, the Jewish presence in Greece is old, more than two thousand years and with the exception of the Second World War there has never been a moment of unrelenting persecution. There have been times when they all but vanished only to suddenly witness the rebirth of communities or the arrival of Jews from elsewhere, for the Jews of Greece have more than once offered haven to those fleeing from far-off lands.