Greek University, Built on Ruins of Jewish Cemetery, Unveils Memorial

Monument, which recognizes Thessaloniki's Nazi past, is seen as an important step in reversing attempts to erase city's Jewish history.

JTA
JTA
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Concentration camp survivors attending a march in Thessaloniki, Greece.
Concentration camp survivors attending a march in Thessaloniki, Greece. Credit: AP
JTA
JTA

Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, partly built on the ruins of the city’s historic Jewish cemetery, unveiled a memorial to the graveyard that was destroyed by the Nazis.

Greek Jewish leaders hailed the erection of the monument, a series of grave stones in a bed of green grass next to a broken menorah, as a late but significant move by the university and the city to recognize the past.

The monument is an important step in reversing attempts to erase the city’s Jewish past, said David Saltiel, president of the Thessaloniki Jewish Community, but he called for more work to be done to “investigate, document and present clearly to the public the instigators and executors of this destruction.”

The Jewish community of Thessaloniki was a vital center of Sephardic Jewry for 450 years following the expulsion from Spain. Known as the “Flower of the Balkans,” it was the center of Ladino culture in the region.

In March 1943, the Nazis began sending Jews in railway convoys to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. By August, 49,000 of the city’s prewar population of 55,000 Jews had been deported. Fewer than 2,000 survived.

During the Nazi occupation, the Germans destroyed the cemetery, using the grave markers for construction material.

The ceremony also was attended by Greek political leaders; the mayor of Thessaloniki Yiannis Boutaris, who has been instrumental in reviving the city’s Jewish heritage; and the newly appointed Ambassador of Israel to Greece Irit Ben-Abba

University Rector Pericles Mitkas condemned the destruction of the cemetery, but said that perhaps some consolation could be found in the fact that on “these sacred lands a university was built, that is, the daily meeting place of many cultures, promoting freedom and tolerance of all religion, race and politics and dedicated to combating prejudices. “

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First Committee rally on October 3, 1941.

Ken Burns’ Brilliant ‘The U.S. and the Holocaust’ Has Only One Problem

The projected rise in sea level on a beach in Haifa over the next 30 years.

Facing Rapid Rise in Sea Levels, Israel Could Lose Large Parts of Its Coastline by 2050

Tal Dilian.

As Israel Reins in Its Cyberarms Industry, an Ex-intel Officer Is Building a New Empire

Queen Elizabeth II, King Charles III and a British synagogue.

How the Queen’s Death Changes British Jewry’s Most Distinctive Prayer

Newly appointed Israeli ambassador to Chile, Gil Artzyeli, poses for a group picture alongside Rabbi Yonatan Szewkis, Chilean deputy Helia Molina and Gerardo Gorodischer, during a religious ceremony in a synagogue in Vina del Mar, Chile last week.

Chile Community Leaders 'Horrified' by Treatment of Israeli Envoy

Queen Elizabeth attends a ceremony at Windsor Castle, in June 2021.

Over 120 Countries, but Never Israel: Queen Elizabeth II's Unofficial Boycott