Traces of History: The Jewish Community in Salonika


Source: Yad Vashem


This online learning environment centers on the life cycle of Jews who lived in Salonika, Greece before, during, and after World War II. The Jewish community of Salonika was one of the most ancient in Europe. Before World War II, 55,200 Jews lived in Salonika, comprising two-thirds of the population. By the end of the Holocaust, only one-fourth (1,950 souls) of the Jewish population remained. This educational unit presents a case study that can help teachers and students find an example of how to uncover and reconstruct the life of a particular community through a variety of materials.


The theme for this year’s Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day is “The Faces Behind Documents, Artifacts, and Photographs.” These various items are memory fragments that remain after the devastation of the Holocaust. It is with these remains that we try to recover and try to envision the lost Jewish world and especially the faces of the people who lived then. The unit before you utilizes materials found on Yad Vashem's online databases. Using historical sources, photographs, artifacts, films, and other forms of evidence, they have attempted to depict the Jewish community of Salonika, before and after the Holocaust.


In addition, you will find the presentation in a form that can be downloaded for use in the classroom, ceremonies to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, and lesson plans, which may all be downloaded and used with high school aged students. Teachers and students also are invited to create similar environments to commemorate and honor other communities, using Yad Vashem’s online databases.


Today, Salonika is the second largest city in Greece, home to roughly 4,500 Jews, 0.05% of the total Greek population. However, the population was not always so meagre. Before 1942, Greece was the hub of European Jewry, a center for Torah learning attracting students from all over the world. The first Jews were thought to have settled in Greece over 2,000 years ago and as time passed the community thrived and expanded.


On the eve of World War II, approximately 80,000 Jews lived in Greece, residing in 31 localities. In 1945, the Jews of Greece numbered only 10,000. 87% of Greek Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Updated: Apr. 12, 2011