Greek Jewry

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk



In 1912 the majority of the population of Thessalonica in Greece was Jewish. This had been the case since the seventeenth century, after numerous Spanish Jews had moved there while the city was under Turkish rule. The city is located at the Gulf of Therma at the Aegean Sea, a part of the Mediterranean Ocean. No ship could unload its cargo on the Shabbat at that time, as the Jews had blockaded the harbor until the end of the day.

Jews had lived in Salonica since the first century, if not before, and had established numerous synagogues and other Jewish institutions. As was true and is still the case all over the Jewish world, Salonica had a large number of Jewish academics and numerous printing presses.

After Constantinople was invaded by the Turks in 1453 and renamed Istanbul, the Turks forced Jews in other parts of their empire to move to Istanbul. Then, in 1492, Jews were driven out of Spain by the genocidal rulers Ferdinand and Isabella. The Jews therefore fled to Salonica and began to establish one of the largest Jewish communities in the Diaspora.  Those Jews spoke Ladino, a language related to Spanish and influenced by Hebrew.

Salonica was also the home of Sabbatai Zvi, who claimed to be the Messiah (smeared) and proclaimed that he would lead the Jews back to the Holy Land. Captured by the Turks, Zvi became a Muslim (1681).

The decline of the Jewish community in Salonica was accelerated when cholera and other diseases spread among the population. Then, western goods began to enter the Greek markets, including textiles, which had been an important Jewish industry. This led to a further emigration of Jews to the United States and elsewhere.

After the First World War, the city was returned to Greece, as Turkey had fought with Germany and Austria. This once more lead to a good deal of emigration of Jews to the United States and Israel. Then came the occupation of Greece by the German army in 1941, which brought about the mass deportation of the Greek Jews to Auschwitz and other death camps, organized mainly by the Muslim Bosnian and Albanian volunteers in the German army.

These Muslim friends of the Germans were recruited by the chief Muslim cleric in Jerusalem, Mohammed Amin al Husseini, a follower and friend of Hitler, who spent the second world war in Berlin. The Muslims murdered Jews in Salonica and enriched themselves on the property of the deported Jews.

After the Second World War, a few survivors returned to Salonica, only to find that their homes and property had been seized by Christians who refused to return anything to the victims.

Nazi ideology continues in Bosnia to this day. It is for that reason that as late as 2010 a Nazi SS (Storm Troopers) Muslim division continued to march about in Bosnia wearing the SS uniforms and shouting Nazi slogans. Their publication announces that “The fourth Reich is coming,” a reference to Hitler’s “Third Reich” or empire.

Today the Jewish community in Salonica consists of 1,300 people. As usual in almost all European communities, there is a monument to the murdered Jews in the city, although the inhabitants rant about “Jewish control” of the media and other gutter garbage. Nevertheless, the Greek government, fearing Turkey, is an ally of Israel.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Assassination, Anarchy, & Terrorism (2012).

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