Almost 79.000 Jews were living in 31 Jewish communities in Greece when the Nazi Germany declared war on April 1941. The majority of them were settled in Thessaloniki, the “Jerusalem of the Balkans”.
The first anti-Semitic measures emerged on 25 February 1943, the Nuremberg Laws were implemented in the city of Thessaloniki. The Baron Hirsch ghetto, located near the old railway station, had been converted into a transit camp where just few days later 2.800 Jews were deported to Auschwitz.
Stacked inside the cattle cars for six days, without ventilation, water or food they finally reached the death station. A selection process was next and 2.191 of them were sent directly in the gas chambers.
With few exceptions, Jews people from all over Greece got arrested. Twenty-one more deportations would take place until August of 1944. The destination for more than 65.000 Greek Jews would not be other than Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the deadliest extermination camp of the Third Reich, the mass murder symbol of Holocaust.
The toll will be terrible. The extermination rate of the Jews of Greece stands at 85% and is among the highest in Europe. Greek Jewish communities such as the Romaniote Jews whose presence in Greece is traced back to the time of Apostle Paul and Sephardic Jews, the largest Sephardic Jewish community in the world at that time, almost disappears.
Although the history of the Jews in Greece is traced back to the 4th century BC, and its indigenous Jewish communities represent the longest continuous Jewish presence in Europe, Greek historiography had erased Jews from the Greek national entity and deliberations on Jewish communities and the Shoah had been absent in Greek historiography till last years.
Furthermore, the perception that the Holocaust does not concerns the Greek society still remains. According to survey by ADL besides, it was Greece that found to be the most anti-Semitic country across all Europe reaching a 69% rate.
All these facts led me to the trails of Greek Jews Holocaust. My desire is to get the Jewish history more visible in the Greek public through photography, and shout out what the consequences of antisemitism and totalitarian regimes can be.