Thessaloniki is a multicultural city with a long Jewish history. The Jews were at times the largest part of its population, leaving their impact in many neighborhoods of the city. The Jewish community was founded by Sephardim Jewish, who were exiled from Spain and then enhanced the multicultural population’s mosaic of Thessaloniki. Their long lasting presence made the city to be known in the Balkans, as the city where the Jewish community thrived. The end of the community came, during the German occupation when its people were transferred to concentration camps of central Europe. Today the Jewish buildings are still maintained in the old Jewish district in the center of the city, as well as their beautiful villas in its east side, making clear their intense activity. The former Mayor of Thessaloniki, Giannis Boutaris, visited Tel Aviv in 2019 to attend the final ceremony of the Memorial Day for Holocaust to illustrate the meaningful Jewish presence in the city.
Until nowadays, all the Greek governments and local authorities show in practice their interest in the designation of Jewish contribution in the history of the city and discourse continuously with the Central Israeli Council of Greece and Israeli Community of Thessaloniki for achieving this goal. This is the reason why Thessaloniki hosts today the Jewish Museum and expects the construction of Holocaust Museum. The Jewish museum is a research foundation that safeguards the historical memory of Jewish people in the city. It started operating in 2001 with the assistance of donors, entrepreneurs and Jewish families and its building belongs to the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki. However, its renovation was co-founded by the Organization of Cultural Capital- Thessaloniki 1997 and the Ministry of Culture. The Holocaust Museum was founded in 2018 to honor the memory of the executed Jewish population of the city by the Nazi Germans. During the opening, the former Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Israeli Ex-President Reuven Rivlin were present to make their contribution. They highlighted the importance of the museum as “a weapon in the battle against memory’s oblivion”. It is built in the train station of the city for honoring the victims of the Holocaust because it is the place, where 50.000 Jewish left the city heading to the concentration camps. The project was financed by the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, the city of Thessaloniki, and the Ministry of Transportations. Museums are important channels for recognizing the cultural heritage of a place and providing the common historical paths of populations. These museums cite the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki for their contribution and show the coexistence of two communities and cultures, the Greek and the Jewish, promoting the participation of Jews in the cultural identity of the city. They describe the life and activities of Greek Jews, displaying an important part of the city’s history. Hence, they bring the people close to their history and give them the chance to understand the cultural commonalities with Israel’s people. Moreover, the museums cooperate with Israelis, who are either their donors as they are descendants of the holocaust victims either their assistants to their work, contact them with the state of Israel. Whatever their role is, they boost the Israelis’ interest in Thessaloniki. In this way, a network of relationships is created that points out the role of Thessaloniki in European Jewish history in parallel with their cultural heritage and characteristics, which are passed on to the city as part of its cultural identity.
Ισραηλιτική Κοινότητα Θεσσαλονίκης, Εξελίξεις για το Μουσείο του Ολοκαυτώματος, 1st of December 2021, Available to: https://www.jct.gr/view.php?id=974 (1/11/2021)
Ισραηλίτικη Κοινότητα Θεσσαλονίκης, Εβραϊκό Μουσείο Θεσσαλονίκης, Available to: https://www.jct.gr/JMTH.php (1/11/2021)
The Jerusalem Post, Thessaloniki to build Holocaust museum and research center, 23th of December 2013, Available to: https://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-Features/Thessaloniki-to-build-Holocaust-museum-and-research-center-335903(1/11/2021)
The Jerusalem Post, “Jewish heritage part of our past and future” says the mayor of Thessaloniki, 4th of May 2019, Available to: https://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Jewish-heritage-part-of-our-past-and-future-says-mayor-of-Thessaloniki-588636(1/11/2021)
Πρεσβεία του Ισραήλ στην Ελλάδα, Δένδρα ελιάς φύτεψαν συμβολικά Ρίβλιν-Τσίπρας, 30th of January 2018, Available to: https://embassies.gov.il/athens/NewsAndEvents/Pages/olive-trees-plantingHolocaustMuseum2018.aspx (1/11/2021)