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Thessaloniki Garden

The Jews called Salonika “the mother of Israel” and “the second Jerusalem”: a new promised land in which the communities fleeing persecution in every corner of Europe had found refuge. In the 13th and 14th centuries, they had arrived here from Germany, Austria and France; after 1492 from Isabella of Aragon’s Spain, expelled with an edict obliging all residents to convert to Roman Catholicism; from Russia and the Baltic states, from Sicily and from the rest of Italy trying to escape the pogroms and discrimination.

This explains why, in the early 20th century, most of Salonika’s residents were of Jewish origin. Despite the terrible fire that had razed the entire Jewish quarter to the ground in 1917, by the time World War II broke out, half the city’s inhabitants were Jews. When the Axis defeated the Greek army in 1941, the country was occupied by Italian and German troops.

The arrival from Germany of the “Rosenberg Commission”, in the spring of 1943, caused the situation to precipitate. The “final solution” was organized in the minutest detail by Eichmnann’s emissaries, despite the attempts of the Italian authorities to oppose the deportations. In a matter of just a few months, over 50,000 Jews were taken to the extermination camps, and especially to Auschwitz, where almost all of them ended up in the gas chambers or in the crematoriums. A few were able to survive by hiding, thanks to help from the Greeks, and approximately 280 managed to escape with the help of Italian diplomats and military personnel.

Righteous in the Garden

Learn more

  • Andreas Sefiha, the memories

    Testimony taken from Andreas Sefiha’s autobiography “Memories of a life and a world” (published by Ianos, Athens, ...
  • Nelly Kamhi Sefiha, the runaway

    Testimony taken from Nelly Kamhi Sefiha’s autobiography “Memoirs” (published by HY Brazil, Salonika, 2007), read ...
  • Zaccaria Sakkis, the tale

    Testimony taken from Zaccaria Sakkis’s autobiography “One life, 100 years” (published by the author, Athens, ...

Thessaloniki, yesterday and today

Thessaloniki, yesterday and today

Some pictures of the ancient Thessaloniki  (taken from the exhibition displayed at the Jewish Museum) and of the town during and after the Nazi occupation.

  • Certificate issued by the Thessaloniki authorities, 10 march 1943

    Document relased to Mr Samuel Amariglio, a Jew married to a Greek citizen. Thanks to his marriage to her, he survived. ...
  • Erika Kounio's registration file issued at the entrance to Auschwitz

    Erika Kounio, a Jew from Thessaloniki, was deported to Auschwitz with the first train from the Greek city. Thanks to ...

Wefor is our Website dedicated to the figures of moral resistance against totalitarianism. The virtual Gardens of Europes Righteous and the teaching section YouFor are the core of this project realized by Gariwo, the forest of the Righteous. Through the establishment of the European Day of the Righteous by the Brussels Parliament, Wefor has received its highest recognition.