Tribute to the Jewish community of Salonika

Publié le 25/05/2023 par Dimitra Bouras / Catégorie: Événement

The pain of memory

Thessaloniki or Salonika was called Madre de Yisrael (Mother of Israel) in Ladino, the language of the Sephardic Jews. After the Christian "Reconquista" finalized in 1492, Muslims and Jews were expelled from Isabel of Castile and Fernando of Aragon 'Spain, and found refuge all over the world, but mainly in Morocco and in Thessaloniki. For a long time, the Jewish community constituted more than half of the population of the city, which was then under Ottoman occupation.

Tribute to the Jewish community of Salonika

In 1912, following the First Balkan War, the city came under Greek control. The 1917 fire in Thessaloniki marked a turning point in the reality of the community. Concentrated in the lower city, the community was strongly affected by the disaster. From 1918, following the Greek-Turkish war which ended in 1922 with the "Great Disaster" and the displacement of thousand of people between these two countries, Thessaloniki and Athens welcomed a massive exodus of refugees. The Greek population increased by 20% in one fell swoop. On the eve of World War II, 40% of the inhabitants of Thessaloniki was Jewish. Then came the German occupation in the north of the country and the mass extermination of the Jews. Of the 77,377 Jews living in Greece in 1940, 67,149 died, many exterminated in Auschwitz, including the elderly, women and 13,000 children.
The first death train left Thessaloniki for Auschwitz on March 15, 1943. Eighty years later, in March 2023, the 25th International Documentary Festival of Thessaloniki pays homage to the city's Jewish community by organizing the event "Adio Kerida", a series of film screenings of testimonies of the atrocities that the community suffered. Forgotten from the history books, expelled from their ancestral roots, the Jews of Greece live deeply with their wounds still alive. It is an act of great humanity that the Festival has made by allowing showing on the big screen and in packed halls several historical documentaries on the deportation and extermination of the Jews of Thessaloniki, based on the testimonies of survivors. A crucial stone in the foundations of the recognition of the collaboration or at least of the passivity of the Greek authorities and inhabitants in front of the massacre of a part of its people, with the spoliation of its goods and even of its ancestral cemetery. The films shown were old productions, with the exception of Tom Barkay's shocking Heroes of Salonika (2021). Six Holocaust survivors from Thessaloniki describe in chilling detail torture, extermination methods, disease, starvation and experiences they endured.
In Saloniki, City of Silence (2006), Thessaloniki-born director Maurice Amaraggi pays tribute to the glorious multicultural past of the city, known as the "Jerusalem of the Balkans."

In the documentary Kisses to the Children (2011) by Vassilis Loules, we meet five Greek Jewish children saved by Christian families during the German occupation, five "hidden children" who lived in total silence. Five children were forced to mature suddenly.
Fofo Terzidou's documentary By-standing and Standing-by (2012) traces the rich history of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki. Through survivor testimonies and interviews with historians and other experts, the documentary explores difficult stories of collective trauma.

Adio Kerida's programming was rounded out by films about the Holocaust: From Where They Stood by Christophe Cognet: In World War II concentration and extermination camps, a handful of deportees risked their lives to take clandestine photographs and attempt to document the hell the Nazis were hiding from the world.
Shoah, the cult film by Claude Lanzmann, The Driver is Red by Randall Christopher, The Specialist by Eyal Sivan and the restored copy of Carl Boese's 1930 film, Paul Wegener, The Gholem.

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