Over 46,000 Thessaloniki Jews were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau between March and August 1943, with only 1,950 returning following the war
Greece on Sunday commemorated the 80th anniversary of the first deportations of Greek Jews to Auschwitz-Birkenau in Thessaloniki, the northern city that lost almost its entire Jewish community.
Around a thousand people of all ages, holding white balloons captioned ‘Never Again,’ marched to the old railway station of Thessaloniki, where deportations began on March 15, 1943.
According to the president of the Jewish community in the city, David Saltiel, over 46,000 Thessaloniki Jews were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau between March and August 1943, with only 1,950 returning following the war. Jewish people made up a fifth of Thessaloniki’s population at the time.
“The community lost 97 percent of its members, around 50,000 people,” Saltiel said
Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, European Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, and Thessaloniki Mayor Konstantinos Zervas were among officials who attended the ceremony, joined alongside by American ambassador to Greece George Tsunis and Israel’s Science and Technology Minister Ofir Akunis.
Greece has worked gradually at honoring the nation’s Jewish community since the country normalized relations with Israel in 1990.
Thessaloniki’s mayor said that work in the city has begun on a Holocaust museum to honor the memory of those deported and killed by the Nazis.
Before World War II 77,000 Jews lived in Greece, with more than 86 percent being killed by the Nazis during their four-year occupation. Today, the community numbers around 5,000, according to the Jewish Museum in Athens.