Jewish theme route: A story about Thessaloniki itself
The Jewish theme route narrates a story about, not only the city’s Jewish community, but Thessaloniki itself.
From 1500 to 1920s Thessaloniki was the only European city with a Jewish population majority. The urban frame consisted of 28 historical synagogues, which were scattered between the port and the Palace of Galerius (at modern Navarinou Square) and between the Roman Agora and the seashore.
Every synagogue corresponded to a group of Jewish refugees who resorted to Thessaloniki because they had been expelled from various places of Spain, Portugal, Italy and Province during the 16th and the 17th century. The fire of 1917 and the following re-planning process destroyed this cultural wealth; nothing remained in the urban web out of the old synagogues and dozens of institutions. However, impressive commercial buildings were erected in the central urban district in the 1920s, which was rebuilt due to the Jewish architectural and building activities (salonikajewisharchitecture.com).
Many of these buildings still exist. New synagogues and Jewish quarters were built at both the eastern and the western ends of Thessaloniki. During WWII the anti-Semitic genocide organized by the Nazi Germany eliminated 96 per cent of the Thessalonian Jews and almost any material evidence, although it was not sufficient to eliminate historical memory. Today the vivid Jewish Community keeps two synagogues (www.jct.gr). The older one, built by Jewish immigrants from Monastir (now Bitola) in 1927, was recently restored (http://www.jct.gr/synag_monastir.php. The younger synagogue, Yad Lezikaron, was also restored.
Three Synagogues, the Jewish Museum, the hospital and the arcades, as well as, some of the most beautiful and luxurious mansions of the city, mark the significant Jewish presence in Thessaloniki’s past.
The visitor of Thessaloniki is guided through the site thessalonikijewishlegacy.com and the corresponding application guide to the Jewish past of the city. More evidence about it have been collected at the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki, 11 Aghiou Mena Street, downtown, which is an exemplary museum of local history (www.jmth.gr).