Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies & Modern Greek and Byzantine Studies | Personal correspondence as Holocaust testimony: Letters sent from the Ghetto of Thessaloniki
Co-hosted by the Disciplines of Hebrew, Biblical and Jewish Studies and Modern Greek and Byzantine Studies and sponsored by The Consulate General of Greece in Sydney and Mandelbaum House
Personal correspondence as Holocaust testimony: Letters sent from the Ghetto of Thessaloniki
Leon Saltiel (University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece)
Between 15 March and 10 August 1943, some forty-three thousand Jews of Thessaloniki were transported to the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz. Of those, less than one thousand returned back alive. This was a devastating blow to the Jewish population of Thessaloniki, a major Jewish center in Europe since the arrival of the Sephardic Jews after the Spanish Inquisition in 1492. The Jews had constituted the majority of the population —and at times even the absolute majority—thus marking the city’s character for centuries.
Little is known about the everyday lives of individual Jews during the years of the Nazi occupation, let alone the period of ghettoization and deportation. This gap in historiography can be bridged by a unique find: a series of fifty-three letters written by three Jewish mothers living in Thessaloniki and sent to their sons, all residing in Athens—all three women victims of the Holocaust. This considerable number of letters from three different eyewitnesses, as well as the long period covered sheds light on the lives of ordinary Jewish citizens of Thessaloniki, free from hindsight and the influence of what had followed.
The lecture will discuss the general framework of the Holocaust in Thessaloniki and the great contribution these letters can make in our understanding of this dark period.
About the presenter
© Shahar Azran
Leon Saltiel holds a Ph.D. in Contemporary Greek History from the University of Macedonia, in Thessaloniki, Greece, and has been a post-doctoral researcher at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland and the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. His publications include The Holocaust in Thessaloniki: Reactions to the Anti-Jewish Persecution, 1942–1943 (Routledge 2020), which won the 2021 Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research, and ‘Do Not Forget Me’: Three Jewish Mothers Write to their Sons from the Thessaloniki Ghetto (Alexandria 2018) in Greek and (Berghahn 2021 in English). He is Director of Diplomacy, Representative at UN Geneva and UNESCO, and Coordinator on Countering Antisemitism for the World Jewish Congress.
For more information, contact: Dr Michael Abrahams-Sprod (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Banner image: Holocaust monument in Thessaloniki via FdeGrijs on WikiCommons. Cropped to fit banner dimensions. Used under CC BY-SA 4.0.
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