Modern Greece and the Sephardim of Salonica an Overview
Albert De Vıdas
Keywords: Modern Greece, Sephardim, Salonica, Jews, Ottoman Empire
The first encounter between Greece and tha Spanish and Portuguese Jews (the Sephardim) in modern times started in 1821 during the Greek rebellion against the Sultan. From the beginning this encounter would follow a rocky path because of three basic facts; the faithfulness of the Sephardim to the Ottoman Empire, the traditional religious anti-Semitism of the Greek population and the economic rivalry between Jews and Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean. Nowhere would the antagonism of the Greek population and government towards the Sephardim be more intense than in the city of Salonica, the Sephardic metropolis which Greece occupied in 1912. With over two-thirds of the population being Sephardi and with Spanish being the everyday language of the population, Salonica, under the liberal rule of the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire had flourished economically and had become the center of the Sephardic Nation within the Empire. Greek policy would be one of constant antagonism from the time of the occupation until the extermination of the Sephardim by the Germans and their loal collaborators during the Second World War. Every effort would be made by the Greek government to diminish the influence of the Sephardim in the city and to reduce their presence and economic wellbeing. The 70,000 Sephardim of Salonica at the time of the Greek occupation would see their numbers diminished by emigration. Those who remained would be reduced to a frightened minority in a city that had been theirs for over 400 years.