As I previously indicated, I will be analyzing the causes for varying survival rates of Jews in four countries that were under German occupation during the Holocaust. The four countries are Denmark, Italy, Greece, and Poland. This week I have put the majority of my effort into studying Greece. I plan to focus on one of my four countries each week. I have read six Holocaust focused books of which each have a section on Greece. I have come to a general conclusion on what the situation was in Greece.
The main focus of my research was on the city of Salonika. Salonika was a port city that at one point was estimated as being sixty percent Jewish. As of 1939, the Jewish population totaled 50,000, encompassing 20 percent of the overall city. The years leading up to the war were characterized with great ethnic tensions. Greece was a highly nationalistic country. This nationalism led to high levels of anti- semitism; the ethnic Greeks began to view Jews as a foreign group. The Jewish population was decreasing leading up to the war. Between 1902 and 1939 the Jewish population decreased by 10,000. The Jews went from 60 percent of the overall city to only 20 percent. Despite this, the Jewish population remained a sizable and influential minority. The Jews of Salonika made up the majority of entrepreneurs, millers, brick-makers, textile production, among other professions.
Following the German invasion of Greece, the Greek government was overthrown and the Germans were in complete control of the country. The Greeks in Salonika were quick to collaborate with the Germans as a result of the previously described tensions and incentives created by the Germans. The Nazis gave Jewish businesses and properties to Greeks who would collaborate. The envious Greeks were quick to give into these material rewards. In addition, the Germans built loyalty through actions such as giving a Jewish cemetery to the city. In the end, 95 percent, 48,500, of Salonika’s Jews were killed. Many were shipped to Auschwitz where they struggled with the cold and had difficulty communicating as a result of not understanding German.
A different story was seen in areas of Greece which had a smaller Jewish community. These areas were characterized with less ethnic strife and divide as a result of the Jewish communities being far less prominent. One example is the island of Zakynthos. Of the pre-war Jewish population of 275, all were hidden by the local Greeks. Despite great efforts outside of Salonika, in total 80 percent of the pre-war Greek Jewish population perished. This largely was a result of Salonika having the largest Jewish community in the whole country.
Next week, I will blog on Denmark.