The Jewish Monuments in Thessaloniki Center, Part I

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Updated June 21st, 2022 by Travel the Greek Way

 Jewish Monuments in Thessaloniki - white tower
Thessaloniki’s landmark: White Tower

The remaining Jewish Monuments in Thessaloniki (Salonika), Greece’s second-largest city and port, are not reflecting the long, flourishing, and vibrant 500 years old history of the Greek Jewish in the city. The scarcity of the Jewish Monuments in Thessaloniki is mostly due to:

  • The big fire of 1917 mainly affected the predominantly Jewish part of the city
  • The German occupation, during WWII, when all synagogues but one, were demolished
 Jewish Monuments in Thessaloniki - main coastal road
Main Road in modern Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki was founded in 316/315 BC by Thessaloniki, Great Alexander’s sister and daughter of King of Macedonia, Philippos the second.

Thessaloniki’s prominent geographical position developed the city from its foundation as an important port, economic and commercial center of Macedonia, and the Balkan Peninsula, advantages that it has maintained for all those 2,300 years.

The remains of Thessaloniki after the fire

The great fire in 1917, destroyed most of the centuries-old buildings. Yet, still today the city’s long history is evident in its many Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, and Jewish monuments scattered in the older part of the city.

Jewish Hirsch Quarter early 20th century

In this post, you will read about the Jewish Monuments in Thessaloniki center, with information regarding access and visiting hours where applicable. Most of these places are grouped from the geographical point of view in two main areas (and two different posts) and they are all within easy walking distance.

  • One at the old Thessaloniki center close to the port which was also the center of Jewish life.
  • PART II of Thessaloniki Jewish Monuments: One to the eastern part of the Thessaloniki which was a mainly residential area for the upper class

You can easily visit the Jewish Monuments in Thessaloniki on your own or you can book a guided tour with a professional Greek guide, who is specialized in Jewish monuments.

*Some of the links below are affiliate links. That means I may make a commission if you click and buy. The commission comes at no additional cost to you. If you purchase something, thanks! Please see my full disclosure policy for more information*

Thessaloniki Quick Reference

Historical Background

When the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand II and Isabelle, completed the reconquering of Spain from the Mores, in 1492, they imposed a dilemma on the country’s numerous Jews: convert to Catholicism or be expulsed. Among those who opted for expatriation, the larger number headed to the Ottoman empire which was much more tolerant of other religions than catholic western Europe.

The Jews of Thessaloniki occupied places throughout the social ladder: from wealthy entrepreneurs to street fruit vendors. Source Wikipedia

The sultan Beyazit II (reigned 1481-1512) welcomed the Jews fleeing Spain and allowed them to settle in many of the cities of his empire in the Balkans and Asia Minor. Sephardic Jews (from Sefarad, meaning Spain in Hebrew) possessed many skills in a wide range of fields that the Ottomans took advantage of. Eventually, their most important center became Thessaloniki where the Sefardic Jews soon outnumbered the pre-existing Jewish communities.

In pre-war Thessaloniki, the Capon family gathers for a festive afternoon at a taverna (photo and info credit Greece-is.gr)

The Jews formed the largest religious group in Thessaloniki and during certain periods the absolute majority, hence the city was also named “New Jerusalem” and “Madre de Israel” (Mother of Israel). It is normal that the importance of Jews in the life of the city would result in numerous landmarks like synagogues, schools, social care institutions, etc. But as already mentioned, unfortunately, this is not the case.

Interactive Google Map of Jewish Monuments

Remaining Jewish Monuments in Thessaloniki

Monasteriote’s Synagogue

Monasteriote’s Synagogue – Credit Parallaxi Mag

Most synagogues in Thessaloniki were named after the origin of the Jews using them. This one was the synagogue of the Jews from Monastir (today Bitola in North Macedonia). It was built between 1925 and 1927. This is the only synagogue that survived after WWII in its prewar state, as it was being used, during the war, as a warehouse by the Red Cross.

Monasteriote’s Synagogue – Exterior

Its operation was interrupted for some time in June 1978 due to the damages suffered as a result of the important earthquake that hit the city. It was restored in the mid-2010s. You will admire, among others, the central luminaire. After the war, this had been found in a church from which it eventually found its way back to where it belonged. INFO: 35 Syggrou St, Tel.: +302310.275.701, Mon- Fri: 10:00-15:00, Wed: 10:00-15:00 and 17:00-20:00, Sun: 10:00-14:00, Sat: closed,  http://www.jmth.gr/ www.jct.gr/synag_monastir.php

Ioustinianou str.

There is no evidence today showing that this was the eastern border of the central ghetto of Thessaloniki. The ghetto operated for a few weeks, from 25 February 1943 until its residents were transferred to the eastern ghetto, close to the railway station from where they were loaded to the trains to Auschwitz.

The Banque de Salonique (Malakopi Arcade)

Bank De Salonique: Credit JanLandschreiber

The Banque de Salonique was a regional bank headquartered in Thessaloniki and Istanbul. Created in 1888 under the initial leadership of the Salonica Jewish Allatini family with the participation of several other establishments in France and Austria-Hungary. During WWII, most of the bank’s staff in Thessaloniki fell victims to the destruction of the Jewish community by the German occupation forces, which also commandeered the bank’s building and burnt its archive. In 1947 the Thessaloniki branch and building were sold to the Bank of Chios.

The headquarters of the Banque de Salonique was designed in 1905 by Vitaliano Poselli and completed in 1909, on the ground that was previously the large garden of the Allatini family house, shown in this old postcard:

It was one of few buildings of the neighborhood that survived the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917. Its clock was stopped by the 1978 Thessaloniki earthquake and, in memory of that event, stands still at 11:05. Nowadays it operates as a shopping gallery named Stoa Malakopis. 

INFO: Malakopis Gallery, 7 Syggrou St.

Saul Gallery

Saul Gallery – Arcade

This was built by the architect Eli Modiano for the banker Saul Modiano, between 1867 and 1871. The building was partly destroyed by the 1917 fire and was rebuilt in 1929. It is a historical landmark of the flourishing period of the Modiano family which started with Saul, a poor employee, who eventually became one of the richest persons in the Ottoman Empire.

Location: Ermou & 15 El. Venizelou St

The Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki Jewish Museum – Glow.gr

The building was completed in 1906 to be used as a commercial gallery. It housed, among others, the Bank of Athens (1906-1925) and the Jewish newspaper L’Indépendant (in French) (1909-1941). It is one of the rare buildings in the city center not to have been destroyed by the 1917 fire.

The museum comprises two levels: On the ground floor are presented tombstones from the old Jewish cemetery that was lying outside the city walls, on the ground of today’s University Campus. The upper floor houses the permanent collection “Thessaloniki Sephardic Metropole” as well as collections on the social, religious, and family life and on the Holocaust. Starting from 2005, the museum acquired a large number of items related to the Jewish-owned businesses of Thessaloniki.

Jewish Museum – ekathimerini

All items are included in digital databases. Moreover, visitors can use the “xenagos” system that provides guiding services through the use of an individual i-pod-like device.

Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki, 11 Agiou Mina, tel 2310.250,406, jmth.gr. Open daily except Saturday. + 30 2310 250406.Tickets Adults: 6 euros

Eleftherias Square

Gathering of Jewish in Thessaloniki
Eleftherias Square, 11 July 1942

This is where male Jews from 18 to 45 years of age were summoned to gather on Saturday 11 July 1942. For about six hours, some 9000 Jews were subjected to various humiliations mainly in the form of exercises under the summer sun.

Eleftherias Square, 11 July 1942, Jews being humiliated

The ultimate purpose was to have them registered in order to enroll them in forced labor. That day was called “Black Saturday”.

Plateia Eleftherias today

The square is meant to become a Memory Park. However, for the time being, it is used as a parking lot.

The Thessaloniki Holocaust Memorial

Thessaloniki Holocaust Memorial

The Thessaloniki Holocaust Memorial was created by the Serbian sculptor Nandor Glid whose parents perished in Auschwitz. It was installed here in 2006 after having been transferred from a rather remote location where it was first installed in 1997. Every now and then it gets vandalized by ultra-nationalist groups.

Location: Eleftherias Square, Nikis Ave. & El. Venizelou St.

The Jahudi Hamam

Jahudi Hamam in the Louloudadika area – Credit Xinomavri

The Jahudi Hamam possibly dates to the 16th century. Its name means “Bath of the Jews”, as the area was predominantly settled by Sephardic Jews. It was also named Pazar Hamam, due to its location in the central marketplace of the city. Its surface is 750 sq. m. and it is presently used as a cultural venue.

Synagogue of Thessaloniki, Yad Lezikaron

Yad Lezikaron

The Synagogue of Thessaloniki is named Yad Lezikaron and is dedicated to the memory of the Holocaust victims. It was inaugurated in 1984 following the repair works made necessary by the 1978 earthquake. It lies on the site of a small bethel also known as “Cal de la Plaza” (Market Synagogue), operating since 1921 to serve the religious needs of the numerous Jewish working in the nearby marketplace.

Location: 24 Vasileos Irakliou Street

The Modiano Market

Modiano Market Restoration Works

Modiano is a covered market inaugurated in 1925. It was designed by Eli Modiano, a civil engineer from a wealthy Jewish family, and the architect J. Oliphant. It was built at the place occupied by an older market that burned in the big fire of 1917. Until 2019 it housed more than 100 food stores as well as a few bars and restaurants. It is presently under restoration and is expected to open again in 2022 as a food market with a more modern interior but keeping the outer shell as both this and the use as a food market are protected by the Ministry of Culture.

INFO: 24 Ermou St & Vas. Irakleiou St 

The Old Railway Station

 Jewish Monuments in Thessaloniki - map of Nazi Thessaloniki
German-occupied Salonika, 1942-1943 – US Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Old Train station lies at the western entry of Thessaloniki. Its construction by a company owned by baron Maurice de Hirsch was completed in 1874 when Thessaloniki was connected to Skopje and further, in 1878, to Mitrovitsa, in Kosovo. When the ottoman railway was connected to the Serbian one, in 1888, Thessaloniki could be reached by train from central and western Europe.

Thessaloniki Old Station

The quarters close to the station were home to many Jews. Next to the station had been created, by the Jewish community, a settlement after the fire of 1890 on land acquired by baron de Hirsch. This area was fenced and isolated by the Germans on 4 March 1943. The Jews living there were deported by rail to Auschwitz-Birkenau on 15 March 1943.

A woman places a flower on a train wagon in the old railway station in Thessaloniki Photo Sakis Mitrolidis

The site was subsequently used as a transit place for all Jews that were deported. The last train left the Old Station on 7 August 1943.

 Jewish Monuments in Thessaloniki - plaque at old station
Commemorating Plaque of the 50.000 perished Greek Jews of Thessaloniki

On the wall of the Station, a commemorating plaque reminds the role played by this Station in the fate of the Thessaloniki Jews. The baron Hirsch settlement has been to a large extent demolished after WWII.

Memorial at the New Jewish Cemetery

Memorial at the New Jewish Cemetery

The old Jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki contained about 300.000 graves in an area of more than 85 acres. From December 1942 until April 1943 the graves were destroyed, the materials used for road and building construction, and the bones were scattered.

Nazi Swimming Pool made out of Jewish Graves

The few tombs that were found after the war were transferred to the new Jewish cemetery where a monument was erected to honor the victims of the Shoah.

Thessaloniki Kosher Restaurants

  • Chabad of Thessaloniki: Shalom restaurant,  Salaminos St. 9,  +30 2310 550 500
  • Routes of Kosher, Kalapothaki 16, Thessaloniki, +30 2311269814
  • Kosher Food, Salaminos 9 & Tsimiski, +30 231 055 0500

Where Best to Stay in Thessaloniki

Thessaloniki hotel
Thessaloniki’s Aristotelous Square

Located in one of the best areas of Thessaloniki, at Aristotelous Square, with endless sea views, Electra Palace Thessaloniki is a top luxury hotel, close to the sites.

A fantastic mid-range hotel in central Thessaloniki is beautiful The Modernist Thessaloniki and if you are looking for a great value for money central budget Airbnb then check out the Industrial Loft near Seaside.

Related Posts on Jewish Monuments in Greece

Eastern Thessaloniki Jewish Monuments

Part II of the posts devoted to Thessaloniki and the remaining Jewish monuments

Athens Jewish Monuments

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