If you don't know about Greek Jews, here's a chance: Manhattan's only Greek synagogue informs of a gratis play, SALONIKA 1943, Feb. 18, 6:30 p.m. at the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan. It's an Italian production, in English with music, that "recounts the last years of the culturally unique, centuries-old Jewish community in Salonika (today Thessaloniki) through the eyes of an Italian diplomat who, in spite of Italy’s alliance to Germany ... struggles to save those he can. Stories of ordinary people are woven together with songs, legends and tales from the Jewish tradition, many containing prophetic premonitions of future horrors. The play moves from the gradual concentration of the 54,000 Jews of Salonika inside a ghetto, into the horrific era of their deportation by the Germans to the death camps ... The Italian Consul ... hurriedly drew up "lists of life" ... even as the first trains were leaving for Birkenau."
You must RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Center for Jewish History is at 15 West 16th St.
More info here.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Thursday, January 8, 2009
In Tel Aviv, I had the great pleasure to meet Alberto Amon, and his son Schmuel, when I stopped in their furniture shop. Alberto was born in Volos, Greece, where he avoided the fate of many Jews when the Germans invaded in the early 1940s. That's because he was serving as a Greek soldier and was able to hide out in the mountains about four hours "me to podi" (by foot) outside Volos. I had no luck attaching my video, where Mr. Amon recounts that there wasn't a lot of food, but he managed. His wife, from Thessaloniki, was not as fortunate. Most of Thessaloniki's Jewish community died in the camps -- Mr. Amon knows the exact number: 65,000 people. (In the Laladika neighborhood, they are honored at the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki.) Alberto's wife was sent to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and most of her family was murdered; she and her sister survived, were liberated by the Russian army in 1945, and she returned to Thessaloniki, where she met a cold reception. She moved on to Athens, where she met Alberto on a New Year's Day -- the same day I met Mr. Amon. I got to hear their story by accident: I stopped in the shop to ask a question, and Schmuel put me on the phone with a friend who tried to help. When the Amons heard my name, they got all excited and started recounting stories in Greek. Mr. Amon was proud to show me a Volos history publication that shows him among a group of military men in the early 1940s. Just received the January newsletter from the Kehila Kedosha Greek-Jewish Synagogue and Museum in New York, which says some Thessaloniki community members are worried that a planned exhibition on Greek Jews at Auschwitz might not address the following: that the deportation of the city's Greek Jews was accomplished with speed, how the survivors were greeted after the war in their hometowns, and the refusal of Greece to prosecute Germans for crimes against Jewish Greeks.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
The gap between rich and poor, the authoritarianism and apathy of the current regime, and that rebellious spirit I referred to in a post on Greek longevity have conspired in Greece again: anarchists, leftists and just plain angry youths have taken to the streets in Athens after a policeman shot a 15-year-old in Athens' Exarchia neighborhood last night, apparently at close range for no reason, according to a New York Times report. Teargas, gas-bombs, smoke in the streets -- and it has spread to Thessaloniki, Crete and Kerkyra. I didn't remember that the central Ahtens university campus is a safe haven where students can retreat and police cannot enter. Exarchia, according to a Christian Science Monitor article, is known as a hub for the anti-establishment movement.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
A quick note on the "apergia" yesterday. The Greeks are fed up with the rising cost of living here, and combine that with the bankrupcy and privatization of Olympic Airways, and you have a wonderful excuse to take to the streets. We walked right into the "parelesi" of students, unions, old buddies and other chaos as we excited our hotel on Aristotelous Square. The newspapers are lamenting the economic "American Tsunami", saying "XAVOMASTE" -- we are lost. Needless to say, the newspapers here are plentiful and well read, even by people marching in the strike yesterday. (see below) But for all the complaints, and the chanting -- which was quite tame, here, anyway, -- the Greeks have an enviable life, and people here are quick to tell you so. Good work is hard to get, but everyone's living on a pension who's old, the young are busy studying until they are 30, and everyone else seems to be eating or having a coffee.
An amazing mix of people and history here in Thessaloni, the city of Saint Demetrios. We're near the water and close to old neigbhorhoods with narrow lanes and covered markets where people buy their fish and vegetables -- it's the season for kastana (chestnuts), rodo (pomegranate), and freshly dried tea and spices -- I don't think I've ever seen an entire sac of oregano in one place (see right).
So far, the Jewish Museum has been closed, but our hotel is in the Laladika district; in the 1500s, a third of the population was Jewish, a third Christian and a third Muslim. We have a hamam (steam room) in our hotel, which is nothing compared to the old hamam in the city center -- a fascination cluster of domed buildings with bulbous glass domes on the room that attracted heat from the sun.
We got to the archeological museum for a fantastic display of gold from the ancient tombs uncovered locally. Then we went to the Byzantine Museum, where two collectors donated paper and painted icons that exhibit the best of Byzantium.
I keep saying I don't really speak Greek well, but I've been speaking nothing else -- and Mom is a whiz, so that makes navigating the buses and reading signs much easier. There are few tourists here, and the government saw fit to move the tourist office but indicate the former location on the map. So we're completely on our own. We've been drinking a lot of retsina and amazing mezedes at ouzeries. Two owners have sat with us for a drink to talk about politics. This morning, there was a guy playing santouri on the street. Now, it's on to the church of Ag. Nikolaos Orfanos.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Olympic, the bankrupt national airline of Greece (what was I thinking?) has changed our flight times from New York and Thessaloniki countless times already. I'd be upset if my new employer threatened to slash the payroll in half. But I'm hoping travel -- and street protests on October 28, which is national resistance day -- won't be unbearable. Stay tuned for tales from "Oxi Day." Every country should have a No Day, no?