[Greece] Romaniote Jews Commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the Holocaust in Ioannina #sephardic

Jan Meisels Allen

On March 30, the Jews of Ionnina came to commemorate the 70h anniversary of
the destruction of their community by the Nazis. Ionnina is located in
Northeastern Greece and was once the center of Romaniote Judaism. Neither
Ashkenazi nor Sephardic, Romaniote Jews, emerged >from the first Jewish
communities of Europe. Records indicate the first Jewish presence in Greece
dating back to 300 BCE. They spoke their own language, Yevanic, or
Judeo-Greek, a version of Greek infused with Hebrew and written with the
Hebrew script.

After the expulsion of the Jews of Spain in 1492, many Sephardic Jews found
refuge in the Ottoman Empire that then ruled Greece. Soon, Sephardic
communities sprang up, most notably in Thessaloniki, known as the Jerusalem
of the Balkans. The preexisting Romaniote communities were absorbed into the
larger, Sephardic Ladino-speaking ones that eventually became largely
synonymous with Greek Jewry. In the isolated islands and mountains, the
Romaniotes remained the dominant tradition, and Ioannina was the largest of
these communities. With the break-up of the Ottoman Empire in the 20th
century many Romaniotes immigrated to North America and what would become
Israel. By the beginning of World War II approximately 2,000 Romaniote Jews
were in Ionnina. On March 25, 1944 the Nazis rounded up the Jews and
transported them to Auschwitz. Only 112 Ionnina Jews survived Auschwitz and
another 69 escaped the roundup.The names of the town's 1,832 Jews who were
murdered are carved on marble tablets on the walls of the synagogue.

Several other small communities that identify with the Romaniote tradition
continue to exist in places like Chalkida and Volos, however, most live in
Athens today.

The Canadian ambassador to Greece, Robert Peck, was instrumental in helping
organize the commemorations, noting the lack of available information about
the Jews of Ioannina. At Ambassador Peck's urging the (Vancouver) Simon
Fraser University Media Lab designed a website detailing Ioannina's Jewish
history and an app The app and website, "Ioaninna's Jewish Legacy:
Yesterday and Today" was launched on March 25 and may be viewed at:
http://www.ioanninajewishlegacy.com/ The website has a listing of the
"extinct" Jews >from Ioaninna-it is all in the Greek language but a
translation service such as Google translate should help.

To read more about this commemoration and Ioannina's Jewish History and
Romaniote Jews see: http://tinyurl.com/kuo6bkd
Original url:

and: http://www.enetenglish.gr/?i=news.en.article&id=1810

Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee

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