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Jan Meisels Allen
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on December 8, 2021 that Russia will return to Greece the Jewish Holocaust archives that were moved to Russia following World War ll. The largest part of the archives relates to the once-thriving Jewish community in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city.
During the Nazi regime and occupation of much of Europe, the Nazis plundered the documents and culture a treasures of Jewish organizations which they deemed to be enemies of the Reich. According to official figures, on July 11, 1942, the Nazis, led by the Austrian head of the SS Alois Brunner, surrounded the Jews of Thessaloniki in order to deport them to concentration camps. The community paid 2.5 billion drachmas for the freedom that they had been told would be given to them, but they only managed to delay the deportation until March 1943.
When the Nazis were crushed, many of these looted collections, as well as records of Nazi state agencies that persecuted and murdered Jews, were discovered by the Soviet Army, then transferred to Moscow and held for decades in closed, secret archives.
More than 44,000 Thessaloniki Jews perished in the Nazi death camps. Most were sent to Auschwitz. The few Greek survivors who returned to the country in the early 1950s found most of their sixty synagogues and schools destroyed, their cemeteries looted and their own homes occupied by other people. Once part of thriving communities in several Greek cities, approximately 59,000 Greek Jews were victims of the Holocaust — at least 83 percent of the total number living in Greece at the time of World War II and the German Occupation.
To read more see:
To read more about looted art and Russian State Military Archives go to:
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee