Jews of Kavala

Jews

Life and sad story of the Jews of Kavala

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Jews of Kavala

The origins of the Jewish community in Kavala begin in 1526 when the returning Ottoman army brought with it a number of Jews who settled in what is now Kavala. According to the 1569 census there were 23 Jewish families. Kavala was a small village back then with just 113 Muslim and 46 Christian families living alongside the Jews. With the expulsion of the Jews in 1492 from Spain, the Ottoman Empire welcome Spanish-speaking Sephardic Jews who settled first in Thessalonica and later came to Kavala. These Sephardic Jews spoke the Ladino dialect which became the language of the Jews of northern Greece, including Kavala.
 
Towards the end of the 19th century the boom in tobacco cultivation and trade started and Kavala became the centre and chief port which handled the exports of tobacco. As a result, many Jews from other Romaniote (Greek speaking) communities of Greece settled there. By 1885 the Jews built a new synagogue, and by the 20th century the community number about 2,000 members. Thanks to funding from the Alliance Israelite Universelle, the community established a Hebrew elementary school and a kindergarten, both of which were attended by Christian and Muslim children.
 
By 1941 the Jewish population of Kavala number about 2,100. During the early years of the Fascist occupation Jews were not permitted to permitted to walk in central streets and to meet in public places such as squares and restaurants and had to wear the star of David at all times. Their property and valuable was confiscated. They were forbidden from working and young Jewish men were ordered to forced labour. By 21 January 1943, 460 Jews living in Kavala were detained and taken away for forced labour to work on the railway line Sidirocastro - Simitli. Later, 400 were taken to Auschwitz.
 
In the night of 3 March 1943, the remaining Jews of Kavala were summoned from their homes by Bulgarian soldiers, allied to Germany. The Jews were taken to an empty tobacco warehouse and left there for 3-4 days. It needs to be mentioned that through some trick the Bulgarian authorities were able to save a few Jews in Greece who could claim to have Bulgarian nationality and these were taken to safety.
 
Shortly afterwards they were taken by train and then by river-boat to the port of Lom on the Danube River in Bulgaria. One of the river boats sank and the Jewish occupants died. The remainder was taken by the Germans to Treblinka concentration camp. Of the 2100 Jews of Kavala, only 42 survived the holocaust.
 
In 1954 the Community of Kavala erected a monument in the memory of the Jews at the Jewish cemetery, in Kara Oman district.
 

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    Address Jewish Centre and Committee of Greece. Voulis 36; Athens 10557

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