Jews of Komotini

Jews

The Jews of Komotini

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Jews of Komotini

There is some historical evidence that Jews were in the Komotini area even in classical times.  In his work "Acharnes", the great Ancient Greek comody playwright, Aristophanes, mentions delegates of the King of Thrace, Sitalkis who is sent to Athens, and who, according to ancient commentary texts, was Jewish (see Acharnes, col. 162, comment 1, Fexis Publishers).  There is also an ancient Greek sign post at the archaeological site of Maroneias, which is about 30 kilometers to the south along the coast which mentions the presence of Jews.
 
It is during the 16th century the Jewish Community of Komotini came into its own. Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Adrianoupolis and Thessalonika settled in the town. These new settlers quickly established themselves. In the 18th century the Jews of Komotini were active in textile, including silk and wool. Later in the 19th century Jews became involved in the tobacco industry. 
 
The Jewish quarter was next to the city walls where the Citadel is located. The Synagogue was built
in the 18th century at the modern day site of Aftokratoros Theodosiou Square. By the 1900s the Jewish Community peaked at about 1,200 members. In 1910 the Alliance Israélite Universelle began operating in Komotini and helped establish a school where Greek, French and Hebrew were taught. The population of the Jewish Community decreased during the Balkan Wars (1912-13), as many cases Jews settled in big cities like Thessaloniki and Constantinople. In 1919 Komotini became part of Greece.  The Jews of Komotini welcomed the Greeks and French troops in 1919 and in May 1920 a permanent Greek military garrison was established in the town. Co-operation between the Greek army officers and the Jewish community was strong and Greek officers preferred being billetted n Jewish homes. About this time the Jewish Community ran a cultural centre, charity associations, women organisations, youth organisations such as the music and sports association "Achdout". The town experienced during this time a cultural renaissance, especially in theatre.
 
In 1941 the Jewish community stood at 819. The Germans put the town under Bulgarian army control. On that fateful day, 3 March 1943, the Fascists rounded up all the Jews in the town and through out the entire region of of Eastern Macedonia-Thrace. They were all deported to Treblinka concentration camp where they were killed.  Only 28 Jews of Komotini survived the Holocaust. The community no longer exists.
 
The synagogue of Komotini was an especially interesting architectural monument which sadly no longer survives. It was an impressive domed building with an interior adorned by a row of columns that supported the domed roof.
 
In 2004 the Municipality of Komotini erected a Holocaust Monument in the municipal park of Agia
Paraskevi.
 

 


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