Jews of Xanthi


Life and sad story of the Jews of Xanthi


Jews of Xanthi

It is not clear when the Sephardic Jews settled in Xanthi. What is known of sure is that the language they spoke was the Ladino dialect. In 1907, Xanthi was still part of the Ottoman Empire. According to the Greek consul in the town, the population comprised: 234 Jews, and 84 temporary residents, in a city that was of 15,122, of whom 6,214 were Greeks, 8,200 were Muslims, 442 were Bulgarians, 119 were Armenians and 78 were Vlachs and others. In 1924, the two-storied community centre and school was built next to the synagogue. The community had grown to about 700 as a result of the Asia Minor War of 1922. A Jewish notable of the town, Issac de Bottom produced a series of  Zionist newspapers in Ladino. The first one was called “La Fuerza” (Power) in 1922, followed by  “El Progresso” (Progress) in 1924 and then in 1925 he issued “Leumi” (National) in 1925. Apart from publishing other social activities including the setting up of a “Macabee Boy Scouts”, in 1927; a Jewish youth theatre company and a music and sport association were all established. The community continued to grow mirroring Xanthi’s prosperity thanks to the cultivation and trade of tobacco. Three big tobacco companies of Xanthi belonged to Jews: "Commercial", "Herman Spearer", and that of David Arditis, which made cigarettes. Other trades in which Jews were involved include flour, textiles, clothes,  haberdashery and leather making. However, the community were poor and lived in the "Pournali" neighbourhood or "Pournari" or "Remvi", as it is called today. The wealthier Jews lived in "Ano Poli" ("Upper town").  By 1934 the community had grown to 1,100 members and Xanthi reached 35,912. Jews were involved in the political life of the town. 
By 1941 the Jewish community had decreased and numbered 550 members. The Jews were discriminated by teh Nazis. They were forced to wear the star of David as an identification and hang distinguishing signs by the doors of their shops and homes. On the night of 3-4 March 1943 Germany’s Bulgarian allies took the Jews of
Xanthi in the middle of the night to an empty tobacco warehouse where they kept them for a few days. Then
they were taken by train in awful conditions via a roundabout route to the death camp at Treblinka in Poland. Only 6 Jews of Xanthi survived the holocaust. 
Sadly, by the end 1970s nearly all the traces of the Jews had gone. Nothing except the cemetery remains. However, on 3 March 2001, the Municipality of Xanthi placed a memorial plaque in a wall in the tobacco
warehouse on 1, Salaminas Street, where the Jews had been kept before their deportation in order never to forget the Jews of Xanthi. 

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