The fate of the Jewish community of Salonika, as well as that of the 100,000 Jews from the pre-World War II Greek world, is no longer overlooked, and is regarded today as a major part of Holocaust documentation. Tragically, Greece lost 96 percent of its Jewry. Salonika itself had at one time 80,000 Jews, most of whom were sent to their deaths by the German occupation. Incredibly, the postwar community of Salonika itself chose not to acknowledge the former existence or the history of the murdered Jews until the early 1990’s.
Bea Lewkowicz, herself a child of Holocaust survivors, was raised in Germany, studied in Cambridge and Cologne, earning a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics. A cultural anthropologist, she focused her earlier research in Salonika in 1989 on young Jews, hoping to avoid by extensive questioning her becoming the source of “pain or discomfort” to the older people, the war survivors
The book’s chapter “Historical and Political Background” serves to highlight the very early and later outstanding economic and cultural contributions of the Sephardic, Romaniot, and other ethnicities of the Jewish community in Salonika. It is in the chapters “Narratives of Return and Reconstruction,” and “Identities and Boundaries” that Lewkowicz demonstrates her strength as an oral historian. This book is the product of Lewkowicz’extensive 1994 inquiry which produced the narratives that “describe and uncover notions of identity and memory among [all] generations of Jews in Salonika, which have been formed in agreement, opposition and competition with other discourses about the past and the Jews in Greece.”
Lewkowicz treats all of her data with great respect and diligence, sorting through the remarkable threads of memory of the Salonikans, memory buffered by time, searing pain, and the desire to forget “the Jewish community of Salonika” — an outstanding work.