THESSALONIKI: Tombstones from destroyed Jewish cemetery returned to Jewish community

213248photo1cut

Tombstones from the destroyed former Jewish cemetery in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, were presented by local political and archaeological authorities to the Jewish community on Tuesday.

213258photo2cut

During digging to create a metropolitan park in the current suburb of Pavlos Melas, workers at a former military camp found tombstones that were dated to the early 20th century, according to the Ephorate of the City of Thessaloniki Antiquities, which said they are a significant element of the cultural heritage of the city.

In a statement, the municipality said, “The destruction of the Jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki and the abhorrent looting of the deceased Jews of our city took place in December 1942, by the then occupying German forces. In the area of the present university town (Panepistimioupoli), one of the darkest and saddest pages of Thessaloniki’s modern history were written in those dark days. Hundreds of thousands of tombs and funerary monuments were violently destroyed, leaving the bodies of the dead exposed. The materials of the destroyed cemetery, especially the marbles, were then used as construction material in several projects of the city, and this is how they ended up at the camp.”

At a ceremony on Tuesday morning, the finds were turned over to David Nahmias, representative of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, in the presence of Pavlos Melas Mayor Dimitris Demourtzidis and the archaeology officials.

Mayor Demourtzidis, who said the work for the park continues at the former camp, said “we learned with sadness and anger that the Jewish cemetery was turned into a massive area of destroyed tombstones and dispersed bones of the dead, followed by looting. The Germans built a pool with the cemetery’s tombstones, and hundreds of them were used to build roads and squares, while any passer-by could pick up as many tombstones as he wanted to repair his home or line his courtyard, as the cemetery had been turned into a junkyard for building material.”