The comprehensive information and wonderful pictures included in this section on Greece are the courtesy of Marcia Haddad Ikonomopoulos, President of the Association of Friends of Greek Jewry.  She may be contacted at

    The Jews of Greece have two distinctions: the longest continual Jewish presence in the European Diaspora (over 2300 years) and the greatest percentage of Jewish losses of any occupied country during the Holocaust (87%). Remains of early synagogues have been found on the island of Delos in the Aegean Sea, at the foot of the Acropolis in the Agora in Athens and on the island of Aegina in the Argo-Saronic Gulf.

      The Jews of Classical Greece adopted the language and culture of the majority. It was not a coincidence that the first translation of the Jewish Scriptures into any language was into Greek. The Hellenized Jews had lost their ability to read Hebrew. When the capital of the Roman Empire was moved to the east by Constantine the Great, in the 4th century, and the Empire, now known as the Byzantine Empire, took Christianity as the state religion, the first anti-Jewish laws were written, but life for Jews in Byzantium was never as restrictive as that in the west. Jews could own land, engage in most occupations, and with very few exceptions, continue to practice their religion and build their synagogues.

    With the fall of Byzantium in the 15th century, most of what is now Greece came under the Ottoman Empire. Initially, the Jews that lived there were Greek-speaking, Romaniote Jews, who traced their ancestry back to the Roman Empire, and used a liturgy that was a mixture of Greek and Hebrew. With the influx of Sephardic Jews after the Expulsion from Spain, in 1492, the composition of Greek Jewry changed. Most of the Romaniote Jews were absorbed by the Sephardim. Judeo-Espanyol became the lingua franca of the Jews of Greece and Salonika, a port city in the northeast of Greece, became the most populous city of Sephardic Jews in the world, a distinction it would hold until its demise in the Holocaust.

    At the onset of Greece’s entrance into WWII, there were close to 80,000 Jews in Greece. They worshipped in 70 synagogues, spreads throughout the country, with over 36 synagogues in Salonika alone. After the destruction of the Holocaust, only 10,000 Jews would remain, and all but 11 of the synagogues would be destroyed.

    There are only 5000 Jews in all of Greece now: 3000 in Athens, 1200 in Salonika and small communities numbering under 80 in other parts of Greece.










Bedford, Robert. An Introduction to Literature on the Holocaust in Greece, Sephardic Historical Committee, 1994

Bowman, Steven. Jews in Wartime Greece, Jewish Social Studies, Vol. XLVII, No. 1, winter, 1986, pp 45-62. Informative overview of the Jews of Greece and their destruction during the Holocaust.

Constantopoulou, Photini and Veremis, Thanos. Documents on the History of the Greek Jews, Kastaniotis Editions, Athens 1998.

Fleischer, Hagen. Greek Jewry and Nazi Germany, The Holocaust and its Antecedents, Gavrielides Publishing, Athens, 1995.

Kambanellis, Iakovos. Mauthausen, Kendros Publishers, Athens, 1995.

Levy, Dr. Isaac Jack. And the World Stood Silent, Sephardic Poetry of the Holocaust, University of Illinois Press, 1989.

Matsas, Dr. Michael. The Illusion of Safety, The Story of Greek Jews During the Second World War, Pella Press, 1997.

Mazower, Mark. Inside Hitler's Greece. The Experience of Occupation 1941-1944, Yale University Press, 1993.

Messinas, Elias. The Synagogues of Salonika and Veroia, Gavrielides Editions, Athens 1997.

Plaut, Joshua Eli. Greek Jewry in the Twentieth Century 1913-1983, Associated University Press 1996.

Stavroulakis, Nikos. The Jews of Greece, Talos Press, 1990. History of the Jews of Greece and their demise in the Holocaust.

Stavroulakis, Nikos and DeVinney, Timothy. Jewish Sites and Synagogues of Greece, Talos Press 1992.

Copyright © 2002 Edward Victor