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Jewish History Museum, Thessaloniki

Holocaust exhibit in the Jewish History Museum. Photo © Nylou.com. View all images in our Jewish History Museum Photo Gallery.
Tombstones and other artifacts. Photo © Nylou.com.
Old postcard of the Jewish cemetery in Thessaloniki.

The Jewish History Museum of Thessaloniki (aka the Museum of the Jewish Presence in Thessaloniki) displays a collection of photographs and artifacts portraying the life of the once-influential Jewish community in Thessaloniki.


Thessaloniki's Jewish community dates from the expulsion of Jews from Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492. Sephardic Jews began to arrive in Thessaloniki in great numbers shortly thereafter, bringing with them the influences of Renaissance culture and western languages.

Skills such as printing, cartography, medicine and knowledge of contemporary weaponry soon made the new community an asset to the ruling Ottomans and the community thrived under the Ottoman Empire. Thessaloniki's Jews founded the city's first printing press in the early 1500s and its first newspaper, El Lunar, in 1865.

Sephardic creativity in Thessaloniki reached high point in the 16th century. The Greek city provided a climate of tolerance and economic stability and became known as Madre de Israel, Mother of Israel. Some 32 communities were founded, each with its own synagogue, traditions and unique customs and bearing the names of places of origin in Spain, Portugal and Italy. In academies associated with these synagogues, rabbis and mystics upheld the traditions of Iberian Jewry.

In 1900, there were 80,000 Jews in Thessaloniki, constituting almost half of the population. The great fire of 1917 destroyed most of the Jewish Quarter but 60,000 Jews still lived here when World War II broke out.

The Holocaust virtually extinguished the Jewish community in Thessaloniki. Between 1941 and 1943, some 49,000 people were deported to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Only 2,000 survived the death camps - 96.5 percent of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki died there. Today, only about 1,000 Jews live in the city.

What to See

The small and still-expanding museum uses photographs and artifacts to portray Jewish life in Thessaloniki. The museum is housed in one of the few structures in the Jewish Quarter that survived the 1917 fire; this building once hosted the offices of the Jewish newspaper L' Independent.

The ground level displays monumental stones and inscriptions found in the great Jewish necropolis that lay to the east of the city walls. Accompanying these stones are a series of photographs showing the cemetery and visitors as it was in 1914.

The first floor has a narrative history of the Jewish presence in Thessaloniki from the 3rd century BC to World War II. The gallery was designed at the Beth Lohamei Ha-Gettaoth kibbutz in Israel.

A third gallery displays artifacts illustrating the religious rituals and everday lives of Jews in Thessaloniki before the war, and a fourth gallery centers on the impact of the Holocaust on Thessaloniki Jews.

To visit or attend services at one of Thessaloniki's remaining synagogues or to see the Holocaust Monument, contact the Jewish Community Office, 24 Tsimiski (tel. 2310/272-840).

Quick Facts on Jewish History Museum

Site Information
Names:Jewish History Museum; Jewish History Museum, Thessaloniki; Museum of the Jewish Presence in Thessaloniki
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Thessaloniki, Greece
Coordinates:40.635263° N, 22.939214° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Jewish History Museum

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  1. Jewish History Museum (aka Museum of the Jewish Presence in Thessaloniki) - Frommer's Greece, 5th ed.
  2. Jewish History Museum of Thessaloniki - official website

More Information

Article Info

Title:Jewish History Museum, Thessaloniki
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:10/23/2009
Link code:<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/greece/thessaloniki-jewish-museum/greece/thessaloniki-jewish-museum">Jewish History Museum, Thessaloniki</a>