Until the Second World War, Greece was a home to as many as 78,000 Jews and there were several flourishing Jewish communities. The one in Thessaloniki was particularly large and prosperous.
The Nazi Germany brought most of them to concentration camps and massacred. When the war ended, only 10,000 Jews were living in Greece. The Thessalonican community lost 97% of the Jewish population and virtually extinguished.
Nowadays not more than 5,000 Jews live in Greece.
The Museum collects the items to preserve the memories of this lost world.
During the period of Jewish pogrom, the general attitude of the Greeks was - so far as I know - that of passive resistance, although a small number of them collaborated, while some resisted eagerly risking even their lives. I read an impressive story in the museum and I wish to share it.
From the island of Zakynthos (Zante), no Jew was sent to the concentration camps thanks to two brave Greeks: the mayor Lukas Karrer (spelt also as Lucas Carrer) and the Metropolitan bishop Chrysostomos. In 1943, the German commander of Zakynthos, Behrens, ordered the mayor to hand in the list of the Jews. Karrer and Chrysostomos resisted for some time, but giving into the German pressure, they produced a list. But it included only two names, those of Karrer and Chrysostomos. They sent a letter to Hitler guaranteeing the good conduct of the Jews on the island. The German Headquaters decided to leave the Jews of Zakynthos untouched.
There is no doubht that the German commander of Zakynthos was more accomodating than elsewhere in Greece, but ultimately it was the courage of two men that saved 275 Jews on the island.