On December 6th 1942, German occupation forces and Greek collaborators confiscated the Jewish cemetery of Saloniki, which was the largest in Europe with approximately 500,000 graves. Immediately, the tombstones were used to build a swimming pool for German soldiers. The majority of the stones, however, were handed over to the general population. Today, one still finds pieces of gravestones in city walls, stairs and particularly on the campus of the Aristotle university, which is built on the cemetery. These gravestones are silent witnesses of a forgotten past in a city that suffers from some kind of amnesia. The film tells the history and about the destruction of Jewish and Muslim life in Saloniki – a cosmopolitan city, where Muslims, Jews and Christians coexisted. Consistently most people of the Christian community were Greeks, who lived under Ottoman rule until 1913. Since the Ottomans welcomed Jewish refugees from Spain in 1492, the Sephardim became the majority of the Jewish population of the city and also advanced its commercial importance. Unfortunately, the Jewish presence was nearly wiped out completely after the German SS deported more than 50,000 Jews to Auschwitz in 1943.
Moreover, since the migration of the Turkish population in 1923, only a few reminders remain of the dozen minarets and Turkish baths. The former Jerusalem of the Balkans has blocked out the memory of the heterogeneous population of Jewish port workers, house-owners and merchants, Muslim pashas and dervishes. In the film, Thessaloniki itself becomes the protagonist – the city with its people, old stones, houses and streets. Is it easier to suffer from amnesia than to remember the past?
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