Today, #WeRemember the beauty and fragility of Jewish Salonica, a thriving community all but destroyed in the Holocaust.
The beauty and fragility of a pluralistic metropolis


I have nurtured a special interest in Thessaloniki, the northern Greek city on the edge of the Balkans, since I traveled there in 1996 to attend a conference on rebuilding democracy and civil society in the Balkan region after the breakup of Yugoslavia. While in Thessaloniki, I decided to take the opportunity to learn something about the city's rich Jewish history, particularly under the Ottomans when it was called Salonica.

I had read Balkan Ghosts by Robert Kaplan, who traced the modern history of the region, from the assassination that triggered World War I to the ethnic warfare in Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia. And the organization I headed, the National Endowment for Democracy, supported civil society groups working against such brutalities in the Balkans. But exploring Thessaloniki's Jewish past offered new perspectives on the region's history.