Greek graves face destruction

By Solette Eliezer, July 18, 2008

Greek Jews have protested that a new subway under construction in Thessaloniki risks desecrating a historic Jewish graveyard.

The cemetery of Thessaloniki, the largest in Europe, was destroyed in 1943 by the Nazis, and the land confiscated by the Greek government  in 1944. The tombstones were either looted or sold, and some were used in repairs on the Cathedral of St Demetrius. Aristotle University, which acquired the land from the Greek state after the war, built its premises upon the cemetery.

The university has declined to create any commemoration of the cemetery, despite repeated requests by the Jewish community and of many of its own professors.

Last year, when work for a new subway began, many tombs were unearthed, with one in plain view in the campus.

Mr Moses Constantinis , the head of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, told the JC: “Since the entire area was once a huge cemetery, digs are certain to hit on graves. In our religion it is forbidden to move the remains after burial, so as not to disturb their peace.”

He said he had asked the construction company to dig at great depth so that the remains were not disturbed and to limit the size of the station.

It remains to be seen if any appropriate memorial to the cemetery under the university grounds will commemorate the Greek Jews buried there.

Last updated: 10:54am, July 17 2008