Genocide of the Pontian Greeks & its Jewish Connection.

Genocide of the Pontian Greeks?

Well may you ask “What this is doing here? ”

Pontus (“sea” in Greek),is an historical Greek designation for a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, located in modern-day northeastern Anatolia, Turkey. The name was applied to the coastal region and its mountainous hinterland (rising to the Pontic Alps in the east) in antiquity by the Greeks who colonised the area, and derived from the Greek name of the Black Sea: Πόντος Εύξεινος Pontos Euxeinos (“Hospitable Sea”), or simply Pontos. Originally with no specific name, the region east of the river Halys was spoken of as the country εν Πόντοι en Pontôi, “on the [Euxeinos] Pontos”, and hence acquired the name of Pontus, which is first found in Xenophon’s Anabasis. Wikipedia

Its connections with Hellenism stretches back to prehistoric times to the legends of Jason and the Argonauts quest for the Golden Fleece and to Heracles obtaining the Amazon Queen’s girdle. Many famous churches, monasteries and schools are a testament to the resilience of Hellenism. The Pontians are a distinct Greek people with their own dialect, dances, songs and theatre.

It ended in tragedy in the years 1916 – 23 of the 574.000 Greeks living in Pontus in 1916, 350.000 were killed and the remainder became refugees. Three millenia of the Greek presence was wiped out by a deliberate policy of creating a Turkey for the Turks. The Pontian people were denied the right to exist, the right of respect for their national and cultural identity, the right to remain in peaceful occupation of their territory.

The turning point in the treatment of Greeks in Turkey was the alliance between Germany and the Sultan that commenced after the Treaty of Berlin 1878. Germany regarded Anglo French protection of Christians as an obstacle to its interests and convinced the Turkish authorities that the Greeks were working for the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Germany opened the Berlin Academy to Turkish officers and General Gotz was appointed to restructure the Ottoman armed forces. The successful national movements in the Balkans posed a threat that the same would occur in Asia Minor. After the Balkan Wars the Young Turks decided that Asia Minor would be a homeland for Turks alone and that the Greeks and Armenians had to be eliminated.

The outbreak of World War I made this possible and Germany willingly sacrificed the Christian minorities to achieve its aim in the Middle East. However, it is the German and Austrian diplomats’ reports that confirm that what took place was a systematic and deliberate extermination of the Christian population. Genocide. Not security or defence measures, not relocation’s of population (why forcibly relocate populations?) not war, not retaliation to the Pontian guerrillas or Russian invasion but GENOCIDE.

Slaughtered Christians.

Terrorism, labor battalions, exiles, forced marches, rapes, hangings, fires, murders, planned, directed and executed by the Turkish authorities. This can be corroborated by the German and Austrian archives now made public:

The timeline below I took from a book given to me at an event organised by the Hellenic Council of NSW which I attended at Parliament House, Sydney, a couple of months ago as a representative from the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.

24/7/1909. German Ambassador in Athens Wangenheim to Chancellor Bulow quoting Turkish Prime Minister Sefker Pasha: “The Turks have decided upon a war of extermination against their Christian subjects.”

26/7/1909.  Sefken Pasha visited Patriarch lokeim III and tells him: “we will cut off your heads, we will make you disappear. It is either you or us who will survive.”

14/5/1914.  Official document from Talaat Bey Minister of the Interior to Prefect of Smyrna:

■ The Greeks, who are Ottoman subjects, and form the majority of inhabitants in your district, take advantage of the circumstances in order to provoke a revolutionary current, favourable to the intervention of the Great Powers. Consequently, it is urgently necessary that the Greeks occupying the coast.

■ line of Asia Minor be compelled to evacuate their villages and install themselves in the vilayets of Erzerum and Chaldea. If they should refuse to be transported to the appointed places, kindly give instructions to our Moslem brothers, so that they shall induce the Greeks, through excesses of all sorts, to leave their native places of their own accord. Do not forget to obtain, in such cases, from the emigrants certificates stating that they leave their homes on their own initiative, so that we shall not have political complications ensuing from their displacement.

31/7/1915.  German priest J.Lepsius: – “The anti-Greek and anti-Armenian persecutions are two phases of one programme – the extermination of the Christian element from Turkey.”

16/7/1916.  German Consul Kuchhoff from Amisos to Berlin: “the entire Greek population of Sinope and the coastal region of the county of Kastanome has been exiled. Exile and extermination in Turkish are the same, for whoever is not murdered, will die from hunger or illness.”

30/11/1916.  Austrian consul at Amisos Kwiatkowski to Austria Foreign Minister Baron Burian: “On 26 November Rafet Bey told me: ‘we must finish off the Greeks as we did with the Armenians… on 28 November. Rafer Bey told me-, “today I sent squads to the interior to kill every Greek on sight”. I fear for the elimination of the entire Greek population and a repeat of what occurred last year”‘ (meaning the Armenian genocide).

13/12/1916.  German Ambassador Kuhlman to Chancellor Hollweg in Berlin: “Consuls Bergfeld in Samsun and Schede in Kerasun report of displacement of local population and murders. Prisoners are not kept. Villages reduced to ashes. Greek refugee families consisting mostly of women and children being marched from the coasts to Sebasteia. The need is great.”

19/12/1916.  Austrian Ambassador to Turkey Pallavicini to Vienna lists the villages in the region of Amisos that were being burnt to the ground and their inhabitants raped, murdered or dispersed.

20/1/1917.  Austrian Ambassador Pallavicini: “the situation for the displaced is desperate. Death awaits them all. I spoke to the Grand Vizier and told him that it would be sad if the persecution of the Greek element took the same scope and dimension as the Armenian persecution. The Grand Vizier promised that he would influence Talaat Bey and Emver Pasha.”

31/1/1917.  Talaat Bey to Austrian agent: “The time is near for Turkey to be finished with the Greeks as we were with the Armenians in 1915″.

9/2/1917.  Austrian Chancellor Hollweg’s report: “… the indications are that the Turks plan to eliminate the Creek element as enemies of the state, as they did earlier with the Armenians. The strategy implemented by the Turks is of displacing people to the interior without taking measures for their survival by exposing them to death, hunger and illness. The abandoned homes are then looted and burnt or destroyed. Whatever was done to the Armenians is being repeated with the Greeks.

Greek civilians mourn their dead relatives, Smyrna massacre, 1922

By government decree 350.000 Pontian Greeks were annihilated through exile, starvation, cold, illness, slaughter, murder, gallows, axe, fire. Those who survived fled never returned. The Pontians are now scattered all over the world as a result of the genocide and their unique history, language (the dialect is a valuable link between ancient and modern Greek), and culture and endangered and face extinction.

A double crime was committed – genocide and the uprooting from these peoples ancestral homelands of three millenia. The Christian nations were not only witnesses to this horrible and monstrous crime, which remains unpunished, but for reasons of political expediency and self-interest have, by their silence, pardoned the criminal. The Ottoman and Kemalist Turks were responsible for the genocide of the Pontian people, the most heinous of all crimes according to international law. The international community must recognize this crime.

The Greek genocide, part of which is known as the Pontic genocide, was the systematic ethnic cleansing of the Christian Ottoman Greek population from its historic homeland in Asia Minor, central Anatolia, Pontus, and the former Russian Caucasus province of Kars Oblast during World War I and its aftermath (1914–23).  It was instigated by the government of the Ottoman Empire against the Greek population of the Empire and it included massacres, forced deportations involving death marches, summary expulsions, arbitrary executions, and destruction of Christian Orthodox cultural, historical and religious monuments. According to various sources, several hundred thousand Ottoman Greeks died during this period.  Some of the survivors and refugees, especially those in Eastern provinces, took refuge in the neighbouring Russian Empire.  After the end of the 1919–22 Greco-Turkish War, most of the Greeks remaining in the Ottoman Empire were transferred to Greece under the terms of the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey.  Other ethnic groups were similarly attacked by the Ottoman Empire during this period, including Assyrians and Armenians, and some scholars consider those events to be part of the same policy of extermination. Wikipedia

It’s estimated that some 1.5 million Greeks and 380,000 Pontian Greeks were murdered by the Turks, who have thus far refused to acknowledge this fact. There are various estimates of the toll. Records kept mainly by priests show a minimum 350,000 Pontian Greeks exterminated through systematic slaughter by Turkish troops and Kurdish para-militaries. Other estimates, including those of foreign missionaries, spoke of 500,000 deaths, most through deportation and forced marches into the Anatolian desert interior. Thriving Greek cities like Bafra, Samsous, Kerasous, and Trapezous, at the heart of Pontian Hellenism on the coast of the Black Sea, endured recurring massacres and deportations that eventually destroyed their Greek population.

From the above you can see the connection and similarities between Jews and Greek especially in regards to the genocide of  our peoples.

The website Virtual Jewish History says that Contact between Greeks and Jews outside of Greece began after the Babylonian exile of 586-539 B.C.E.

When the Persian king Cyrus allowed Jews to return to their homeland after the Babylonian exile, they met Greeks for the first time. The prophet Ezekiel wrote of the Greek traders of “Javan,” Ionia, who traded in slaves and worked with bronze. The Greek historian Herodotus knew of the Jews, whom he called Palestinian Syrians, and included them in his list of those serving in the Persian king Xerxes’ navy when Xerxes invaded Greece in 480 B.C.E.

There may have been isolated Jews living in Greek cities as far back as the Babylonian exile, but the first organised Jewish communities in Greece were established in approximately 400 B.C.E. The communities flourished during the reign of Alexander the Great and the subsequent Hellenistic period in around 300 B.C.E. Jewish immigrants flooded Hellenist cities along the Aegean Coast and the Greek mainland. The Greeks were polytheistic and maintained a glamorous lifestyle. While most Jews retained their monotheism, many wealthy Jews were attracted to Greek culture and created a class of assimilated, pro-Greek Jews.

Throne of Moses in the Synagogue of Delos from 1st Century CE

The most famous confrontation between Greeks and Jews was the Maccabean Revolt of 167-164 B.C.E. The Seleucid king Antiochus IV imposed Greek religious customs on the Jews and tried to convert the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem into a temple to the Greek god, Zeus. The Jewish revolt, led by the Hasmonean Judas Maccabee, defeated the Seleucid armies and recaptured the temple. After the revolt, many Hellenized Jews left Judea and moved to Hellenistic commercial centers such as Alexandria and Antioch.

According to Maccabees I 15:23 and also the Jewish historian Philo (c. 30 B.C.E.–c. 45 C.E.), in the years following the revolt the Jews built up communities in Sparta, Delos, Sicyon, Samos, Rhodes, Kos, Gortynia, Crete, Cnidus, Aegina, Thessaly, Boeotia, Macedonia, Aetonia, Attica, Argos, Corinth and Cyprus. When the Christian Saint Paul visited Greece during the first century C.E., he found well-established Jewish communities in Thessaloniki, Veroia, Athens, Corinth and other towns.

 Please read this link Virtual Jewish History  the history of the Jewish people in Greece is a long and interesting one.

 Let’s skip a thousand or more years to 1453, when the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople,  and began to rule over all of Greece. The Ottoman policy was based on Islamic law, which recognized the Jews as a separate nation with religious and often legal autonomy within their own communities. Greece became a haven of religious tolerance for Jews fleeing the Spanish Inquisition and other persecution in Europe. The Ottomans welcomed the Jews because they improved the economy. Jews occupied administrative posts and played an important role in intellectual and commercial life throughout the empire. With the 1492 Edict of Expulsion against the Jews of Spain, more than 20,000 Sephardic Jews arrived in Thessaloniki in one year.

Rojo Quarter of Solonika, 17th Century.

This signaled the beginning of Sephardic Jewry in Greece. Many of the Sepharadim were “marranos,” Jews who had converted to Christianity in the 14th century and were used to partaking in European culture. Many times their pride and sense of cultural superiority led to friction in their dealings with the Romaniot Jews. Eventually, however, the Romaniot communities of Constantinople, Edirne, Thessaloniki, Rhodes and many others accepted both the minhag (custom) and language of the Sepharadim. Romaniot traditions remained in only a few communities such as Yoannina and Chalkis. By the 16th century, the Sephardi language, Ladino, had become the accepted language of Greek Jewry.

The Christian Orthodox Greeks were not happy with the fact that the Jews supported the Ottoman Empire, consequently in 1821-1829, during the Greek War of Independence, thousands of Jews were massacred alongside the Ottoman Turks. The Jewish communities of Mistras, Tripolis, Kalamata and Patras were completely destroyed. A few survivors moved north to areas still under Ottoman rule.

Two of the most important Jewish communities in pre-World War II Greece were Thessaloniki and Athens. In the 1600s, Thessaloniki, a Sepharadi community, became one of the largest Jewish communities in the world and was known as “ir v’em beyisral,” metropolis and mother of Israel.

By 1900, more than half of the town’s population was Jewish, which was about 80,000 Jews. In 1900-1910 Thessaloniki had more than 50 synagogues, 20 Jewish schools and numerous Jewish institutions and associations. It was a center of Torah learning for all of Europe. Business was generally conducted in the Sepharadi language of Ladino and, on Friday afternoons, almost all commercial life stopped since most of the city’s workers were Jewish. A sprawling Jewish cemetery lay in the center of the city (the cemetery was destroyed during World War II to make room for a new university). The Jewish population was varied and included both Karaites and Donmeh (followers of the false messiah Shabbatai Zevi). The city had a strong Judaeo-Spanish culture.

The downfall of the Jewish community started with a fire in the Jewish quarter in 1917. Confiscations began in sections of the ancient cemetery and continued through the late 1930s. In the 1920s a large number of Greek refugees from Asia Minor flooded the city. Hellenization disrupted the Judaeo-Spanish culture by requiring the imposition of the Greek language, the establishment of Sunday instead of Saturday as a day of rest and the reorganization of traditional religious Jewish life according to Greek laws. National and economic life in Greece became increasingly centered around Athens and many Jews moved there. As the Thessaloniki community weakened, some of its Jews left Greece altogether. At the turn of the 20th century, the city boasted of 90,000 Jews. By 1939, there were approximately 56,000 left.

Let’s jump to World War II when the Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas tried to maintain neutrality. On October 28, 1940, Italy demanded that Greece give up its sovereignty. Metaxas refused and, when Italy invaded, pushed the Italians back. On April 6, 1941, the Germans invaded Greece and, on April 18, the Greek government fled to Crete. On April 21, the Germans overran Athens and, on May 20, they took Crete.

The Germans divided Greece into three occupation zones. The Germans held western Macedonia, Thessaloniki, a strip of land in eastern Thrace, the major Aegean Islands and Crete. The Bulgarians were given eastern Macedonia and Thrace. The Italians received the Dodecanese Islands, the Ionian Islands, and a large section of mainland Greece including Athens. At that time, approximately 76,000 Jews lived in Greece: 55,000 in Salonika in the German zone, 6,000 in western Thrace under Bulgaria and 13,000 under Italian control.

Again please read this link Virtual Jewish History , there is just too much history with Greece for you not to.

As soon as the Germans entered Greek mainland, they implemented anti-Jewish policies. The first Jewish community to be affected by the Final Solution was Thessaloniki in the German zone. The Nazis occupied the city on April 8, 1941. They aroused anti-Semitic sentiments in the Christian Greek populations and revived several anti-Semitic publications that had been suppressed during Metaxas’ rule. On April 15, the council of the Jewish community was arrested and replaced. In June 1941, the Nazi Jewish Affairs Commission, a.k.a. the Rosenberg Commando, began confiscating Jewish libraries, manuscripts and art and sending it to Germany.

Jews of Salonika -1917

In the winter of 1941-1942, refugees from Thrace, eastern Macedonia and the Bulgarian territory ran to Thessaloniki and Athens. The food supplies of Thessaloniki gave out and starvation and typhus were rampant. The Nazis conducted summary arrests and executions. Approximately 60 Jews died each day.

In July 1942, 9,000 Jews of Salonika were called to forced labor. In October a ransom was set by the German civilian administrator of Salonika, Max Merten, to redeem these men and the 1.9 billion drachmas that the Jews paid drained all of the community’s wealth. He collected jewelry, antiques, cash and anything else of value and supposedly loaded the treasure onto a fishing boat that sank. On December 6, the Jewish cemeteries of Thessaloniki were confiscated and pillaged.

The Rosenberg Commando demanded in early 1943 that parts of the 1935 Nuremberg Laws were to be put into effect. Jews had to wear a Star of David and Jewish stores and residences were similarly marked. The Nazis formed three ghettos and concentrated the Jews within them. Jewish organizations were stopped and Jews were forced to register their belongings. On March 15, deportations began. In the next three months, 45,649 Jews were sent from Thessaloniki to Auschwitz. Only a handful survived.

Monument for the 54,000 Thessaloniki Jews who perished in the Holocaust

A total of at least 54,533 Greek Jews were sent to Auschwitz, despite the protests of many Greek leaders. Most of these Jews were murdered, though many were also involved in various acts of resistance. In September 1944, the Germans evacuated the Greek mainland. In May 1945, they gave up the last of the Greek islands under their control. In total, the Germans confiscated 280 million drachmas ($1.5 million) in cash from Greek Jews, plus property. Between 60,000 and 65,000 Greek Jews died in the Holocaust, though there were a number of Jewish communities that at least partially survived the war. In 1945, the total Jewish population in Greece was 10,000.

In December 2012, police in northern Greece recovered 668 fragments of marble headstones and other parts of Jewish graves that were destroyed during the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War II. After a 70-year search for the remains of graves smashed when Thessaloniki’s main Jewish cemetery was destroyed, the fragments were found buried in a plot of land in the center of the city. According to the head of Thessaloniki’s Jewish community, David Saltiel, most of the gravestones found dated from the mid-1800s up until World War II.

In March 2013, Greek Jews gathered to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first roundup and deportation of Greek Jews to Nazi extermination camps during the Holocaust. A few hundred people came together at the city’s Eleftherias (Freedom) Square, the very spot where the occupying Nazi forces rounded up the first group of Greek Jews on March 15, 1943.

Survivors of the concentration camps and Israel Ambassador Arye Mekel hold a banner that reads in Hebrew :”The organization of death camps survivors from Greece in Israel” on Saturday, March 16, 2013.(AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis)
Flowers laid on the tracks at Thessaloniki’s old railway station to commemorate the 70th anniversary from the first roundup and deportation of Jews to Nazi extermination camps in World War II. (AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis)

 

 

 

Jews in Greece mark WWII Nazi deportation

(More photos and an article)

March to Thessaloniki’s Eleftherias (Freedom) Square, Greece, where the first batch of Jews were rounded up by the occupying German forces on March 15, 1943. (AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis)

On September 9th 2014 the Greek Parliament passed by a vote of 54 to 42, on Sept. 9, an anti-hate crime law — Combating Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism — making it illegal to deny the Jewish Holocaust, and genocides recognized by international courts or by the Greek Parliament.

This includes the the genocide of Pontus Greeks, the genocide of Asia Minor Greeks and the Armenian Genocide. Violating this new law could incur a fine of up to 30,000 euros  and imprisonment for up to three years.

The Greek law stems from the European Union’s 2008 “Framework Decision against Racism and Xenophobia,” which urged all EU states to adopt laws that punish racism, xenophobia, denial of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.

“This comes very late, but not too late,”
World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer told JTA.
Victor Eliezer, the secretary general of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece said:
“We really hope the law will limit racist and anti-Semitic statements and will deter Holocaust deniers, who have multiplied in the last two years, including inside parliament.”
Around 5,000 Jews live in Greece today. The pre-war community of some 78,000, most of whom lived in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, was almost entirely wiped out in the Holocaust.
They hope that the law will curb antisemitism. A recent Anti-Defamation League survey found Greece to be the most antisemitic country in Europe, with 69 percent of the population holding anti-Jewish views.
The new law brings Greece in line with most of the other European Union countries, which have barred Holocaust denial and impose similar jail sentences for inciting racial or ethnic violence.
Interesting to note too, is the fact that Turkey has denied their part in the Armenian and Pontian Genocides.
Our Federal Government has also never recognised the fact and New South Wales is the only State to have done so.
For that we can thank the Reverend Fred Nile.
As a consequence of this
“The Turkish Government has threatened to ban all members of the NSW Parliament from attending the centenary commemorations at Gallipoli in 2015.
The move comes in response to motions passed unanimously by the parliament in May officially recognising the Armenian genocide.
The notion of a genocide has long been a contentious point of debate for Turks many of whom argue that it is a misrepresentation of history.
But many scholars and other eyewitness accounts, some from Anzac Prisoners of War who were interned in empty Armenian churches, witnessed the deportation and emptying out of Armenian villages and support the genocide claims.”
Please read this interesting article from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News
Defence Correspondent, Michael Brissenden.

 

 

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  1. Jews Down Under

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