From the city’s ancient founding until the Second World War, Thessaloniki was home to a large and thriving Jewish community.
In 1943, from March to August, more than 46,000 Jews were displaced from Thessaloniki by the Nazis and their collaborators and taken to concentration camps, where 96% of them were exterminated. A community that had settled in Thessaloniki before the Christian era was decimated during the Holocaust.
The Holocaust Museum of Greece will highlight and pay tribute to the memory not only of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, but that of the 39 Jewish communities that existed in the country before the war. At the same time, it will illuminate the multidimensional culture of the Jews of Thessaloniki and their multifaceted contribution to the development of the city, as well as Thessaloniki itself as a multicultural metropolis that continues to evolve with perseverance and persistence.
The museum is intended to be a world-class destination, where education will play a key role. After construction is completed in the coming years, the Holocaust Museum of Greece will host permanent and temporary exhibitions and archives that will highlight the value of preserving and strengthening the remembrance of the Holocaust, acceptance and respect for diversity and human rights, and freedom.
Its location near an Old Railway Station of Thessaloniki is significant; it is from there that Greek Jews were deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camps.
The project represents a major achievement of public-private and international partnership. In addition to major support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), the project is receiving funding from the German and Greek governments. A consortium of three architectural firms—one German, one Israeli, and one Greek—is responsible for the design of the building, whose construction will fall under the purview of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, a legal entity. Exhibition design at the Museum will be undertaken as a collaboration between U.S.-based museum planning and design firm Gallagher & Associates and exhibition designer Yitzchak Mais, who is the former director of the Yad Vashem museum in Israel.
SNF has also supported the creation of a new wing, inaugurated in 2019, at the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki, the pedestrianization of the street on which it is located, and educational programs for students and seminars for educators at the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki to raise awareness of the Holocaust in Greece. In the United States, programming at UCLA’s SNF Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture, supported by the Foundation, has covered topics including the Destruction of Thessaloniki’s Jewish Cemetery During World War II.