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BEYOND THE “VALLEY OF TEARS”: REASSESSING THE NARRATIVE OF DECLINE IN SALONICAN JEWISH HISTORIOGRAPHY

Issue 2018 N 3

Devin E. Naar
University of Washington

Abstract: Scholars have relied upon diverse methodologies and sources to produce a new corpus of studies about Salonica’s Jews that explores the impact of the end of the Ottoman Empire and the consolidation of the Greek nation-state. Much of the newer scholarship, however, reinforces the perception that Salonica’s Jews experienced a period of “decline” after the city’s incorporation into the Greek state (1912-1913) that culminated in their deportation to Auschwitz (1943). This study investigates why such a lachrymose and teleological interpretation of Salonican Jewish history persists today. By reference to new sources and a different interpretive lens, this article also challenges conventional wisdom concerning key turning points in the narrative of the city’s Jews: a major fire (1917), a compulsory Sunday closing law (1924), and the first major act of anti-Jewish violence (1931). The article thus offers a new approach to assessing the encounters between the multiplicities of Jews in Salonica and the Greek state.

Keywords: Salonica (Thessaloniki), Sephardic Jews, Historiography, Ottoman Empire, Greece