|(Photo Credit: GreekReporter.com)|
The future will include a Holocaust Museum (to be built over the train station), a metropolitan park with an olive tree planted for every Thessaloniki Jew who perished, and potentially a Jewish School to support the current 1300-4500 member (depending on who's counting) Jewish Community. Unfortunately this wave of goodwill was marred this past January by the defacing of Thessaloniki's Holocaust Memorial in the name of the ultra-right party Golden Dawn, a group embodying the populist movements sweeping Europe in response to the Syrian refugee crisis and emboldened by the hardships on the Greek people due to the financial crisis. (Should I mention that there are currently 65,000 refugees trapped in Greece?)
The good news is that some Salonika Jews returned home after the war to rebuild their lives -- like the family of Heinz Kounio, owners of a camera store founded 100 years ago. They managed to survive because they spoke German and were put to work in several locations before being rescued in Austria by US forces led by General George Patton. Kounio's is the oldest camera shop in Greece and a tribute to Jewish resilience -- a beautiful and amazing story recently profiled in the Forward.
That must-read story rang familiar to me on several levels, as I had once met Flora Lazar Schneider (mother: last name Kounio) whose parents managed to leave Thessaloniki before the war...so two weeks ago I went to 24 Komninon Street. Speaking with Heinz Kounio's granddaughter Nora and looking at the graphics on the wall outlining the store's history, it became evident that this was the place that I had all my Kodak Instamatic photos developed more than 40 years ago. And it was just blocks away from the renowned Molho's Bookstore -- which, unfortunately, no longer exists -- where I picked up a copy of the International Herald Tribune every Saturday. They were simply the best camera store and bookstore in town -- and are now part of a lasting Jewish legacy in Thessaloniki, aka Salonika.
NOTE: There is an excellent and relatively new Jewish Museum in downtown Thessaloniki at Agiou Mina 13 and another excellent Jewish Museum in downtown Athens at Nikis 39. Closed Saturdays!