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Adio Kerida

Adio Kerida

La Djovenika en lager orch
Adio Querida

Adio Querida

Kuando il rey nimrod

Kuando il rey nimrod

Yo boli de foja en foja

Yo boli de foja en foja

Welcome to the exhibition which is dedicated to the previous alive and active Jewish Community situated in the small town of Kastoria.
This is a beautiful town by a lake which used to have a flourishing trade (mainly fur trade).
In the 19th century, the Jewish community consisted of 2,000 members.
It was an integral part of Kastorian society those days.

This community does not exist today, the Holocaust gave a violent end to that part of the town’s history.
Oblivion embraced this part of the history, that's why keeping the memory alive is a necessity.

The non – profit organization “Eran” (= were, existed), through this exhibition and other activities, aims to keep this memory
alive by means of research, prominence and promotion of the Jewish history and culture of the town.

If we allow this history to be forgotten, we will obliterate this Jewish community once more, this time in people’s minds.


“If the Holocaust is forgotten, the dead will be killed for a second time.”

Writer,Professor,Holocaust survivor

The history of the Jewish people includes many bleak moments, which reached their climax in the Nazist Holocaust. These moments were portrayed in books, films, and songs, but mostly were depicted in distressful memories. Oblivion is the main enemy of both collective and personal memories. It is the one to blame for killing both memory and the historical past.

This digital exhibition is a tribute to honor the Jewish presence in the little town of Kastoria, adding its memory to the world’s historical puzzle. Kastoria, a little town situated in the northwest edge of Greece, in Western Macedonia, had always embraced the Jewish people. Kastoria is built amphitheatrically on a peninsula, which juts into Lake Orestiada It stands near the border between Greece and Albania, among the mountains of Grammos and Vitsi.

A prehistoric settlement in the village Dispilio was discovered on the banks of the lake, which are a reference point for the town’s evolution. As we can see in the prehistoric designs of the remains, people were timelessly and harmoniously connected with water. The lake was a feeding source, a safe shelter, even a source of inspiration.

In the fifth century BCE, the town was called Keletron (allurement) and was the capital of the ancient Greek tribe Orestis. The lake (Orestiada) got its name from this tribe. An organized Jewish community was established there, after the conquest of the Middle East by Alexander the Great. A great number of Jews immigrated to several towns in Macedonia and adopted the Greek language. In the period of the Byzantine Empire, the Jewish communities of Macedonia thrived and enjoyed special privileges. The Macedonian town of Kastoria became a notable center, where energetic, Greek-speaking Jews known as Romaniotes lived and worked. This term derived from the word “Rome,” which was a synonym for Byzant.

In the second half of the tenth century, the Jewish community of Kastoria, which consisted of 3,000 people, began to acquire a very important role in the life and development of the town. When Kastoria was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1385, a small Greek- speaking Jewish community still lived there. After the conquest of Constantinople in 1453, though, the sultan obliged this community to emigrate to Constantinople because he wanted to colonize the deserted city. A few Jews remained in Kastoria. It was at the end of the fifteenth and the beginning of the sixteenth centuries that Jewish refugees from Apulia in Italy and from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) began to arrive in Kastoria.

The Spanish Jews (Sephardim) were richer and more educated, so in the mid-seventeenth century they managed to assimilate the Greek-speaking and the Italian Jews. The Sephardic culture prevailed in the synagogue and the Hebrew-Spanish language (Ladino) became the language of communication among the Jews. The Romaniote culture, which governed weddings and family law, continued to exist until the eighteenth century. The Jewish district was extended around the synagogue and the community buildings. Before the fire in 1719, there were several synagogues that burned down. The last synagogue of Kastoria, called Aragonia, was built in 1830. During this period, there were many famous Jewish scholars and rabbis who taught in the town’s religious school. At that time education was strictly religious; the curriculum became secular in the nineteenth century with the establishment of a new elementary school with a kindergarten and a mess hall.

The main business activities of the Jewish community in Kastoria revolved around commerce and the craft industry (mainly fur). This doesn’t mean that the Jewish people weren’t occupied with other jobs. On the contrary, Jews took part in all strata of local society. Jews and Christians cooperated harmoniously in the town through the ages. In 1912, Kastoria became part of the Greek state and the relations between Jews and their Christian neighbors remained harmonious as ever. During the interwar period (1918–1941), the Jewish community blossomed both financially and culturally. Many Kastorian Jews, who had emigrated to the United States because of combative conflicts and business slumps, became well-off there and benefited the Kastorian Jewish community by sending money to construct community buildings and provide meals for poor pupils. Before the Second World War, the relations between the Jewish and Christian communities were friendly, with the exception of an anti-Semitic bloody assault that took place in the mid-1930s. On October 28, 1940, the Italian Axis forces attacked Greece from Albania, but the Greeks managed to repel the enemy. Unfortunately, on April 14, 1941, the German forces occupied Kastoria, though they assigned Italians to be in command of the town. In 1943, Italy surrendered unconditionally to the Allies and the Germans took charge of the command in Kastoria. The anti-Jewish measures began in the town and ended with the deportation of the Kastorian Jews on March 25, 1944. The terror of the Holocaust then began for them. After liberation, only thirty-six out of the 900 people of the Jewish community of Kastoria returned.

The period of decline for the community had begun. Many Jewish people abandoned the town because they didn’t see any viable future in it, and in 1972 the community ceased to exist altogether.

“If understanding is impossible, knowing is imperative,” said the writer Primo Levi, an Italian survivor of the Holocaust. For this reason, the project of this digital exhibition is to make known the Jewish presence in Kastoria, which is not so well remembered today. Visitors will gain a clearer understanding of how great was the loss of the Jewish population in Kastoria. The exhibition will also challenge visitors to grapple with issues such as anti- Semitism, racism, recollection, and oblivion, as well as promote the importance of keeping and protecting the memory of this Jewish community, against the encroaching oblivion that our era threatens.

“Whoever survives a test, whatever it may be, must tell the story. That is his duty.”

― Elie Wiesel
Writer, Professor, Holocaust survivor from Rumania

The stories of these two Kastorian girls, although completely different, have one thing in common: the luck that helped them to survive.

Boena Rousso was from a family of ten and was the fourth of eight children. Her parents, Isaac and Delicia Rousso, were killed immediately upon arrival at Auschwitz, along with their four youngest children.

Boena, her two older sisters, and one brother, Albert Rousso, went to the concentration camps. Boena was younger than the minimum age for selection for labor (fifteen to sixteen years old).

She was born in 1930, so in 1944, she was fourteen years old. On the platforms of the station at Auschwitz, the Nazi doctor who made the selection pointed for her to go to the row that was destined for death. Her older siblings went to the other row. That was when her mother pushed her to go to the row with her older siblings, telling her, “Go with them to be all together.” Maybe her mother had a vague feeling or it was pure luck, we don’t know.

Later, when the Germans realized that she was younger, they put her in the Kinderblock close to the A hospital in Birkenau, where the twin children lived and where the Germans used them for experiments. Food there was slightly better and they weren’t obliged to work.

It was in this way that Boena Rousso, who later married Menahem Mevorach, also a Kastorian survivor, managed to survive, purely by luck. She was the only survivor from her extensive family.

Esther Franco was born on April 1, 1944. Her mother was the Kastorian Rebecca Pitsirilo, and her father was Leon Franco from Monastir (present-day Bitola), whom Rebecca married when she was twenty years old. When the Kastorian Jews, after their deportation, arrived at Harmankoy in Thessaloniki before leaving for Poland, Rebecca was pregnant and ready to give birth.

The Red Cross took action and managed to take this woman from the camp in order to guide her to the maternity hospital Rossiko, where she gave birth. After Esther was born, she lived with her mother for three months. Unfortunately, the director of the hospital betrayed her mother to the Germans, even though they’d almost forgotten about her. Her mother understood that she was going to be killed and begged a nurse to save her daughter. On September 1, 1944, Rebecca Franco was executed and the young Esther was raised by a Christian family. Athena Konstandinidou and Mimitsa Melidou took the baby, declared to the hospital director that she was dead, and then raised her, with their mother, Efimia, with the name Aliki Papadopoulou. Years later, when Esther was in high school, she learned that she was a Jew and that her real name was Esther Franco. As was the case with Boena, Esther was lucky in her misfortune. She lost her parents but managed to live, even if the absence of maternal love and family tranquility was always in her soul and in her thoughts.

Photographic material

Pictures of everyday life in the town. The sensitive glance of the camera tells us stories which all went off in Kastoria during the 1930s. Smells, tastes, sounds spring up through the pictures of simple people who walk around, trade in and enjoy themselves in a calm and relaxed atmosphere.


Ancient Period
(Fifth Century BCE – 50 CE)

Fifth Century BCE
Kastoria was originally named Keletron, and the ancient Greek tribe Orestis lived there.

140 BCE

Jewish presence in Greece is mentioned in the Bible in Isaiah 66:19 and in Joel 3:6. However, there is no specific reference to the arrival of the first Jews in the area of Macedonia or Kastoria. The first Jews may have arrived in Kastoria from Egypt.

50 CE

The ancient Jewish community of Kastoria was a typical example of a Judaic community in Hellenistic and Roman times. Its members, known as Romaniotes, eventually adopted the Greek language, while maintaining Hebrew script for writing.

Byzantine Period (395–1385)

After the division of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western (395 CE), Kastoria attained great significance and grew culturally rich. Mainly under the reign of the emperor Justinian, Kastoria evolved into one of the most important towns in the empire and thrived economically. As a result, many more Jews settled there.

At the beginning of the twelfth century, Tavian Ben Eliezer, a Greek-speaking writer who briefly left Kastoria in 1096 when he became the chief rabbi in Thessaloniki, was the leader of the Jewish community in Kastoria. It was then that he wrote the book “Le Kah Tov”, which contained a plethora of Greek words.

In the second half of the tenth century, the Jewish community in Kastoria began to play a significant role in the life and development of the town.

Through the Middle Byzantine era, especially in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Kastoria flourished in spite of all the wars taking place in its vicinity. Its population at this time exceeded 20,000, of which 2,500–3,000 were Jews.

Ottoman Period (1385–1912)
Ottoman Period - 1385

Kastoria was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in 1385. When they arrived in the town, they delegated Jews to be doctors, inspectors, tax collectors, and executives.

During this period, approximately 3,000 Jews lived in Kastoria, mainly merchants and craftsmen, and many Jewish scholars became well-known, such as the writer Leon Yehuda, the poet David Ben Eliezer, and the scholars Eliezer Ben Abraham and Menahem Ben Eliezer.

Ottoman Period - 1453

After the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the sultan forced the Kastorian Jews to settle in the Balata district in Constantinople, in order to colonize the deserted city. sürgün This kind of population resettlement was called sürgün, which is the Turkish word for “exile.” As a result, a very small number of Jews remained in Kastoria.

End of 15th century / 16th century Arrival of the Italian and Spanish Jews

In 1540, the Jews of Apulia in southern Italy were forced either to abandon their homeland or to be baptized. Most of the Jewish refugees settled in Greek territory and created new congregations in the towns of the Ottoman Empire. Kastoria was among them. Since 1492, a significant number of Spanish Jews had arrived. These people were called Sephardim and they were expelled from Spain by edict of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, who were Catholics. They found refuge in many cities, but mainly in Thessaloniki. From there, some of them decided to settle in little towns such as Kastoria, where they assimilated the Greek-speaking and the Italian Jews. Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) then became the main language of communication among the people of the community.

The arrival of the Sephardim gave a new boost to commerce and industry (mainly fur manufacturing). At the same time, the town flourished culturally. Beginning in the sixteenth century, there were conflicts about who should be the chief rabbi of Kastoria. Finally, in the seventeenth century, the Kastorian Jews agreed to have their first rabbi of a unified community. This was the Kastorian Joseph Almetre.

Seventeenth century

Beginning in the sixteenth century, there were conflicts about who should be the chief rabbi of Kastoria. Finally, in the seventeenth century, the Kastorian Jews agreed to have their first rabbi of a unified community. This was the Kastorian Joseph Almetre.

Eighteenth century

In 1709, the Jewish district was destroyed by a big earthquake and the Jews found shelter in the mountains. On December 7, 1719, according to the Jewish columnist Absalom Cohen, a great fire burned the Jewish district and the three synagogues of the town. In 1742, a strange clayey rain fell, and this was considered a bad omen. In 1780, there was a cholera outbreak, and in 1785, the district was burned again. The community took all this bad luck as a sign that they had distanced themselves from God, so they began to comply with the laws of their religion. The community council founded schools, public baths, charitable institutions, and an organized mess hall.

Nineteenth century - The New Renaissance for the Jewish Community

In 1830, the synagogue Aragonia was rebuilt in Kastoria. It was a donation by Señor Sacko (Isaac Mois Rousso), who was a benefactor of Kastoria. In the mid-nineteenth century, the Jewish merchants of the town opened shops on Tsarsi road and in the downtown market.

In 1892, the Jewish school of Kastoria was constructed, funded by Señor Sacko’s endowment. The curriculum became secular, following the Western trend. The French organization Alliance Israélite Universalle provided funds and guidance. Israellite Universalle.

The Macedonian Struggle (1904–1908)

The Macedonian Struggle was a series of conflicts between Greeks and Bulgarians from 1904 to 1908, in which they fought for control of the Ottoman area of Macedonia. This state of war, and the economic distress that resulted from it, prompted many Jews to leave. Many of them emigrated to the United States in hopes of a better life.

Liberation and incorporation into the Greek State (1912)

On November 11, 1912, Kastoria became Greek. The Greek state promised to uphold the rights of the Jews and guaranteed full equality. In 1920, the law ‘’on the Jewish Communities’’ 2456/1920 (law number) officially granted under public law the status of legal entity to the Jewish communities, which had been active since Ottoman times.

The Jewish community was a broad entity: it included the synagogue committees, which enjoyed administrative autonomy, as well as the boards of the independent Jewish charitable foundations. The community was governed by an elected central board, an executive council, and an administrative apparatus.

Midwar Period (1917–1940)

On November 18, 1917, the Jewish Kastorian theater group performed a play. The proceeds were sent to the Jews of Thessaloniki to support the victims of the great fire in the city.

In 1923, there was an exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey, and the town changed. There were now more Christian citizens and no Muslims. As a result, the town lost a great deal of its multiculturalism.

In 1937, Bocko Mayo and his wife, who were great benefactors of Kastoria, visited the town.

Italian Occupation (1940 – 1943)

October 28, 1940: Italy declares war on Greece. Many Kastorian Jews fight in the Greek army.

April 6, 1941: Germany declares war on Greece.

April 14, 1941: The German army invades Kastoria.

June 18, 1941: First order by German authorities to confiscate radios from Jewish houses.

Summer of 1941: Kastoria is under Italian administration.

September 8, 1943: Mussolini’s fall and unconditional surrender of Italy.

German Occupation (1943–1944)

September 13, 1943: Formal announcement for the assumption of power by Germans in Kastoria.

September 15, 1943: The anti-Jewish measures are imposed on the Kastorian Jews. They are banned from exiting the town.

March 24, 1944: Confinement of the Jews in a school building.

March 25, 1944: Transport of the Kastorian Jews to the Harmankoy and Pavlos Melas camps in Thessaloniki.

April 1, 1944: Transport of the Kastorian Jews to the railway station of Thessaloniki and departure for the Auschwitz concentration camp.
April 11, 1944: Arrival at Auschwitz.
The first years after the liberation (1945–1949)

January 27, 1945: The Soviet army liberates Auschwitz and other camps.

Return of a few survivors.

1948: Demolition of the Aragonia synagogue in Kastoria
May 14, 1948: Israel’s declaration of independence

May 14, 1948: Israel’s declaration of independence offered Greece’s long-suffering Jews a new refuge. Since the 1930s, an estimated 6,000 Greek Jews had already migrated to Israel, followed by many others after 1948.

PDF File Israel’s declaration of independence

1949: Reestablishment of the Jewish community in Kastoria.
Postwar Period (1950 – Today)

September 27, 1958: Donation of the Kastorian Jewish school building to the municipality of Kastoria.

1972: The Jewish community of Kastoria formally ceases to exist.
October 13, 1996: Unveiling ceremony of a monument to the Holocaust victims in Kastoria.

Documentary film
“Trezoros: The Lost Jews of Kastoria”

The Documentary film
“Trezoros: The Lost Jews of Kastoria”

Through rare archives and oral history chronicles the Jewish life in Kastoria of the pre-war years, stands on the heartbreaking struggles of the Holocaust and the history of a Great Jewish culture lost forever.

(The language of the film is English without Greek subtitles)

Duration: 86 Minutes (86’)
Directing: Lawrence Russo and Larry Confino
Production: Lawrence Russo
Year of production: 2014

Play Video

Digital exhibition dedicated to the Jewish presence in Kastoria.

Explore the digital exhibition which is dedicated to the Jewish presence in Kastoria, a little town by the lake near the Greek border with Albania. The tour covers the history of the Kastorian Jewry till the cease of its existence.

«Shed a tear for us»: Video about the Holocaust of the Jewish Community of Kastoria

Production: Vice Mayor of Culture - Tourism of the Municipality of Kastoria

Catalog with names of the Holocaust Jewish
survivors from Kastoria

List of the thirty-six Jews from Kastoria who survived the Holocaust (some had found refuge in Kastoria (Italian occupation zone) from Monastir and the Bulgarian occupation zone):

1 Natan Yahel Honen, Partisan of ELAS
2 Boena Israel Kassuto (Berry Nahmias)
3 Moses S. Matsas
4 Isaac Jacob Eliaou
5 Pinhas Eliaou
6 Mois Zaharias
7 Sarina koen
8. Nina Rousso (Levi), sister of Mois Rousso
9 Matathias Isaac Eliaou
10. Sulina, Daughter of Josef Bohor Cohen
11. Jacob Arar, Partisan of ELAS
12. Judah Arar, Partisan of ELAS
13. Albert Sako, Partisan of ELAS
14. Jack Eliaou
15. Josef (Pepo) Cohen
16. Mois Rousso (brother of Nina Rousso and husband of Lina Eliaou)
17. Lina Eliaou (wife of Mois Rousso)
18. Benjamin (Beni) Eliaou (brother of Lina and son of Kalef Eliaou)
19. Albert Mevorach
20. Sterina (Stella) Abraham Eliaou (wife of Josef [Pepo] Cohen)
21. Dr. Albert Cohen, Doctor
22. Abraham Eliaou, Partisan of ELAS
23. Alegra Mayo
24. Menahem Mevorach
25. Boena (Berry) Rousso (wife of Menahem Mevorach)
26. Moses Rousso
27. Josef Eliaou
28. Eli Rousso
29. Josef Matsa
30. Esther Franco - Gatenio
(He was born in April 1944 in Thessaloniki during the deportation of the Jews of Kastoria and
saved by a Christian family who raised her)
31. Rachelle Koen (daughter of Yehuda and Delicia)
32. Michel (Menachem) Mayo
33. Allegra Zacharia Korman
34. Sol "Soulika" (Sally) Kamhi (She married Pinhas Eliaou)
35. Hannah Kamhi – Saady
36. Eli Kamhi

Members of ERAN