New App Allows Israelis to Learn History of Greece’s Lost Jewish Communities

“For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out. For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding? Job 8:8-10 (The Israel Bible™)

Researchers at Bar-Ilan University are developing a smartphone application to commemorate Greek Jewish communities destroyed during the Holocaust.

The hundreds of thousands of Israelis who travel to Greece will soon have the opportunity to learn more about its Jewish past. A new Hebrew-language app currently under development will provide rich historical information about the Jewish communities of Salonika, Athens, Corfu and others lost during the Holocaust. The app will enable users to hear the testimony of 62 survivors whose stories were long ago published in a book about the Jews of Greece during the Holocaust. 

Prof. Shmuel Refael, director of the Naime and Selim Salti Institute for Ladino Research at Bar-Ilan University is heading the project for the app, which is being developed in cooperation with Microfocus. He explains that the information available on the app will combine a summary of important historical material and other evidence collected over the last 35 years. “It’s our commitment,” said Refael, a son of Greek Holocaust survivors. “The witnesses are no longer with us, so we must revive their voices. We simply have no choice but to expand our long-term memory.”

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Among the testimonies to be featured: the late Aliza Baruch, who survived experiments in experimental Block number 10 at Auschwitz, and her late husband Ovadia. Their love story was recently composed by Israeli singer and songwriter Aviv Geffen; the story of violinist Jacques Stroumsa, one of the few Salonikan Jews to survive the Holocaust; Chaim Raphael, who survived the War by playing the accordion; Jacko Razon, who survived because he was a boxer; and Yaacov (Jacki) Handeli, who was a close friend of Elie Wiesel. 

 In recent years the history of Greek Jewry has become more widely publicized. The new app will help to perpetuate the memory of Greek Jewish communities, including among young people who traditionally visit Poland as part of their high school education about the Holocaust.