About this blog

I plan to collect historical documents and articles by various authors in this blog, usually without comments. Opinions expressed within the articles belong to the authors and do not always coincide with those of mine.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Jews were Massacred along with the Turks

The main body of the book mentioned below is the diary of Errikos Sevillias (a Jew who was born in Athens in 1901 and suffered during the Nazi invasion of Greece). Nikos Stavroulakis translated the book into English and wrote an introduction. In his Introduction, Stavroulakis gives a brief history of Jews in Greece. The following excerpts are taken from the Introduction.

Introduction, Historical Outline (by Nikos Stavroulakis), page viii:

By the third quarter of the 15th century the Ottoman Empire had supplanted the Byzantine. Ottoman policy toward minorities was based on Islamic Law, which recognized both Jews and Christians as a separate millet (nation) with religious and, to an extraordinary extent, legal autonomy within their own communities. This tolerant millet system encouraged the immigration of Jews from Europe who had been feeling the brunt of Christian persecution, notably, in the late 15th century, in Spain. This immigration was welcomed by the Ottomans because of the economic stimulation it brought. In 1492 when Ferdinand and Isabella proclaimed the Edict of Expulsion for the Jews of Spain, Sultan Beyazid II proclaimed that Jews from Spain would be welcome in the Ottoman Empire, and over 20,000 Sephardic or Iberian Jews arrived in Thessaloniki the same year. Soon afterwards 36,000 Jews left Sicily, many of them to settle in the Balkans.

Within a generation a Judea-Spanish culture had been transplanted to many centers in the Ottoman Empire. This was not always done smoothly. Many of the Sepharadim were Marranos, Jews who had converted to Christianity in the 14th century, thereby being able to participate in much of Europe's cultural and intellectual life. Their reconversion to Judaism was sometimes difficult, and their pride and sense of cultural superiority caused friction in their dealings with Romaniot Jews. Whatever the difficulties, the former Romaniot communities of Constantinople, Edirne (Adrinople), Thessaloniki, and Rhodes were forced by the weight of numbers and cultural superiority to adopt not only the minhag but also the language of the newcomers. A new, and certainly one of the most exciting periods of Balkan Jewry began. In 1497 the first book printed in Constantinople was published in Hebrew, well over two hundred years before the first Greek books were printed in Balkans. Some Jews, notably Joseph Nasi (1520-1579) during the reigns of Suleiman the Magnificent and Selim II, rose to high positions in the Ottoman service.

The Greek War of Independence brought disaster to the Jewish communities in the Peloponnesos, where the revolution erupted in 1821. The Jews, because of their close association with the Ottoman administration, were massacred along with the Turks. The Jewish communities of Mistras, Tripolis, and Kalamata were decimated; the few survivors moved north to settle in Chalkis and Volos, still under Ottoman rule. Patras lost its ancient Jewish community, which was refounded only in 1905.

Page xi (second paragraph):

The absence of Jews in Athens immediately following the Greek War of Independence is ominous, indicating that they either fled or were massacred as were the Turks.

Source: Athens-Auschwitz (by Errikos Sevillias), Translated and Introduced by Nikos Stavroulakis, Lycabettus Press, P.O. Box 17091, 100 24 Athens, Greece, 1983.

The following are passages from a web site:


“Everywhere, as though at a preconcerted signal, the peasantry rose, and massacred all the Turks—men, women and children—on whom they could lay hands. In the Morea shall no Turk be left. Nor in the whole wide world. Thus rang the song which, from mouth to mouth, announced the beginning of a war of extermination... Within three weeks of the outbreak of the revolt, not a Muslim was left, save those who had succeeded in escaping into the towns.” W. Alison Phillips. [The War of Greek Independence 1821 to 1833, New York, 1897, p. 48.]

Take for example, one of the early successes of the revolution, the capture of Navarino in the summer of 1821. After a long siege and through the mediation of General Gordon, it was agreed that the unarmed muslims in the town would give up their property and be offered safe passage to Egypt. When the surrender took place however, it soon became apparent that the Greeks had neither the intention nor even the means of providing this promised secure passage. When the gates of the city finally opened, a Greek priest, Phrantzis bore witness to an appalling crime:

“Women, wounded with musketballs and sabre-cuts, rushed to the sea, seeking to escape, and were deliberately shot. Mothers robbed of their clothes, with infants in their arms plunged into the sea to conceal themselves from shame, and they were them made a mark for inhuman riflemen. Greeks sized infants from their mother's breasts and dashed them against rocks. Children, three and four years old, were hurled living into the sea and left to drown. When the massacre was ended, the dead bodies washed ashore, or piled on the beach, threatened to cause a pestilence...”

This was not an isolated occurrence. A month later, in September, a combined force led by Kolokotrones and Petrobey Mavromihalis captured Tripolitsa. Historian W Alison Philips tells a horrific tale of mutilation and slaughter:

“For three days the miserable inhabitants were given over to lust and cruelty of a mob of savages. Neither sex nor age was spared. Women and children were tortured before being put to death. So great was the slaughter that Kolokotronis himself says that, from the gate to the citadel his horse’s hoofs never touched the ground. His path of triumph was carpeted with corpses. At the end of two days, the wretched remnant of the Mussulmans were deliberately collected, to the number of some two thousand souls, of every age and sex, but principally women and children, were led out to a ravine in the neighboring mountains and there butchered like cattle."

Based on the accounts of one hundred European officers who were present at the scene, and did nothing to intervene, William St. Clair wrote:

"Upwards of ten thousand Turks were put to death. Prisoners who were suspected of having concealed their money were tortured. Their arms and legs were cut off and they were slowly roasted over fires. Pregnant women were cut open, their heads cut off, and dogs' heads stuck between their legs. From Friday to Sunday the air was filled with the sound of screams... One Greek boasted that he personally killed ninety people. The Jewish colony was systematically tortured... For weeks afterwards starving Turkish children running helplessly about the ruins were being cut down and shot at by exultant Greeks... The wells were poisoned by the bodies that had been thrown in…”

Although the total estimates of the casualties vary, the Turkish, Muslim Albanian and Jewish population of the Peloponnese had ceased to exist as a settled community after the early massacres. Some estimates of the Turkish and Muslim Albanian civilian deaths by the rebels range from 15,000 out of 40,000 Muslim residents to 30,000 only in Tripolitsa. According to historians W. Alison Phillips, George Finlay, William St. Clair and Barbara Jelavich, massacres of Turkish civilians started simultaneously with the outbreak of the revolt, while Harris J. Booras considers that the massacres followed the brutal hanging of Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople. Finlay has claimed that the extermination of the Muslims in the rural districts was the result of a premeditated design and it proceeded more from the suggestions of men of letters, than from the revengeful feelings of the people. St. Clair wrote that: "The orgy of genocide exhausted itself in the Peloponnese only when there were no more Turks to kill."

Source: Dean Kalimniou, NKEE (Melbourne's Neos Kosmos English Edition Newspaper), Saturday 6 April 2013.

"The Turks of Greece left few traces. They disappeared suddenly and finally in the spring of 1821 unmourned and unnoticed by the rest of the world....It was hard to believe then that Greece once contained a large population of Turkish descent, living in small communities all over the country, prosperous farmers, merchants, and officials, whose families had known no other home for hundreds of years...They were killed deliberately, without qualm or scruple, and there was no regrets either then or later." - William St. Clair

Source: William St. Clair. That Greece Might Still Be Free The Philhellenes in the War of Independence. London: Oxford University Press, 1972.

The following passage from Professor Stanford J. Shaw's book is relevant and points to events in later times:

Page 205:

"Those Jews who survived these assaults in Southeastern Europe fled particularly to Salonica, whose Jewish population increased substantially as a result, from 28,000 in 1876 to 90,000 in 1908, more than half the total population, though even there increased persecution by local Greeks led many Jews to flee elsewhere in the Ottoman Empire, particularly to the great port of Izmir. Despite all the pressure from Ottomans and foreign Jews alike, the ritual murders and other assaults by Christians on Jews went on and on. Greek efforts to decimate the Jewish population of Salonica culminated in 1912 and 1913, following Greek conquest of Salonica during the first Balkan War, when many of its Jews, were either killed or terrorized into leaving..."

Source: Professor Stanford J. Shaw, 'The Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Republic,' New York University Press, New York (1991).

In 1861, the historian George Finlay wrote:

"In the month of April 1821, a Muslim population .. was living, dispersed in Greece, employed in agriculture. Before two months had elapsed, the greater part was slain-men, women and children were murdered without mercy or remorse…The crime was a nation’s crime, and whatever perturbations it may produce must be in a nation’s conscience, as the deeds by which it can be expiated must be the acts of a nation."

According to the historian C.M. Woodhouse, the entire Turkish population of cities and towns were collected and marched out to convenient places in the countryside where they were slaughtered.

A Prussian officer wrote:

"The Ancient Greeks no longer exist. The place of Solon, Socrates and Demosthenes has been taken by blind ignorance. The logical laws of Athens have been replaced by barbarism".

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