Wednesday, March 28, 2007

History and modern Greece

Norm has linked to an article by Andrew Apostolou about the failure of the Greek state to recognise the actions of collaborators during the dispossession, deportation and eventual murder of the ancient Jewish community of Thessaloniki.

Apostolou makes a comparison with Belgium and its panel of enquiry into war-time collaboration and the Holocaust, which reported this year. This is not altogether fair as post-war Greece did not relapse into peaceful prosperity at the centre of the European Union, but bloody civil war and the triumph of the right, to be followed by a period of military dictatorship, democracy only being restored in 1974. Modern Greek history is troubled by more than the occupation. However, the point is an important one for a country that now has a secure democracy.

I cannot read Greek so the only sources available to me are ones in English but I think that the signs are positive, not least due to Apostolou's own research. There is an awakening of interest in the period of Turkish rule and any study of Ottoman Greece must include the Jewish community. I am currently reading, and thoroughly enjoying, Mark Mazower's superb history, Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews, a study that spreads from the Byzantines to the 1950's. And, as I type this, I can look up and see in my CD collection the brilliant recording of Sephardic Ladino folk songs by the wonderful Greek singer Savina Yannatou, Spring in Salonika (Άνοιζη στι Σαλονίκι), celebrating the lost Jewish culture and language (available for download, though I recommend searching out the CD with its multi-lingual booklet).

I am an optimist, and I feel that once historians and artists tread a path, journalists, politicians and the public will eventually follow.

1 comment:

Transmontanus said...

Hey Gadge:

Apostolou has a fine essay in Israel Affairs, Vol. 13, No.1, January 2007: "Mother of Israel; Orphan of history: Writing on Jewish Salonika". Reviews City of Ghosts and four other titles. Send me an email at terrydotglavinatgmaildotcom and i'll send it along to ye.