The Jewish community of Didymoteicho was one of the oldest Jewish communities in Greece and the largest in Greek Thrace.
During the years of the usurper emperor John VI Kantakouzenos, who was crowned king of the Romans at Didymoteicho, a Jewish community, probably Greek-speaking Romaniotic, had already formed there.
When the city fell into Ottoman hands, the Jewish population began to grow, strengthened by the arrival of Ashkenazim Jews from Hungary in 1376 and from France in 1394. In 1470, Jewish fugitives from Bavaria came to the city.
However, the Ashkenazim were quickly absorbed by the wave of Sephardim Jews, who formed a new community, called in Ladin, Demotica.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, also due to the economic recession, the community continued to exist, but with few members, as can be seen from the account of the Turkish traveler Evljas Celebis, who, mentioning the districts of the city, also mentions one called Yaudiler-Ta Jewish.
In the middle of the 19th century, the Jewish population amounted to approximately 500 people, while according to a 1906 statistic, published in the Bulletin d'Orient, 1110 Jews lived in Kaza Didymoteicho.
In 1862, instead of the old sketchy Synagogue, in the area of the Turkish school, a new Synagogue was built, on today's Katsantoni Street, in the Sephardic style, square with a dome on the roof. This Synagogue was radically renovated in 1924.
In 1897, the modernist current of the Alliance Israelite Universelle, brings financial support and educational support from France. In 1911, a new school building was built, in which 1913 students attended in 255. Since 1924 the school has been operating as a community school. The Greek scholar Joseph Pessach, Elias Barzilai (later Chief Rabbi of Athens), but also Samuel Nahon and Joseph Reitan taught at this school.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the Jewish Community of Didymoteicho experienced its heyday. It is characteristic that, when in 1913 the Tsar of Bulgaria Ferdinand visited the city, he stayed in the magnificent house of Raphael Behar. The king of Greece, Alexander, also stayed there on July 8, 1920, one day before the Greek army advanced to Eastern Thrace.
The Jews of Didymoteichos were owners of commercial and craft shops as well as craftsmen. A special place in the economic and community life was occupied by the Givret family, many of whose members were engaged in the silk trade.
More generally, however, the integration of Didymoteichos into the Greek territory in 1920, accelerated the development of the Jewish community and the increase of its members until the time of the persecution, when it numbered approximately 1000 souls. In April 1941, the Germans invaded the city. Some Jewish families have managed to escape to relatives' homes in Turkey. Very few manage to be saved by passing to Palestine, while the rest are re-promoted by the Turks to Greek islands, to meet the fate of the other Greek-Jews.
In the next two years, the properties of the Jews are looted, their houses are commandeered and the Germans - with their favorite method - "put to sleep" the Jewish population, who live without knowing that they are on the lists for Auschwitz.
On May 4, 1943, 731 Jews from Didymoteicho and 180 from Nea Orestiada were arrested and transported, piled into animal wagons, to Thessaloniki. From there to Poland, on the journey of no return.
In 1985, in Didymoteicho, there is no Jew and in 1987, the Israeli Community of Didymoteicho is officially dissolved.
HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL AT THE DOUBLE WALL
In May 2002, the Municipality of Didymoteicho placed on the site where the Synagogue existed before the war, which according to the decision of the Municipal Council was shaped and inaugurated as "Square of Jewish Martyrs", a Memorial dedicated to the Jews of the city who perished during the Holocaust. The Monument was designed by the Sofia School of Fine Arts.
"Purple Relic" - its renovation Tarabulou house
One of the most beautiful old mansions of Didymoteicho, which before the war belonged to the Tarapoulos family, was acquired by the Didymotei icon painter Yiannis Sarsakis and his wife Georgia Dalagiorgou, who with a lot of work, passion and dedication completely renovated it, while keeping its character. The renovation was completed in 2017 and the "Porphyron Keimilion", as is the name given to the house, which will function as a guest house, was also the subject of the short film of the same title created by Costas Gourloumenos. A production by Ioannis Sarsakis and Georgia Dalagiorgou invested with the music of Stavros Karamanis and with the participation of THEA.SY Did/chos and the association "Castro". The mansion opened its doors in 2018, as part of the Remembrance events co-organized by the Municipality of Didymoteicho, the KISE and the Organization of Lions Clubs, entitled "So that time does not erase them", where, among other things, the films of Kostas Gourloumenos were shown, "Purple Relic" and "May 43".