ISRAELI COMMUNITY OF DRAMA
The presence of the Jewish element in Drama and in the wider region of Macedonia is confirmed by historical evidence from different periods: during the Roman period in Philippi, during the Byzantine and Ottoman periods in the cities of Serres, Drama and Kavala. The activity of the Jews is always found in times of development and lively commercial traffic in the region.
Testimony to the presence of Jews in Drama is also given by the Spanish traveler Benjamin of Tudela, in the 12th century, when during his visit to this city he mentions the existence of 140 families. The Jewish element in Drama was strengthened after the fall of Budapest in 1529, with Jews from Hungary settling in the city.
In recent years, since the end of the last century and especially at the beginning of the 20th, the settlement of Jews in Drama is linked to the development of the countryside and the city into tobacco production and processing centers respectively. The region's tobacco businesses, such as the large Jewish firms of Commercial and Herzog, attracted, among the multiethnic crowd of newly arrived residents, Jews from various provinces of the Ottoman Empire, mainly Spanish Jews from Thessaloniki, the most important Sephardi center since end of the 15th century in the Balkans, and Serres. The wave of Jews from Serres to Drama thickens after the devastating fire in the city in 1913, with the responsibility of the Bulgarian occupation authorities, during the Second Balkan War.
After the end of hostilities in the area, the Jewish community experienced a steady rise, at least since 1920, with the continuous and now permanent settlement of new members, the organization of community institutions and community institutions, which maintains a synagogue, two cemeteries and private school (after 1925). The Jewish families, approximately three hundred to 1200 members, according to a 1925 document of the then president of the Perahia community, settled mainly in the old Turkish quarters, in the center of the city, and in the area of Agia Varvara. They belong to all social classes, although the main strength is the merchants of the community. After 1925, the first joint commercial enterprises of Christians and Jews were established in the city, marking a period of development of economic and social relations between the members of the two groups.
World War II
World War II breaks out when the community is still in its prime and undertakes the construction of a Synagogue in the center of the city. From April 1941, the German invaders gave control of the area from Serres to Alexandroupoli to their Bulgarian allies. The members of the community, as Greek Jews in religion, are severely affected by both the anti-Greek and anti-Jewish measures of the Bulgarian authorities. After the Wannsee conference in Berlin, in January 1942, when the Nazis decided to implement a program for the extermination of the Jews of Europe, the German and Bulgarian authorities, from the summer of 1942, began to deal with the fate of the Jews conversations. The deportation of all Jews from Bulgarian territory is discussed.
In January of 1943, the Bulgarians suddenly announce that they only agree to the deportation of Jews from the occupied territories of Greece and Yugoslavia. The signing of the agreement for the "deportation of the first 20.000 Jews from the newly acquired Bulgarian lands", on February 22, 1943, leads to the illegal arrest of Jews in the Bulgarian occupation zone in Greece and Yugoslavia on the night of March 3-4, 1943.
The Jews of Drama they are gathered in the tobacco warehouses of the area of Agia Varvara and transported by train, after three days, to South Bulgaria to temporary concentration camps, like all the Jews of the Bulgarian occupation zone in Greece. On March 20 and 21, 1943, they are transported by train, with Bulgarian and German escort, to the Bulgarian port of Lom, on the banks of the Danube, and then by riverboats, under miserable conditions, to Vienna. The final destination of these exhausted people is the concentration camp of Treblinka in Poland, where they arrive at the beginning of April and find, probably immediately, a tragic death.
According to official German data, 1096 Greek-Jewish families, with 681 children under the age of 10, and a total of 4273 people are displaced from the Bulgarian occupation zone, in March 1943, without anyone surviving. The tragic end of the Jewry of northern Greece is a case of total annihilation. The country and Jewry paid a heavy price for the policy of the Nazis and their collaborators.
In 1948 only 39 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust returned to Drama. The decimated community was unable to reopen and subsequently disbanded. In 1997, a commemorative marble plaque was placed in the tobacco warehouses where the Jews of Drama were arrested and imprisoned in 1943. In 1999, with the cooperation of the Municipality of Drama, the Administrative Committee of the Jewish Community of Kavala and the Central Jewish Council of Greece, a Memorial to Jewish Martyrs of the Holocaust was erected in the Park of Agia Varvara. These are the only monuments together with the Jewish cemetery that today testify that there was once a Jewish presence in Drama.