Who is Commemorated?
476 members of the Jewish community of Serres killed in the Holocaust
Through a gate from the street and across a courtyard, one can see a plaque affixed to the right of the door to the school. The marble plaque is inscribed, and the seal of the town (the river-god Strymon) is attached to the left of the inscription.
Ο ΔΗΜΑΡΧΟΣ ΣΕΡΡΑΙΩΝ Κ. ΖΗΣΗΣ ΜΗΤΛΙΑΓΚΑΣ
ΚΑΙ ΤΟ ΔΗΜΟΤΙΚΟ ΣΥΜΒΟΥΛΙΟ ΤΟΥ
ΜΕ ΑΥΤΗ ΤΗΝ ΕΠΙΓΡΑΦΗ ΠΑΡΑΔΙΔΟΥΝ
ΣΤΗΝ ΠΑΓΚΟΣΜΙΑ ΜΝΗΜΗ
ΤΗΝ ΑΔΙΚΗ ΚΑΙ ΑΠΑΝΘΡΩΠΗ ΕΞΟΝΤΩΣΗ
ΣΤΙΣ 3 – 4 ΜΑΡΤΙΟΥ ΤΟΥ 1943
ΤΗΣ ΑΚΜΑΙΑ ΚΟΙΝΟΤΗΤΑΣ ΤΩΝ
ΕΛΛΗΝΟΕΒΡΑΙΩΝ ΣΕΡΡΑΙΩΝ ΔΗΜΟΤΩΝ
ΑΠΟ ΤΑ ΦΑΣΙΣΤΙΚΑ ΒΟΥΛΓΑΡΙΚΑ ΣΤΡΑΤΕΥΜΑΤΑ ΚΑΤΟΧΗΣ
ΣΕΡΡΕΣ 5 -3- 2000
Translation: The Municipality of Serres, the mayor of Serres, Mr. Zissis Mitliagkas, and its municipal council [of the] Municipality of Serres, deliver with this inscription, in the world's memory, the unjust and inhuman extermination on 3rd and 4th March 1943, of the prosperous Greek-Jewish community of Serres by the fascist Bulgarian occupation troops.
On a roundel is relief carving of a Greek head with the inscription:
Translation: Strymon [name of ancient Thracian river-god and river, also called Struma or Strymónas River]
Municipality of Serres
The Jewish community of Serres dates at least from the Middle Ages. Benjamin of Tudela noted in the 12th century the existence of a Greek-speaking Romaniote community. By the late 15th century Sephardic Jews settled in Serres and eventually absorbed the old Romaniote community. The Jewish population reached about 1800 by the turn of the 20th century and Jews had built the Great Synagogue (Kahal Gadol), a rabbinical library, a religious school, and a primary school. The synagogue was destroyed along with much of the town during the Balkan Wards (1912-13). But Jews were saved by Jews serving in the Bulgarian army. Before the Second World War, The Jewish population of Serres had fallen to about 600 people. They were mostly tobacco workers, shop owners, tobacco merchants, businessmen, and their families.
In 1941, Bulgarian occupying forces pressured the Jewish community to collaborate against the Greeks and to sign statements about the advantages of Bulgarian rule over Greek rule, but the Jews refused. In February 1942, the Bulgarians issued anti-Jewish regulations forbidding Jews to work in commerce, and compelling Jews to designate their homes and businesses as Jewish-owned. Jews began to flee the city, until on March 3, 1943, the Bulgarian occupying army arrested the town’s Jews and imprisoned them in a tobacco warehouse. A few days later, Serres’s Jewish community was deported to Bulgaria, and then to their deaths at Treblinka. Only 3 Jews survived the Holocaust.
The Jewish quarter of Serres was in the area around today’s Argyrou University. At its center were the synagogue and the Jewish school. Today, the only physical reminder of the Jewish community is the school, which shared a courtyard with the synagogue. The surviving building is owned by the Jewish Community of Greece which has granted it to be used as a primary school for the Municipality of Serres. It now serves as the 15th, 25th & 26th Kindergarten of Serres, but it is still sometimes referred to as “The Jewish School.”
The plaque was unveiled on March 5, 2000, by the Municipality of Serres. The Municipality also passed a resolution declaring March 4th as an Annual Memorial Day for the Jews of Serres.
Kone, Loise and Roula Kone, Jewish-Greek Communities: little Beloved Homes (Volos: The Ladies of the Jewish Community of Volos, 2006)
"Serrai," Encyclopaedia Judaica, https://www.encyclopedia.com (accessed November 29, 2022)
“Serres,” Jewish Museum of Greece webpage , https://www.jewishmuseum.gr/en/serres/ (accessed November 29, 2022)
“Η ΙΣΤΟΡΙΑ ΤΟΥ ΣΧΟΛΕΙΟΥ ΜΑΣ,” (https://15nip-serron.ser.sch.gr/)