Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Salvatore and Lili Katan - August 18, 1981

Life in Salonika Before the War

Um, now Salonika was a large...

LK: Large Jewish community.

Do you know approximately how many?

LK: Eight hundred thousand.

Eight hundred thousand. Okay, yeah. And how many, how many synagogues were there?

SK: Well, we have uh, around seven or eight shuls we had over there. We had ??? shul, we had a German shul and we had--the rest was all Sephardic shuls and the Greek shuls.

But they weren't all--so there were some that were Western?

SK: Western, yeah. A few--they have a separate shul themselves. We have our own, you know, the uh, the majority--the biggest shul was Sephardic. Beit Shaul was the biggest shul in Salonika.

Were they all Orthodox shuls?

SK: All Orthodox shuls.

The German one too?

LK: The German shul was Orthodox too?

SK: No, no, no.

Probably not. So you belonged to...

SK: Sephardic.


SK: Orthodox Jews.

Your education was--your religious education--you went to, what, to cheder?

SK: I went to Talmud Torah.

Yeah? And you were bar mitzvahed?

SK: Bar mitzvahed and every...everything.

Now um, I want to ask just a couple more things and then we can go to the other--after the war. Did you family have any political affiliations at all?

SK: No.

No members of the family?

SK: Nobody. No one, no one.

Did you--did anyone--through the newspapers did you read and discuss things that were going on?

SK: The only thing in the politics was my brother who joined the partisans.

LK: Who lives here.

SK: Who lives here now--he's here. He's the only one, the only one who run up in the mountains and the rest in the camp.

And he was, he was involved with politics before the war?

SK: No.

Just during the...

SK: Just during the Germans.

And um, before the war you had plans for the future? What were your--what would you have, would you have...

SK: There were plans if God--we were thinking if God willed we want to go to Israel.

Even before the...

SK: That's right, because always we say, "L'shanah haba'ah birushalayim." That, uh...

I see. In terms of--you would have become an engineer and gone to Israel or?

SK: A mechanic.

Mechanic, okay. Oh, one other thing. Was there--in Salonika was there any anti-Semitism that you can remember?

SK: Not before the war. Not before the war. Eh, you find one, two they say something, "Oh, you Jew," you know, but nothing. Because the majority they were Jews over there, not many Greeks, and, a matter of fact, they have a big power, the Jewish people there in Greek Salonika.

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