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December 9, 2021 11:56 am

Russia to Return Archives Looted by Nazis to Greek Jewish Community

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

The entrance to the Jewish Museum of Thessaloniki in Thessaloniki, Greece. Photo: Sam Saltiel / Wikimedia

Russia will return a set of archives belonging to the Greek Jewish community that were looted by the Nazis during the Holocaust, prompting Greece’s leading Jewish organization to proclaim, “Our history returns home at last!”

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the decision to return the archives at a Wednesday press conference with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) said Thursday.

The lion’s share of the archives relates to the Jewish community of the city of Thessaloniki, and were taken in July of 1942 by Nazi occupiers. The materials also include books and religious artifacts stolen from 30 synagogues, libraries, and other Jewish institutions.

The Russian army seized the archives when they conquered Berlin in May 1945 and took them to Moscow, where they have remained until now.

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“While celebrating the 200th anniversary of Greece’s war of independence, our history returns home at last!” KIS commented.

“For Greek Jewry these archives bring light to its historic course, sacred heirlooms of the light of life and the darkness of looting and the Holocaust,” the organization said. “Their restitution would mean justice, and would transmit knowledge about a part of the Greek people that contributed to the progress of the country and no longer exists — that of the 60,000 Greek Jews who were deported to and exterminated in the Nazi death camps.”

The Israeli embassy in Greece issued a statement saying it was “excited and pleased” by the return of the archives.

“President Putin’s decision will help educate future generations, in Greece and beyond, on the rich Jewish life in Greece, the immense contribution of the Thessaloniki Jewish Community, and the disaster of the Holocaust,” Ambassador Yossi Amrani said.

“The return of the archives and the commitment and determination of Prime Minister Mitsotakis and his government to build a Holocaust Museum in Thessaloniki represent the victory of the spirit and humanity over the barbarity and atrocities of that terrible period in our life and history,” he asserted.

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