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40 years of active presence

Sunday, October 1, 2023

    Τhe town and the community

    In the early years of the 20th century, Ioannina was the administrative centre of the western extremity of the Ottoman state, a region replete with insecurity and political tensions. At the same time, it was the economic centre of a large rural region, facilitating trade with the rest of the world. From the aspect of production, the city stood out for its artistic metalwork and its tailoring, areas in which the majority of craftsmen were occupied. However, changes in consumer habits adversely affected the demand for local products.

    The international economic crisis of 1906–07 pushed great numbers of people of Ioannina – and of many parts of the Balkans – to emigrate to America, mostly to United States. This halted the population growth that had began in the 19th century. This was less true for the city’s Jewish community, which, despite emigration, accounted for 14 percent of the population in 1913, compared to 10 percent in 1830. It was a Greek-speaking community with a history stretching back centuries, with special and rich cultural characteristics. It was mainly comprised of craftsmen and small-scale tradesmen, although after 1904 – when the Alliance Israélite Universelle school opened – several professions emerged.

    The integration of Ioannina into the Greek state changed the makeup of the population and the economic role of the city. Several Jewish families moved to Athens and elsewhere. The size of the Jewish community, as well as the entire city, remained stable between the 1928 and 1940 censuses, when the men of Ioannina, Christians and Jews, were the first to be mobilised – due to the city’s proximity to the border – to serve on the Albanian front against the invading Italian forces.

    In 1944, after the subsequent hardship of the occupation, the Jews of Ioannina were forcibly transported by the German authorities to Poland. Nine in ten would not return from the death camps.