Synopsis

''How the former Jerusalem of the Balkans florished, fell and remained unremembered.''

In the 20th century, the history of the Jerusalem of the Balkans ends with the destruction of Jewish and Muslim life.

On December 6th 1942, German occupation forces and Greek collaborators confiscated the Jewish cemetery of Saloniki, which was the largest in Europe with approximately 500,000 graves. Immediately, the tombstones were used to build a swimming pool for German soldiers. The majority of the stones, however, were handed over to the general population. Today, one still finds pieces of gravestones in city walls, stairs and particularly on the campus of the Aristotle university, which is built on the cemetery. These gravestones are silent witnesses of a forgotten past in a city that suffers from amnesia.

The film tells the history of the destruction of Jewish and Muslim life in Saloniki - a cosmopolitan city, in which Muslims, Jews and Christians coexisted. Unfortunately, the Jewish presence was nearly wiped out completely after the German SS deported more than 60,000 Jews to Auschwitz. Moreover, since the migration of the Turkish population, only a few reminders remain of the dozen minarets and Turkish baths. The former Jerusalem of the Balkans has blocked out the memory of the heterogeneous population of Jewish port workers, house-owners and merchants, Muslim pashas and dervishes.

In the film, Thessaloniki itself becomes the protagonist - the city with its people, old stones, houses and streets. Is it easier to suffer from amnesia than to remember the past?


The Narrative | The Past vs. The Present

The film shows two separate worlds and tells two stories that mirror each other.

The present emerges after the city loses its unique economic and cultural status. It is no longer the Jerusalem of the Balkans and the threshold between Europe and the Orient. It undergoes the dramatic changes that shape the 20th century. This part portrays Thessaloniki as a modern city as it is today.

The past is narrated by an American woman who visited the city as one of the first tourists during the 19th century. Staying in ''Salonika'' (Thessaloniki) she wrote an extensive letter to her sister. The text gives us colorful insights of the world she experienced and of an upper-class lady of the time. The narrative of the film is made up of animations and picture-in-picture compositing.


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