May 27, 2011

The fire of 1917

Fires were always a big problem for Ottoman Salonika. The city suffered from them all through the centuries due to the densely populated areas of wooden houses, the flammable materials of everyday life, the incompetence of the Ottoman administration to deal with the fires successfully and the strong north winds that could very fast turn a small fire to a large and destructive force. A big one was that of 1890. The fires where really a devastating disaster for those living in the lower part of the city, the center, and the Jews of the city were among them.

Probably the most destructive fire was that of 1917, five years after the Greek army set foot in it. It destroyed a huge part of the town and created sixty thousand refugees.

An aerial photo

Map showing the area destroyed by the fire

Destruction of the fire
The fire devastated the Jewish community of the city burning numerous Jewish homes, organisations and businesses. Due to the restoration of the center and a new legislation concerning the rebuilding and the ownership of the land that will greatly harm the Jewish community and diminish its influence in the city, a new Thessaloniki will rise from the ashes, more Greek and more European. By a tragic accident the fire will thus contribute to the process of Hellenization of the city that had started after the Balkan Wars.

Images from wikipedia

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