The coastal community of Thessaloniki is one of the largest cities in Greece, but it has a rich and surprising history that is little known today. In 1492, when Jews were driven out of Spain by the Catholic Church, many of them found new homes in a Greek village that became known as Salonica; for nearly 450 years, Salonica's primary language was Spanish, the population was overwhelmingly Jewish, and it was a haven for outcasts. It's said that future Israeli prime minister David Ben Gurion visited Salonica before World War I and believed that a Jewish state was possible after experiencing the city. This changed in 1943, when Germans took control during World War II and most of the population were sent to concentration camps. Today, few signs of Thessaloniki's past as a haven for Jewish refugees remain, but it remains a diverse community, home to émigrés from Russia, Romania and Macedonia along with a handful of aging Jewish settlers. The past and present of this unique city is chronicled in Salonica, a documentary from filmmaker Paolo Poloni that serves as a reminder of a forgotten chapter in Jewish (and European) history. Salonica was an official selection at the 2009 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
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