A loud clang breaks the solemn silence that fills the corridor while a metallic voice informs us that this is the fourth floor. Rushed steps of a nurse exit the elevator and disappear in one of the rooms. The sound of abnormally loud TV-sets pushes its way through the closed doors, but barely succeeds in surpassing the tic-tac of the clock on the wall. The smell of food that swirls up the stairs hints that those who are heal-thy enough will soon leave their rooms and take the elevator to the dining room.
Saoul Modiano Home for the Aged is a special home. It is managed by the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki and it is open only for Greek Jews over 65. Here lives the last generation that survived the Holocaust as adults, the last generation that speaks Ladino.
History is usually read in books, but here it is possible to feel it, here it is possible to talk to it. History is on the walls, in the old photographs and in the family pictures from Israel.
But above all, history is in the people; in the wrinkles, in the moist eyes and in the tired steps, but also in the soft ladino words, the deep gazes, and the long silences... particularly in the silences.
In 1492, around 200,000 Jews were expelled from Spain and established themselves all along the Mediterranean Sea. Their descendants still today speak this variant of Spanish (Ladino).
In April 1941, German troops marched into Thessaloniki. The freedom that the Jews of the city had enjoyed for over 2,000 years came to an abrupt end. After two years of occupation, over 45,000 Jews were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in cattle trains. When the war was over, more than 95% of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki had been killed. Today the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki consists of 1,200 people.