Monday, March 9, 2015

Mystery Photo from the Ottoman Imperial Archives -- Why Were These Greek Jewish Girls Welcoming the Turkish Sultan?

The picture was taken in the port city of Thessaloniki, also known as Salonika. The Ottoman Archives provides this caption: Ottoman Saloniki, Visiting (sic) of Sultan Mehmed V, Jewish Students, 1911.

The brutal murder of almost 60,000 Saloniki Jews in Auschwitz by the Nazis in World War II after the invasion of Greece leaves many with the impression that the Saloniki Jews were of Greek origins. In fact, the vast majority of Saloniki's Jews were descendants of Spanish Jews who fled the Iberian Peninsula in 1492.  By 1519, the Jews were a majority of the town's population, and Saloniki Jews were a major economic force in the region, particularly Turkish-controlled areas. The Jews lived under Ottoman rule for centuries.

The surrender of Saloniki in 1912
The Ottomans surrendered their sovereignty over Saloniki in 1913 after losing to Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Montenegro in the First Balkan War. 

So, indeed, the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed V, did visit the city in 1911 as his empire began to deteriorate around him.  The Jews of the city turned out to welcome him.

In recent weeks, the Ottoman Imperial Archives has posted thousands of illustrations and photos Online. We will continue to focus on these pictures.

The Sultan's carriage in the parade
The Sultan's carriage

A postcard commemorating the visit

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