ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — The Greek government will compensate the Salonika Jewish community for the destruction of its cemetery during the Nazi occupation.
An income tax bill that passed Tuesday included the more than $14 million for the community payable in five- and 10-year government bonds with interest.
The country’s Socialist majority approved the measure; the liberal main opposition party and several other parties voted against it.
The opposition argued that the government should not settle a matter that is pending in the courts. The government said it was "settling the matter out of court for humanitarian reasons and because the destruction was an act of the Nazis and this wrong should be made right."
The 500-year-old cemetery was one of the oldest and largest in Europe, with more than 300,000 graves. Many of its tombs were of great historical and epigraphic interest. The earliest was dated 1493, one year after the Jewish expulsion from Spain.
On Dec. 6, 1942, the cemetery was destroyed by the Greek puppet government with connivance of the Nazi occupiers. Three months later, the transport of Salonika Jews to the Nazi death camps started.
After the war, the cemetery was expropriated by the Greek government in favor of the Aristotelian University and its campus. Though the Salonika Jewish community held titles on a large portion of the cemetery property, the university and the Greek government had refused to pay compensation.
In September 1961, the Jewish community of Salonika sued the university asking for financial compensation.