Volos, an important port city on the Aegean Sea, south of Thessaloniki, has had a Jewish presence since the fourteenth century. There is evidence that Jews have existed in the surrounding areas since ancient times.
In 1940 there were 882 Jews living in Volos. With the occupation of Greece, Volos was placed in the Italian zone and Jews lived in relative safety until the Germans took over in September 1943.
While the Italians were in power, Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in Thessaloniki sought sanctuary in Volos.
The resistance movement was very active in Volos. The chief rabbi, Moshe Pessah, worked with Archbishop Joachim Alexopoulos and the EAM (Nationl Liberation Front) to find sanctuary for the city’s Jews in the mountainous villages of Pelion.
The Germans chose March 25, 1944, Greek Independence Day, to deport the Jews of Volos and any Jews remaining on the Greek mainland. Due to the valiant efforts of Rabbi Pessah, Archbishop Joachim (who is honored at Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations), and the EAM, 74 percent of Volos’s Jews were saved. Of more than 1,000 Jews living in the city in March 1944, only 130 were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Devastating earthquakes in 1955–57 forced many of the remaining Jews to leave Volos, and most immigrated to the United States and Israel.