The National Day of Remembrance of the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust was commemorated with the laying of wreaths, a memorial service (Askava) and psalms by the choir of the Israelite Community of Thessaloniki, in Eleftherias Square, in an event organized by the Region of Central Macedonia, on Sunday 28.1.2024 , in the presence of Israel's ambassador to Greece Noam Katz, the US ambassador to Greece George Tsounis, the archbishop of America Elpidophoros, members of the government, representatives of parties, local governments, members of the Jewish community and ordinary citizens.
"The establishment of the Day of Remembrance for the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust is a particularly important, national decision of self-awareness. Especially here in Thessaloniki, it is a day that makes us think about one of the darkest chapters of our recent history. Memories of pain and loss that cannot fit into the human mind. Because no other Jewish community in Europe was exterminated so massively and so quickly, as the Jewish community of Thessaloniki", emphasized in his greeting regional governor of Central Macedonia and president of the Committee of the European Regions Apostolos Tzitzikostas and continued: “The Holocaust Memorial urges us to face this past. And at the same time it is a constant reminder of the duty we have, to never leave a single crack to blind hatred, racism and anti-Semitism.... The Memorial Park that will be created in Eleftherias Square, and for which I welcome the decision of the Municipality of Thessaloniki to finally speed up the work procedures for its completion, but also the Holocaust Museum of Thessaloniki, for which the Region of Central Macedonia has already secured funds for its funding, they will be a living lesson in the History of our country and Jewish Hellenism, but also a daily reminder of the duty of all of us, not to forget".
During the event it became known from Mayor of Thessaloniki Stelios Angeloudis, that the "green light" was given by the government, with the approval of a relevant fund, so that the reconstruction of Eleftheria Square can proceed and its performance as a Holocaust Memorial Park.
"We are neither silent nor embarrassed. The first task I asked the prime minister on my first visit was to approve the necessary amount, in order to proceed with the immediate tender. Something that happened. The municipality of Thessaloniki is ready with the formal approval of the process to proceed with the immediate auction of this project" said Mr. Angeloudis and added: "I am pleased to announce that with the practical support of the government it was possible to secure the financing. so that we can proceed immediately to the tender of the project. The Memorial Park that will be created in the new Eleftheria Square, together with the Holocaust Museum, will be two leading landmarks, which will serve both the need to preserve historical memory in perpetuity, and to highlight the truth of the Holocaust. A truth that some people insist on hiding, falsifying and distorting".
The event was attended by the archbishop of America Elpidophoros, accompanied by the Metropolitan of Thessaloniki Filotheos, who met, among others, with the wise Rabbi of Thessaloniki Istham Dayan and expressed their support, their solidarity with the community and their sorrow for the victims of Nazism.
The Prime Minister and the government were represented by the Deputy Minister of Interior (Macedonia-Thrace) Stathis Konstantinidis, the Deputy Minister of Infrastructure Nikos Tachiaos, the MPs Theodoros Karaoglou, Kostas Giulekas, Katerina Notopoulou, etc.
Keynote speech by Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Stathis Konstantinidis
"Manifestations of anti-Semitism and other forms of racism and intolerance are not tolerated in Greece" underlined in his keynote address the Deputy Minister of Interior (Macedonia - Thrace) Stathis Konstantinidis, representing the prime minister and the government and continued: "The Greek state, with many legislative and other measures fights anti-Semitism and takes care of the memory of the Holocaust, in close cooperation with our Jewish fellow citizens, the Central Jewish Council of Greece and the local Jewish Communities".
Mr. Konstantinidis stated that "the Greek government is committed to drawing up, and is already working on the content of, a coherent National Action Plan to combat anti-Semitism", explaining that this will "systematize many actions that have already been carried out for a number of years and will foresee many new ones, with the involvement of ministries of other bodies, as provided for in the first "Strategy of the European Union, 2021, for the fight against Anti-Semitism and the promotion of Jewish life". He also added that "at the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has continuously appointed, since 2012, a Special Representative for the fight against Anti-Semitism and the defense of Holocaust Remembrance".
Mr. Konstantinidis made an extensive historical report, with references to the records of travelers and researchers, about the presence of the Jewish element in Thessaloniki, its great prosperity and flourishing, its activity in various professions, as a whole in economic and social life, in culture . He also referred to the great calamities that followed for the Jews during the 20th century, from the great fire of 1917, which destroyed the center of Thessaloniki and many houses and shops owned by them to the unimaginable in size and ferocity of the social and humanitarian disaster during the German occupation, with the confiscation of their properties, the destruction of the Jewish cemetery, their stigmatization, their persecution and their physical extermination in the Nazi camps. "Until 1943, Thessaloniki displayed dynamic extroversion, it had an aura of cosmopolitanism. It was a city with a shaped collective identity and consciousness. The Israeli community mourned almost all of its members, since out of the 50.000 Greek Thessalonian Jews, who escaped the atrocity, returned around 1950," said Mr. Konstantinidis and underlined: "Here in Thessaloniki, in the city that in the past was characterized as Madre Israel, mother of Judaism, the memory is and will remain present. The Greek people, who were subjected to so many sacrifices under the Nazi occupation and the war, do not tolerate the desecration of monuments and places that bear witness today to the horrors that humanity experienced. We must never forget what happened, we must learn and investigate them, so as not to experience them again", underlined Mr. Konstantinidis and added: "That is why it is our national duty to pass the memory on to the new generations.
The Holocaust Museum, the construction of which is closer than ever, will make a decisive contribution to this. And make no mistake, there are still devotees of Nazism and anti-Semitism, and if they are ashamed to publicly defend the atrocities of the past, they systematically cultivate hate speech and sow enmity in the fertile ground of misinformation and conspiracy. Therefore, if we really want it never to end up being a naive wish, it must always be accompanied by zero tolerance. Their memory is eternal."
Greetings from Israel's ambassador to Greece, Noam Katz
"Today we gather to pay tribute, in an official way, to the six million souls who were brutally murdered in the Holocaust, a tragedy that claimed almost fifty thousand lives from Thessaloniki, wiping out 94% of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki, which was once known as the Jerusalem of the Balkans," emphasized Israel's ambassador to Greece, Noam Katz. “Commemoration requires unwavering vigilance against anti-Semitism, bigotry, racism and fascism. Never Again is not an empty slogan. It is a mandate, responsibility and obligation" underlined Mr. Katz and continued: "The upcoming Holocaust Museum in Thessaloniki is proof of our common commitment to remember the past and learn lessons for the future.
It is with courage that I hear that the new mayor of Thessaloniki, Stelios Angeloudis, pledged that Freedom Square will become a Memorial for the city's Jewish community." Mr. Katz pointed out that in reflecting on the Holocaust "we must address the issue of the systematic indoctrination and brainwashing that breeds hatred," noting that "this indoctrination allowed the Nazis to commit the greatest crime in human history, aiming to exterminate an entire nation, the Jewish people" and continued: "The same kind of indoctrination and hatred led Hamas, a terrorist group, a deeply anti-Semitic organization, to commit mass atrocities against Israelis, the horrific scenes we experienced on October 7. The attack, the worst against Jews since World War II, brought back haunting scenes of Jewish massacres in history. Parallel to the war there has been a sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents worldwide, particularly in Europe, which threaten the fabric of free societies... These are a striking reminder that we must work against hate, through education, legislation, enforcement and the abolition of of hate speech, from social media".
Israel's ambassador emphasized that the memory of the victims is a commitment to draw lessons that will promote unity and tolerance and added: "We declare that their stories will not be forgotten and their legacy will serve to resist anti-Semitism, hatred, prejudice in any form. Together, let's make sure the horrors of the Holocaust are not repeated."
Greetings from the US Ambassador, George Tsunis
"We will never forget all the members of the Jewish community who perished […] nor the horrors suffered by the Greeks at the hands of the Nazis," the US ambassador emphasized and added: "Today we honor their memory and reaffirm our commitment not to forget them never". He also noted that the start of construction of the Holocaust Museum of Greece in the coming months "is a profound proof of this commitment". "The Museum will not only serve as a place of remembrance for those who perished, but also as an educational beacon that will enlighten future generations about the horrors of the Holocaust, but also the dangers of ignoring or justifying the hatred and intolerance around us. It (the Museum) will stand as a symbol of our collective oath of NEVER AGAIN," the US ambassador stressed.
He underlined, at the same time, that the work of the Holocaust Museum must be completed immediately, as well as the transformation of Eleftheria Square into a memorial park. "There are many places where we can place parking lots, but there is only one place where we can commit to properly closing the wounds, properly honoring those who were lost," said Mr. Tsounis, emphasizing the need to protect Jewish culture and historical sites. of. “These are sites that are not just Jewish heritage. It is the world's heritage" emphasized Mr. Tsounis, while calling everyone to action against hatred in all its forms - anti-Semitism and other discrimination of all kinds. "Let us fight against the voices of hatred and division. Let's embrace the voices of love, kindness and acceptance" noted the US ambassador to Greece, pointing out the importance of education in this direction.
Greetings L. Sefihas, B. Patoulidou
The vice-president of the Israelite Community, Lazaros Seficha, referred to the history of the persecutions and extermination of the vast majority of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki, which flourished before the German occupation, and in his lessons derived from their memory. "2024 marks twenty years since the establishment of the National Day of Remembrance of the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust. It took eight years to reach a development and a "station", in 2004, with the support of all the political parties of the democratic arc" said Mr. Sefiha.
The vice-president of IKTH emphasized that the fight against hate speech and anti-Semitism is still relevant today and the best means to deal with them is education, with all the available programs, so that the sacrifice of the Jewish victims is not forgotten Nazism. He asked for the reconstruction of Eleftheria Square to proceed, as a Memorial Park and together with the Holocaust Museum to form two important centers of memory and vigilance in the battle against intolerance and anti-Semitism.
Along the same lines, the deputy regional governor of Thessaloniki, Voula Patoulidou, emphasized that more educational material about the Holocaust and the history of the Greek Jews of Thessaloniki who were exterminated in the Nazi camps, "more History, from our History" needs to be added to school textbooks.
Source: skai.gr, 28.1.2024