With white balloons and the slogan "never again!", the President of the Republic, officials and a crowd of people participated in the silent memorial march that took place on Sunday, March 19, 2023, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the departure of the first train of Jews from Thessaloniki to Auschwitz , on March 15, 1943.

"With the memorial march we honor the victims of Nazism, fascism, anti-Semitism, we participate in the mourning of their descendants, we listen to the revelatory speech of the few survivors, we join our voice with the thousands of citizens who walk the same route, from the ghettos at the train station, putting into practice the universal slogan NEVER AGAIN", she pointed out Katerina Sakellaropoulou, which participated in the march, from Eleftherias Square to the old railway station. "We are here, in the wake of the tragedy of Tempe, which the entire Greek society is experiencing with feelings of deep devastation, to keep alive the memory of one of the most shameful and painful events of the 20th century," Mrs. Sakellaropoulou said in her speech.

"Starting from Eleftheria Square, a place of humiliation and inhumane treatment of the Greek Jews, we walked in silence to the old railway station, from where on March 15, 1943 the first train left for the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. It was just one of the many trains that gradually and under miserable conditions, in animal transport wagons, transported approximately 46.000 of our Jewish fellow citizens to the Nazi horror camps. Of these, less than 15 returned to the beloved "Jerusalem of the Balkans", where their Sephardic ancestors found a welcoming refuge in the 2.000th century. Commemorative events such as today's are necessary in order to show, even if belatedly, the real events of the arrest, displacement and finally the extermination of our Jewish brothers. Atrocious events that sealed the city's life and violently changed its rich multicultural identity. And it is particularly important that, especially in recent years, Thessaloniki has recognized its share of responsibility and has explicitly condemned the mistakes of the past, in an attempt to heal the historical trauma", emphasized the President of the Republic.

The march was organized by the Municipality of Thessaloniki, the Israelite Community of Thessaloniki, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the University of Macedonia and the International University of Greece. The present was given, among others, by the vice-president of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, the US ambassador to Greece, George Tsounis, the deputy minister of the interior for Macedonian Thrace affairs, Stavros Kalafatis, the minister of Innovation, Science and Technology of Israel, Ofir Akunis, the regional governor of Central Macedonia, Apostolos Tzitzikostas, the mayor of Thessaloniki, Konstantinos Zervas, the president of the Israeli Community of Thessaloniki, David Saltiel, the former mayor of Thessaloniki, Yiannis Boutaris, MPs of the parties and representatives of the self-government.

Earlier, Mr. Stavros Kalafatis, in a short speech, stated that "we keep the memory of 50.000 Jews of our city who were taken by the Nazis to the camps of insanity. We do not forget what Nazism, fascism, totalitarianism means. We renew our commitment to complete the Holocaust Museum as soon as possible. At the same time, we reaffirm our commitment to try to ensure that such a crime against humanity never happens. We have responsibility for tomorrow and deep empathy for yesterday."

The president of the Central Jewish Council and the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, David Saltiel, for his part, he said that "today's anniversary is different from all the others. It differs because in practice the world declares its opposition, its outcry to this crime. 80 years have passed since the first wagon that left for Auschwitz. As we walk now, so the Jews then walked this way on a road that had no turning back. Participation makes us stronger and we will continue the fight against anti-Semitism, racism."

The former mayor of Thessaloniki, Yannis Boutaris, during whose mayorship the specific memorial march was established 10 years ago, said during the event: "I dream of the time when there will be no need to hold a memorial march and when the election of a Jewish mayor will not become news." Mr. Boutaris added that, "the words of the survivors must become our words. I wonder who will tell when the last survivor is gone? Respect and honor to those who came back from hell."

M. Schinas: European network for Holocaust sites

"The creation of a European "Network of places where the Holocaust happened" is one of the main actions of our strategy for the next period", emphasized Mr. Rope, during his speech. "My belief and goal is that locations like the one we are in today, in Thessaloniki, and like the Holocaust Museum, which will soon dominate here, become part of this network and rise to prominence at the European level. It is our historic debt to those who perished in the concentration camps," said Mr. Schinas. Referring to the current situation and Russia's invasion of Ukraine, he underlined: "Europe and the European way of life will not allow the repetition of the phenomenon that weighs on our history. And those who still today relativize the Holocaust, trying or daring to equate Nazism with the proud struggle of the Ukrainian people for freedom and independence, knowing that they will have many bills to pay. With History, Justice, but also international courts and humanitarianism. As Nuremberg then, so now The Hague awaits those who they think they can become the executioners of history. These are the greatest legacies we can leave to the next generation."

"As vice-president of the European Commission, responsible for combating anti-Semitism, as a Greek and as a Thessalonian, I am proud that the European strategy to combat anti-Semitism and safeguard Jewish life, which I spoke to you about from this stage a year ago , is already starting to produce results and is becoming a source of inspiration for similar initiatives on the other side of the Atlantic", pointed out the vice-president of the Commission. This strategy includes approximately 100 targeted actions, half of which have already been launched. As he said, April 19 marks the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, which became a symbol of Jewish resistance against the brutality of the Nazi regime. "Jewish life was, is and will be an integral part of European societies and the European way of life. In recent years, many European countries have witnessed a revival of Jewish life and a reconnection with their Jewish tradition - with our city, Thessaloniki, being a shining example."

Mr. Schinas welcomed the Greek government's announcement that the preparation of a national action plan, harmonized with the European strategy, has already been launched. He also welcomed the recent progress in the construction of the Thessaloniki Holocaust Museum, which he said is a symbol with an importance and influence that far exceeds the borders of Greece. Regarding the Holocaust and the victims of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, Mr. Schinas said the following: "On January 26, 2023, in a historic special session dedicated to the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the president of Israel, Isaac Herzog, from his podium European Parliament, chose to concentrate the unimaginable horror of the persecution and extermination of six million Jews in the face of a Greek. Of the then only Jewish resident of Leros, Daniel Rahamim. Such was the rage of the Nazis, that even for one person only they sent a boat to the uninhabited island. Others had preceded it. From the ships, they were piled onto the trains. Destination, the hell of Auschwitz.

Messages K. Zerva - Rep. Tzitzikostas about "Never Again"

"Today the city is here. Her heart and soul are here", were the first words of the mayor of Thessaloniki from the stage of the event organized at the old railway station. "Today and every day we honor the memory of the Jewish martyrs of the Holocaust. Today and every day we will all think together, we will shout, so that there will never be totalitarianism, atrocity, never again", added Mr. Zervas.

He also referred to the latest developments for the creation of the Holocaust Museum in the city, to the acceptance of the proposal by the municipality to rename the main street of Thessaloniki to Avenue of Jewish Martyrs, while once again he reiterated his commitment to transform Eleftheria Square into memory park.

Mr. Tzitzikostas noted that "today we are taking a course that starts from the past, but its steps extend into the future, we are sending a strong message in every direction, that together, united as never before, we are raising an impenetrable wall against the repetition of any atrocity, against the devotees of hatred and violence against the enemies of democracy, freedom and human rights". At the same time, he assured that the Region of Central Macedonia supports and will continue to support with all its strength the initiatives and actions that keep alive the memory and highlight the history of the place.

Israel's Minister of Innovation, Ofir Akunis: "The commemorative march is a victory for the entire nation"

"The march today, with all of you, is a great triumph. It is the victory of the spirit and the wonderful Jewish tradition over the Nazi devil. This is a victory for families, communities and the entire nation," stressed Mr. Akunis in his speech. He stood up to the cold-blooded deportations of entire families by the Nazis that "wiped out entire neighborhoods and Jewish communities." "We are here today to remember. Remember the unforgivable actions of the Nazis. And remember the wonderful legacy and impact of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki," added the Israeli minister.

US Ambassador J. Tsounis: "Let's keep the memories alive"

To keep the memories alive and to inform the new generations about the atrocities of the Nazis, so that they are never repeated in the future, pointed out the US ambassador to Greece. Mr. Tsounis began his speech by offering his condolences to the families of the 57 victims of Tempe, while regarding the Holocaust of the Jews of Thessaloniki he underlined: "The blood that was shed here was the blood of Greeks. They were Jews who were Greeks. We must all stand together to inform the new generations. The only way to "Never Again" is to remember them and talk about it. May we never remain silent. Let's say out loud that we won't forget them."

The deputy of SYRIZA-PS Yannis Amanatidis he stated a little earlier: "We honor but also reflect. Never again is the motto. However, in Thessaloniki, the memorial park and the Holocaust Museum should go ahead. Enough with the delays."

The rector of the University of Macedonia, Stelios Katranidis, and the president of the Steering Committee of the International University of Greece, Athanasios Kaisis, also addressed greetings.

We don't forget. Our compatriot Leon Saltiel reminds us of this, through his shocking book "Don't forget me", with the last letters of three Jewish mothers to their sons, shortly before their departure for hell. Sarina Saltiel, Matilda Baruch, Neama Kazes don't let us forget them. We don't rest. We stand against every modern form of anti-Semitism and intolerance. We remember and are inspired by the Jews, across Europe, who resisted", he concluded.

Sources: With data from Protagon.gr and RES (19.3.2023)