THESSALONIKI – The 14th annual David Tiano lecture, established in memory of an American consulate staff member who was executed by Nazi occupation powers in February 1942, was dedicated this year to the Jewish students of Thessaloniki and of the Holocaust, at an event held in the city on Monday.
This year’s lecture was on “Mapping the Memory: Jewish students of Salonica in WWII and the Holocaust” and was delivered at the Leon Benmayor Hall of the Jewish Community by Angeliki Gavriiloglou and Christos Chadziioannidis, members of a joint research team of the Jewish Studies Chair of the University of Thessaloniki and of the Jewish Museum of the city. “Our purpose is to keep alive the memory of thousands of children who perished at the concentration camps,” they said.
Addressing the event, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Athens David Burger said the event, organized by the consulate, uses Tiano’s story “to encourage dialogue and further education about the Holocaust and Thessaloniki’s important and once vibrant Jewish community.”
He spoke of the importance of the construction of the Holocaust Museum in Thessaloniki, saying that “when it is finished, it will be the only museum in the world that tells the story of the fate of the Sephardic Jews in the Holocaust. The museum will teach tolerance and diversity as part of its mandate.”
Burger noted Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ visit to Auschwitz as part of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Mitsotakis, he said, “became the first Greek prime minister to visit Auschwitz in memory of all the Greek Jews who perished there. The Greek government’s clear statements of solidarity and remembrance were appreciated around the world. Greece lost more than 80 percent of its Jewish population during the Holocaust.”
He also noted that “Greece became the first country to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of Holocaust denial and distortion, a move warmly welcomed by top Jewish groups in the United States,” and expressed the hope that “Greece will continue to be able to set an example for other countries when it takes over the rotating presidency of the IHRA in 2021.”
A memorandum of understanding between the Greek Ministry of Defense and the US Holocaust Museum signed in Washington last month during the PM’s visit, he said, is an agreement that will “allow researchers to examine records of Nazi atrocities in Greece between 1940 and 1945.” In addition to sharing archives, the United States and Greece will collaborate on a joint effort to retrieve personal items belonging to Jewish refugees from the 1946 “Athina” shipwreck off of Astypalea for inclusion in the US Holocaust Museum’s permanent exhibition, he said.
David Saltiel, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, noted that “we cannot remain indifferent before the rise of racism and bigotry, the relativisation of the Holocaust and the deliberate distortion of history. Every initiative in this direction (…) is important for us and for all.”
The event was also attended by US Consul General in Thessaloniki Gregory W. Pfleger, Jr, former mayor of the city Yiannis Boutaris, and the family of Heinz Kunio, one of 11 Holocaust survivors.