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Greek Police Hunting Vandals Who Desecrated Jewish Cemetery

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(File photo: Eurokinissi/Yiannis Panagopoulos)

ATHENS – Still fighting a reputation for anti-semitism, Greece was hit with another attack on a Jewish cemetery, hate slogans spray painted on the walls of one in the district of Nikea, in southwestern Athens.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) condemned the vandalism by suspected neo-Nazis in a statement, saying the slogans were the same “used by the Nazis themselves 80 years ago to displace millions of Jews from their homes.”

The attack came ahead of a Greek court set on Oct. 7 to announce a verdict in the case of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party's leaders and dozens of members charged with operating a criminal gang, which they deny, one accused of murdering anti-Fascist hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas.

KIS lauded a fast response from Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis who sent out crews to clean walls. “We express our confidence that the Greek state will take all necessary measures to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” it added in its statement.

Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said he was “saddened and appalled” by the vandalism. “Nazism and its followers have no place in our society and in any society,” he tweeted.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said “Nazism, anti-Semitism and their followers have no place in Greece” and “there will be no tolerance towards them,” said Kathimerini, and that police will track them down. 

In December, 2019 the New Democracy government moved to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

That came after a meeting in his office with President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, David Saltiel, and the head of the Greek Delegation to the IHRA, Dr. Efstathios Lianos Liantis, said Kathimerini.

Mitsotakis assigned Deputy Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammenos, oversight of the project as well as coordinating and supervising the integration of the IHRA definitions into domestic legislation and education.

In March 2019, rising anti-Semitic vandalism in Greece saw a monument erected earlier in the year in the city of Trikala in memory of 50 Jews deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust of WWII reportedly vandalized.

In October, 2018 the city’s Jewish cemetery was also desecrated by vandals in an act of antisemitism. Eight tombs were destroyed, two of which belonged to the parents of the city’s Jewish community President, the Jerusalem Post said.

Earlier this year, a Jewish school in Athens was spray-painted with anti-Semitic slurs, while the monument commemorating the Jews of Thessaloniki, located at the University of Aristotle, was also desecrated in January.