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More Jewish Cemeteries, Holocaust Memorial Vandalized in Greece

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The Holocaust Memorial in Thessaloniki. Photo by Eurokinissi/ Giorgos Konstantinidis

THESSALONIKI – Already fighting a reputation for anti-Semitism, Greece was hit with another spate of desecration of Jewish cemeteries and a Holocaust memorial, to the lament of Greek and international organizations.

The attacks came days after sentencing of the leaders and dozens of members of the anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, including graffiti saying, “With Jews You Lose,” on a monument dedicated to the 50,000 Jews of Thessaloniki in northern Greece exterminated during the Holocaust, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) said in a statement.

The words “Death to Israel” were also discovered at the Jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki, while four tombs were vandalized in the Jewish cemetery on Rhodes island, said The Times of Israel.

KIS, which represents the Jewish community in Greece, said it “condemns this new wave of vandal attacks, launched by the followers of bigotry and fanaticism.” 

Greece’s Foreign Ministry joined in the denouncing the vandalism in Thessaloniki, calling it “an unacceptable act which damages the memory of our fellow citizens and all victims of Nazism.”

On Oct. 5, a Jewish cemetery had also been desecrated near Athens, just two days before the verdict of the Golden Dawn trial, the paper noted.

“Juden Raus,” a phrase once used by the Nazis that means “Jews Out” in German, had been painted in black on the outside fence of the cemetery in the neighborhood of Nikaia, along with a symbol similar to an ancient Greek symbol resembling a swastika used by Golden Dawn.

(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.”

KIS lauded a fast response from Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis who sent out crews to clean walls at that time.

“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 also added then.