ATHENS – With anti-Semitic incidents still occuring in Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his government will step up trying to stop them, noting that education is key.
That came as Greece assumed the rotating presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) while also battling against vandalizing of Jewish symbols, including cemeteries.
“Memory means empathy. We have an obligation in the present to educate (people) about the past,” Mitsotakis said in Parliament, an approach that hasn’t worked yet against bigots and haters.
“Education is the weapon of the reasonable man. (Being able) to draw conclusions on the basis of experience and reason: This is the best defense against dogma and hysteria,” he said, reported Kathimerini.
Greece’s Presidency of IHRA coincides with the bicentennial of the country’s War of Independence against Ottoman rule which is being marked with muted celebrations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Modern Greece was founded on humanitarian values and universal freedoms,” Mitsotakis said. “Our commitment to the battle against racism and anti-Semitism is rooted in the core of these values and freedoms,” he added.
The Greek presidency will run a series of events throughout the year dedicated to Holocaust remembrance as well as the country’s independence 200 years ago.
In March, in yet another anti-Semitic incident in Greece, a just finished mural in the second-largest city Thessaloniki, memorializing nearly 50,000 Jews sent to World War II concentration camps was splashed with black paint.
The desecration was strongly condemned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Kathimerini, as well as the Jewish community in the city which was among those suffering the most losses during the war.
“We express our revulsion toward any action that insults the memory of the victims of Nazi atrocities. Once again, we underscore the need to heap scorn on racism, hatred and fanaticism and to defend our moral principles,” the ministry said.
The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki said it was the act of “strangers who seem to be bothered by the willingness of the city to remember even the darkest pages of its history.”