THESSALONIKI – 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.
“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.
That came a few hours after announcing that Greece, for the first time, will assume the rotating Presidency of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) on April 1 despite its ongoing history of anti-Semitism.
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.”
The 35-meter-long, 7-meter-high mural (115 feet long, 23-feet high) mural was created by street artist Same84 to pay homage to the thousands who perished in Nazi death camps.
It’s on one of the walls that enclosed the old Jewish neighborhood of Rezi Vardar and was unveiled at the beginning of March. Restoration efforts were said to be underway with no reports whether surveillance cameras are there.
In January, Greek President laid a wreath at the Holocaust Memorial of Greek Jews Victims in Athens and said the mass murder was “The most extreme manifestation of evil in human history and the most painful legacy of the Twentieth Century," marking the moment.
Sakellaropoulou stressed that "with awe, respect and deep emotion today I paid tribute to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust" and spoke of "a heinous crime against millions of innocent people, who were killed not for something they did, but for what they were, for their racial identity. A genocide committed with the greatest coldness and systematicity. "
In November, 2019, Greece adopted 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.
Liantis is a founding member of the Holocaust Museum of Greece. In April he was appointed Greece’s Special Envoy on Combatting Anti-Semitism and Preserving the Memory of the Holocaust.
The IHRA working definition offers a comprehensive description of anti-Semitism in its various forms, including hatred and discrimination against Jews, Holocaust denial and, sometimes controversially, the way anti-Semitism relates to the ways criticism of Israel is expressed.
In March that year year, rising anti-Semitic vandalism in Greece saw a monument erected early in 2019 in the city of Trikala in memory of 50 Jews deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Holocaust of WWII reportedly vandalized.
Trikala is in northwestern Thessaly about 15 miles from Kalambaka, home of the famed monasteries on the cliffs of Meteora. During the Holocaust, 450 Jews from Trikala managed to escape and fled to isolated villages in the mountains and Turkey, also getting to Israel.
But the 50 victims were arrested in 1944 from the Trikala community who had been in hiding, and sent them to the Auschwitz death camp.
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.
Also earlier in 2019, 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.