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Society

Thessaloniki Mayor Says City Won’t Bow to Anti-Semitic Vandals

February 3, 2019

A spate of anti-semitic vandalism aimed at Jewish cemeteries won’t break the spirit of Thessaloniki, where thousands of Jews were taken to concentration camps and killed in World War II, Mayor Yiannis Boutaris said.

No matter how many times the cemeteries are vandalized he said they would be repaired but there weren’t any apparent plans to provide surveillance to find out who’s responsible for the acts.

“Even if they vandalize the monuments 100 times we will repair them 110 times,” said Boutaris, whose proposal for a 24-hour police guard at the monuments was rejected in a meeting with local authorities, police and the Jewish community leadership, said Kathimerini.

David Saltiel, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and the Jewish community of Thessaloniki, said that, “The monuments should not be guarded as that would be a disgrace for the city.”

“The monuments were made to remind us of history. They cannot have a policeman next to them. All that can be done is to have lighting and better management,” he said.

Late in January, a Thessaloniki prosecutor in Thessaloniki ordered an urgent investigation into the destruction by unknown vandals of a local Jewish memorial.

Prosecutor Evangelos Zarkantzias instructed police to treat the attack on a monument marking a former Jewish cemetery as a breach of Greece’s laws against racism, which carry harsher penalties than ordinary vandalism.

The University of Thessaloniki, on whose campus the monument stood, said it would be rebuilt. Greece has strongly criticized the attack, and a protest at the site was attended by government officials and Boutaris.

The centuries-old cemetery was razed during the World War II German occupation of Greece, and the university built on its site. Thessaloniki’s large Jewish community was almost entirely wiped out by Nazi forces.

With hate rising and growing incidents of anti-semitism, Israel has joined in combating the problem in Greece after vandals, including believed to be from the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, vandalized Holocaust monuments and cemeteries.

That came in the form of a dialogue between the countries in talks that were said to have concentrated on xenophobia, with discussions between senior government, judicial and other officials from both countries and a team of experts on human rights who will advise Greek officials on handling hate crimes, but no game plan was given other than talk.

The result was reportedly to use social media, how to conduct a criminal investigation on hate crimes, training prosecutors and judges, detecting and prosecuting  hate crimes and analyzing ways to respond to anti-Semitic incidents in Greece.

That came as Supreme Court prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou ordered an investigation into the latest vandalism of the Holocaust Memorial in Thessaloniki on Dec. 15 where unknown vandals spray-painted a black Swastika on the memorial following a rally by protesters opposed to the name deal Greece signed with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

The work by famed sculptor Nandor Gild, which was finished in 1997 after his death by is son, Daniel, was vandalized with black spray-painted swastikas, the latest hate crime, the Jewish News Syndicate (JNS) reported. The perpetrators have yet to be identified.

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