Greece commemorates International Holocaust Remembrance Day

On International Holocaust Remembrance Day (IHRD), the Greek Parliament, as well as the country’s Regional Administrations, with the cooperation of the local Jewish Communities, organised a series of commemoration, cultural and educational events.

IHRD is commemorated in Greece since 2004, when the Greek Parliament unanimously voted for Law 3218/2004, which established the 27th of January as the “National Remembrance Day of the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust”.

This year -due to the pandemic restrictions- most events were held online.  From documentaries, to survivors’ testimonies, concerts, lectures and interviews, the 2021 programme covered a vast scale of activities that approached Holocaust history from many aspects and stressed the message of tolerance and respect of Human Rights. Greek officials, at the highest level, joined Holocaust commemoration events. The most symbolic ones were the following:

The Hellenic Parliament, during the Plenary session of January 27, 2021, paid tribute to the Holocaust victims. The session was broadcasted by the Parliament’s TV channel. The Foundation of the Hellenic Parliament organizes an on-line event (on February 4) entitled “Romaniote art. An event dedicated to the Memory of Esther Cohen”.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis marked the 27th of January with a meeting with Dr. Moses Elisaf, Mayor of Ioannina, the first Jewish mayor of a Greek city.

The Prime Minister reaffirmed his personal and the country’s commitment to preserve Holocaust memory and stressed that Greece is a country-member of IHRA since 2005. The P.M. also referred to his visit to Israel and Yad Vashem last year, where he visited the ‘garden of the Righteous’ and traced the name of the sister of his grandmother, Evangelia Georgiadou, one of the many Greeks awarded with the title of the Righteous among the Nations for saving Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

The President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou laid a wreath at the Holocaust Monument of Athens, during a ceremony -closed to the public- organized by the Attica Regional Government and the Jewish Community of Athens. The President spoke with Auschwitz survivor Isaac Mizan. “Your presence is an honour, Madame President”, Mizan said. The President of the Republic replied: “The honour is all mine. We must remember”.

The President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece David Saltiel in his video message released on January 27, referred to the responsibility to preserve the Memory of the Holocaust as well as the need of education and social awareness.

The Ministry of Education dispatched a circular letter to the primary and high schools of Greece indicating a 2hour educational programme on Holocaust history to be held on January 27. The circular also provides useful links to vast educational material produced by the Jewish Museum of Greece.

Political Messages and announcements were issued by: The Ministers of Education, Foreign Affairs and National Defense, the political parties of SYRIZA and KINAL, the Mayors of Athens, Thessaloniki, Trikala, Preveza. The Greek Organization of National Resistance Fighters (POAEA) also issued an announcement.

The Chairman of the Greek Delegation to IHRA Dr Efstathios C. Lianos Liantis, released a video message with special reference to the upcoming Greek Chairmanship for 2021.

In ATHENS, an online event was organised by the Regional Government of Attica and the Jewish Community of Athens, under the theme “Music notes of Horror” was dedicated to the music in the Nazi death camps. Special mention was made to the late Jacques Stroumsa, the violinist of Auschwitz. An interview with Margaritis Schinas, European Commission Vice President for Promoting our European Way of Life, highlighted the event. Margaritis Schinas spoke of his memories from  Thessaloniki and pointed out the ongoing initiatives and the strategies pursued by the EC for combatting antisemitism and racism.

In THESSALONIKI, the spectacular illumination of the 34meter-high White Tower, landmark of the city, marked the tragic anniversary with the projection of the photo of the yellow Star of David, the striped uniform of the Auschwitz inmates and the #We Remember campaign, on the walls of the Tower on January 26 and 27, 2021.

The event, organized by the Regional Government of Central Macedonia and the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, along with a wreath laying ceremony at the Holocaust Monument and speeches by the local authorities, is available through the You Tube channel of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki.

The agenda in Thessaloniki includes the streaming of a special Holocaust feature, with messages of the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis -from his visit to Auschwitz in 2020- the deputy PM Panagiotis Pikrammenos and other prominent figures. It also includes: the virtual streaming of the theatrical play “The lost innocence of Anne Frank” by the theatrical group of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki “Entremosotros” (in Greek without subtitles) and the streaming of the 55th Dimitria Festival production “Forget me not…”, a dramatized narration of excerpts from Leon Saltiel’s book by the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou.

In LARISSA, the Regional Government of Thessaly and the Jewish Community of Larissa organized a memorial service and a wreath laying ceremony -without public participation- at the Holocaust Monument of the city. The event was made available to the public through the website of the Community. In addition, the local schools participated in a number of on-line educational activities. The Radio station of Thessaly broadcasted the theatrical play “Mauthauzen” by the renowned Greek writer Iakovos Kambanellis.

In IOANNINA, the event included a virtual concert of musical themes composed by artists persecuted for their Jewish faith. It was followed by the recitation of Paul Celan’s “Todesfuge” by the Mayor of Ioannina Moses Elisaf. The event concluded with the streaming of the documentary “Belsen: Our story” by Tom Stubberfield. Watch the video here.

In TRIKALA, a video message, released by the Municipality on January 27, included messages by the local authorities and archival material on Holocaust history curated, edited and narrated by students of the city’s high schools.

In VOLOS, the online commemoration event will be held on Friday January 29, with the participation of high schools of the region. Metropolitan Bishop of Demetrias Ignatios, and the Deputy Minister of Education are among the dignitaries that will address the event.

In RHODES, the Jewish Community promoted the on-line projection of the documentary “Samuel Modiano – The Mission. From Rhodes to Auschwitz”, produced by the Stamatiou Foundation. The film (with Greek, English and French subtitles) reconstructs the story of Samy Modiano, one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors, who was deported at the age of 13.

In addition, on the occasion of this year’s time proximity of the Holocaust Remembrance day to the festivity of Tu Bishvat, the Jewish Community of Rhodes planted 15 trees in the ‘Forest of Memory’ of the island, established on the burned wooded area of Kandyli-Tsairi.

Many events were organized under the initiative of schools, universities and various organizations all over Greece.

This year’s events indicate that despite the pandemic the Greek state and the Greek society have both the will and the determination to mark the importance of the day and take active stance in endorsing its very meaning.

 

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