March in Thessaloniki commemorates deportation of Greek Jews

Hundreds of people marched through the port city of Thessaloniki on Sunday, marking 80 years since the deportation of Greek Jews during the Holocaust.

The event was organised by the European March of the Living together with local city and state government officials, and was attended by Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, senior Greek and Israeli officials, and Holocaust survivors and their families. It followed the path that the Germans forced the city’s Jewish population to take back in 1943, from a central square opposite the port to the old train station, from where they were deported in cattle cars to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

“We are here not only to remember the Jews but for all of us to say ‘Never Again,’ ” Sakellaropoulou said. “I come every year, and as long as I am president, I will be here.”

In her address in Greek at the abandoned train station, she said that the city of Thessaloniki—once known as the Jerusalem of the Balkans for its thriving Jewish community—had, over the last two years, accepted its share of responsibility for the tragedy that took place when the Germans occupied their city.

Before World War II, about 80,000 Jews lived in Greece in 31 communities, two-thirds of whom lived in Thessaloniki. Only 10,000 survived the Holocaust. Today, about 5,000 Jews live in Greece.

“We are here to remember the unforgivable actions of the Nazis’ pure evil and to remember the wonderful legacy of Thessaloniki’s Jewish community,” said Minister for Innovation, Science and Technology Ofir Akunis, speaking on behalf of the State of Israel.

He noted that part of his family originated in Thessaloniki but had managed to escape.

“For me, personally marching here today with all of you as a minister of the Israeli government is a great triumph. It is a victory of the spirit…of the families, of the communities and of the entire nation,” he said. “The democratic State of Israel is the proof of our victory.”

The US ambassador to Greece said that whenever a Jewish cemetery is vandalized it is a “modern incarnation of Kristallnacht,” the 1938 Nazi pogrom throughout Germany that served as a precursor to the Shoah.

“We cannot allow the horrors of the Holocaust to be trivialized or forgotten,” said Ambassador George J. Tsunis. “We will not let the losers of World War II rewrite history.”

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