September 30, 2023

Athens News

News in English from Greece

March in memory of the Jews of Thessaloniki killed in Auschwitz

The President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, took part on Sunday in a silent memorial march held annually in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki in memory of the Jews who fell victim to the Nazis in World War II.

This year the march was dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the departure of the first train with Jews to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp on March 15, 1943. “With this memorial march, we honor the victims of Nazism, fascism, anti-Semitism and share the grief of their descendants, listen to the frank words of the few survivors and unite our voice with thousands of citizens who follow the same path, from the ghetto to the railway station, putting into practice the universal message “Never more,” said Sakellaropoulou.

Nazi “death trains” were supposed to transport about 46,000 Jews from the city’s once-thriving Jewish community to extermination in camps, from which fewer than 2,000 ever returned.

Carrying white balloons with “Never Again” written on them, about a thousand people of all ages marched to the old railway station of Thessaloniki, where the deportation began on March 15, 1943. Many people left flowers on the railroad tracks. The deportation was carried out in cattle cars, in each of which about 80 people were forcibly placed. About 46,000 Jews of Thessaloniki were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau between March and August 1943, David Saltiel, president of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki, said. Only 1,950 returned, he said. lechaim. “The community lost 97% of its members, about 50,000 people,” Saltiel said, noting that at the time, Jews made up one-fifth of Thessaloniki’s population.

The ceremony was attended by Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas and Thessaloniki Mayor Konstantinos Zervas. Also present were US Ambassador to Greece George Tsunis and Israeli Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology Ofir Akunis. The Mayor of Thessaloniki, Zervas, said work had begun on a Holocaust museum to commemorate those who died in the Nazi camps. Greece gradually began to honor its Jewish community after formalizing relations with Israel in 1990. In Thessaloniki ten years ago, under reformist mayor Yiannis Boutaris, steps were taken to highlight its rich Jewish past. But anti-Semitism persists, Jewish cemeteries and Holocaust memorials are regularly exposed vandalism.

“Anti-Semitism and racism remain a threat,” Saltiel said. Of the more than 77,000 Jews who lived in Greece before World War II, more than 86% died during the four-year occupation by Nazi Germany. According to the Jewish Museum in Athens, today the community has about 5,000 members.

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