Greek Holocaust memorial unveiled

ATHENS (JTA) – A memorial to Greek victims of the Holocaust was unveiled in Athens.

Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis; Benjamin Albalas, president of the city’s Jewish community of Athens, and David Saltiel, the president of the Central Board of Jews in Greece, unveiled the Athens Holocaust Memorial on Monday.

Athens is the last European capital and Greek city to erect a memorial to its victims of the Holocaust.

Albalas stressed in his remarks the concern of Greek Jews regarding recent anti-Semitic incidents, such as the torching of a Crete synagogue twice and the desecration of several cemeteries throughout the country, as well as court rulings in favor of a well-known anti-Semite.

"The desecration of the cemeteries as well as the rulings of the appellate court and the Supreme Court is of great concern to us Jews," he said.

An appeals court and the Supreme Court recently found notorious anti-Semite Kostas Plevris innocent of incitement against the Jews in his 1,400-page book "Jews: The Whole Truth." Plevris originally had been found guilty and given a 14-month suspended sentence.

Representatives of the Greek Communist Party and the leftist Syriza Party also attended the ceremony. Haris Paboukis, minister without portfolio and Prime Minister George Papandreou’s closest adviser, represented the Greek government. Also on had were ambassadors from Poland, Italy, Germany and Holland, as well as representatives of the Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches. Israel’s deputy speaker of the Knesset, Ruhama Avraham, read a short message.

Artist Dianna Maghania created the sculpture, which was chosen from among 19 in the design competition by a committee appointed by the Jewish Council. It was approved by a unanimous vote of the Athens Municipal Council.

The monument depicts a dismantled marble Star of David symbolizing the catastrophe afflicted on the Jews by the Nazis. The dismantled triangles are placed in uneven distances around the centerpiece, which has remained intact, signifying that the nucleus has survived, thrived and reunited the Jews.

The monument’s location, at the junction of Melidoni, Ermou and Efvoulou streets, has a special meaning: On March 24, 1944, about 1,000 Athenian Jews, out of a total Jewish population of 3,000, were trapped and captured by the Germans on that spot.

About 65,000 Jews from Greece died in Auschwitz between 1941 and 1944.

Greece’s small Jewish community has long campaigned for a Holocaust memorial, the Guardian reported. About 5,000 Jews live in Greece.

The first Jews arrived in Greece around 1500 BCE and built their first synagogue at the foot of the Acropolis.

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