“Our commitment must be to remember the victims who perished, respect the survivors still with us, and reaffirm humanity's common aspiration for mutual understanding and justice.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
The Jewish community of Thessaloniki held a series of events around 15 March to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first deportations from Thessaloniki to Auschwitz.
Commemoration events included a march attended by up to 4,000 participants on 16 March from Eleftherias Square to the Old Railway Station for a memorial ceremony. Among the attendees were the mayor of Thessaloniki, Israel’s ambassador to Greece, other government officials, representatives of the Greek Orthodox Church, and dignitaries from all over the world.
The main commemoration ceremony was held on 17 March at Thessaloniki’s Monastiriotes Synagogue. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras addressed the memorial event, stating that there is “no room for racism and antisemitism” in Greece and that he would continue to push for legislation limiting antisemitic and racist speech and activities in Greece. “We should not be tolerant of this phenomenon…Today, the government is obliged to take any measure to avoid a repetition [of the Holocaust],” he stated. This occasion marked the first time in history that a Greek Prime Minister had ever visited a synagogue.
A concert was held at Aristotle University, which was built on the site of the city’s former old Jewish Cemetery and one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Europe. Professor Steven Katz, Advisor to the IHRA, was invited to address the audience before the concert, along with several other guests including the Israeli Ambassador to Greece. Professor Katz underlined the role of education for young generations to keep the memory of the Holocaust alive.
Thessaloniki’s Jewish community also inaugurated a photo exhibit about the deportations entitled "Thessaloniki, the Flower of the Balkans. Between Greatness and the Holocaust,” which was curated by the Yad Vashem Foundation.