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MONUMENT UNVEILED AT THE UNIVERSITY OF THESSALONIKI – IN MEMORY OF THE OLD JEWISH CEMETERY Print E-mail
Monday, 10 November 2014 11:47
The unveiling ceremony of the monument erected in memory of the old Jewish cemetery of Thessaloniki, which was destroyed in 1942, was held on Sunday, November 9, 2014, in the Observatory Park of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki,
The monument was unveiled by the Representative of the Greek Government, Minister of Macedonia and Thrace, Georgios Orfanos, the Ambassador of Israel to Greece, Irit Ben Abba, the Mayor of Thessaloniki Yiannis Boutaris, the President of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, David Saltiel, the Rector of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Professor Pericles Mitkas and former the Rector of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Professor Ioannis Milopoulos.
Addresses were given by the Representative of the Greek Government, Minister of Macedonia and Thrace, Georgios Orfanos, the Ambassador of Israel to Greece, Irit Ben Abba, the Member of the Parliament, former Deputy Minister of Justice and Parliamentary Representative of the New Democracy party, Konstantinos Karagounis, the Member of the Parliament and representative of the Leader of the Major Opposition Party Konstantinos Kourakis, the representative of His Holiness Metropolitan Anthimos of Thessaloniki, the representative of His Holiness Metropolitan Ioannis of Lagadas, Litis and Retinis, the representative of the Governor of the region of Central Macedonia Voula Patoulidou, the Mayor of Thessaloniki Yiannis Boutaris, the Representative of the President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, Victor Isaac Eliezer, the supervising architect Konstantinos Lentaris, the President of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki David Saltiel, the Rector of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Professor Pericles Mitkas and former the Rector of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Professor Ioannis Milopoulos.
 
In his address the President of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, David Saltiel, stated: “It is therefore clear that today’s unveiling cannot be characterized as a simple ceremony. It constitutes an extremely important event as a fragment of the public-collective memory is restored. This monument – that constitutes a direct reference to the Old Jewish cemetery – does not undo the brutal destruction, does not erase the historical fact, does not give absolution. After the erection of this Monument, the society of this city and the wider academic community must take one more step further. It must research, document and present with clarity to the public, the instigators and executors of this destruction. This - the revelation of those who sought and eventually achieved the elimination of the largest and oldest necropolis in the Mediterranean – could be the outcome of a broad conference held in Thessaloniki."
"I feel very honored as the Rector of the Aristotle University to welcome you and share with you such a historic moment both for the Jewish community of Thessaloniki, and our university, " said the Rector of the Aristotle University, Professor Pericles Mitkas and underlined: "No people should be deprived the evidence of its past. Especially when the loss is done by the enemy in the form of looting and destruction, it is a national disaster.
But I think that the fact that on these sacred grounds land a university was built, which, on daily basis, becomes the meeting place of many cultures while promoting freedom – individual, religious, racial political – and cultivating the need to combat prejudices, the fact, therefore, that on this holy land a temple of knowledge and life was built, will offer a slight consolation.
The university teaches young people to think freely and therefore to think well, not to entrenched themselves in narrow and absolute ideologies, not to judge the "other", with whom they are invited daily to coexist and cooperate, based on their national, religious or the historical background.  All of us try, as members of the academic community to be understanding and to inspire respect for traditions, both ours and our fellow colleagues and the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki constitutes a part of our history. "
The representative of the President of “Yad Vashem” Zvi Barak mentioned in his speech: “Furthermore, I would like to take this opportunity to emphasize, as a friend of the people of Thessaloniki, that all of us around the world were more than positively encouraged and heartened by a small symbol-action by Mayor Boutaris during his swear for the second term in the City Hall of Thessaloniki. We believe that today’s ceremony represents the new spirit of the Hellenic Republic and the people of Thessaloniki toward the history of our nation.”
The representative of the President of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece Victor Isaac Eliezer said: “Nevertheless, this monument Mr. Rector, even with a delay of seven decades, does not remind only that this university was built on the Jewish Cemetery of the city, it reminds the vandalism the culture and the humanity of the city suffered and must constitute a symbol of recognition regarding the responsibility bared by all of people who participated in this brutality.
We all hope that this place, where the knowledge and future of the younger generations of our Homeland is being developed, will inspire to the entire society the values of tolerance and solidarity against  intolerance, fanaticism, racism and anti-Semitism.
The Vice-rector of Academic and Student Affairs, Professor John Tzifopoulos, Master of Ceremony of the event said: Today’s event constitutes the fulfillment of a historic debt of the Aristotle University of Thessaloliniki towards the Jewish community, which for six centuries until the Second World War had a major presence in the social, economic and cultural life of the city, contributing to the progress of this country. The unveiling ceremony of the monument today, the second one which has been permanently placed within the University, is another tangible commemoration to the fact that this location the city hosted a Jewish cemetery, one of the oldest and largest in Europe.
It is another small token of honor and respect to the Jewish Community of the city, which during the Second World War decimated up to 96%, while the destruction and looting of more than 300,000 graves of the Old Jewish Cemetery in December 1942 was the more massive cultural crime of WWII. "
 

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