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Monday, 01 February 2016 13:39

Attended by Holocaust survivors and the leaders of the Greek Jewry

The 27th of January has been officially established -by law that was passed unanimously by the Hellenic Parliament in 2004 -as a Memorial Day for the Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust.

This year, on 27.1.2016, the Hellenic Parliament -following an initiative of its Speaker, Nikos Voutsis -commemorated, for the first time, the Holocaust Remembrance Day at a special event held in its plenary session hall with the attendance of holocaust survivors, representatives from institutions of the Greek Jewry, and Israeli diplomats. All political parties were present at the event, except for the Golden Dawn party.

The Speaker of the Hellenic Parliament, stated that this initiative honours the Hellenic Parliament and he concluded his speech by inviting all attendees to observe a minute's silence as a tribute to Holocaust victims.

Voutsis also announced that the Hellenic Parliament will co-sponsor the creation of a permanent exhibition in Auschwitz dedicated to the Greek Jews that were exterminated thereat. In his speech Voutsis noted: "...During the Holocaust, the material damages and human losses suffered by the Jewish Communities in many Greek cities were unprecedented. It is estimated that the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki, one of the most prominent in Europe, lost 94% of its population. Not even Jews that had served as MPs for the constituency of Thessaloniki were able to escape persecution and death, and a commemoration will be held in their honour this Saturday at the hall of the City Council of Thessaloniki. The names of the MPs that lost their lives are: Allalouf Daniel (1881-1943, Insurance Broker), Ventura Jacques (1901-1943, Journalist), Kazes Michel (1905-1942, Typographer), Gatenio Leon (1863-1943), Bensantze Mintes (1881-1943, Publisher, Journalist), Siakki Isaac (1880-1943, Merchant), Soulam David (1880-1942, Professional), Tsenio Albert (1898-1943, Merchant). It is their memory that we honour today, joining the world-wide commemorations held by many countries. We are also paying our deepest respects to the Greek 'Righteous Among the Nations', who risked their own lives to save Jews persecuted by the Nazis and their collaborators."

Next took the floor the Minister of Education, Nikos Filis, who spoke about the Holocaust, its historical significance, the crime of genocide, and the responsibility shared by today's society and its institutions concerning youth education.

"The term Holocaust signifies total annihilation, the killing of almost six million Jews of Europe by the Nazis. It was a genocide -a premeditated effort to annihilate a whole race", noted Nikos Filis, Minister of Education. And, with educators in mind, he remarked: "If the aim of our educational system is to shape personalities able to think lucidly and with a sense of responsibility, then today's commemoration can serve as an incentive for the cultivation of a historical conscience."

Filis also mentioned a series of specific actions taken by the Ministry of Education in order to "provide educators and students with a chance at better understanding the significance of the Holocaust for Greek and world history alike." According to Filis, "the Holocaust has been included in school textbooks, and each year the Ministry co-organizes training seminars for educators on how to teach it in the classroom, while at the same time supports the annual visit of Non-Jewish students to the Auschwitz Museum. In 2015, a video competition for students was organized for the first time, with the co-operation of the General Secretariat for Religious Affairs and the Jewish Museum of Greece, on the topic: "The Holocaust and the Greek Jews". "The video competition will be held again this year," stated Filis and continued: "Furthermore, we support initiatives of Greek schools seeking to cooperate with those of foreign countries on the topics of the Holocaust and Genocide. Such a cooperation was actualised between the 6th High School of Nea Smyrni and a school in the US."

Filis also lambasted Greek anti-Semites - who, as he said, "do not waste any opportunity to question the patriotism of the Greek Jews in every imaginable and unimaginable way" - by stating that: "The blood of the Greek Jews was spilled like that of all Greek citizens for the freedom of Greece, whenever the fatherland needed it. And how it could have been any different, since the Jews have been residing on these lands since antiquity?"

The Minister of Education made special reference to the Monument of the Greek "Righteous Among the Nations" that was inaugurated earlier that morning at the Synagogue of Athens, following an initiative of the Jewish Community. "The example of the Greek Righteous, those Non-Jewish Greeks, who during the Occupation risked their own lives to save those of the Jewish Greeks, serves as a beacon of hope forever marking the path of virtue and democracy. Let us follow it," the Minister concluded.

The political parties issued announcements commemorating Holocaust Remembrance Day 2016.


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