Monday, 26 May 2014 07:53

Pupils at the 4th Primary School of Veria write a 'Message to a child who never had the chance to grow up'.

On 1st May 1943, 460 Jewish people of Veria (Macedonia), among them 150 children, were taken to Thessaloniki by the Nazis and then, on 8th May, they were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau as 'rail dispatch No. 15' and every one of them was put to death. 

The programme of events entitled 'Days of Remembrance for the Jews of Veria (1943-2014)' was held in Veria from 16th to 18th May 2014, in their memory. The programme was organised by the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) in conjunction with the Secondary Education Authority of Imathia, and had the support of the European Jewish Fund and oltre il muro blog. The participation of children from Grade six of the 4th Primary School of Veria was particularly vital and moving, as was that of pupils from the city's 5th Senior High School of Veria.

The school children, through their work, eagerly left a strong message of their denunciation of the rhetoric of hatred and racism in the Synagogue of the traditionally Jewish district of Barbouta.

On the morning of Friday 16th May 2014, twenty-five children read the messages they had written and dedicated to the Jewish children of Veria who never had a chance to grow up because of Nazi persecution and the Holocaust. Then the children's messages 'rose to the beams of remembrance' during a symbolic ceremony in which they hung their messages from the wooden beams supporting the mechitza, or women's balcony in the synagogue.

The Vice President of KIS, Solomon Parente, spoke to the children and their teachers, welcoming them, and thanking them for their act of remembrance and for taking part. “Precisely seventy-one years ago today,' said Mr Parente, 'over a hundred and fifty children of Veria forfeited their lives”.

Then Aristi Koukourikou, teacher of the sixth grade primary schoolchildren, spoke about how they had been taught about the history of the Jewish Community of Veria and how the Jews had been persecuted and deported. Every child had chosen a name from a list of the Jewish children of Veria who lost their lives in the Holocaust and had written a message to that child: “I would like to tell you that things are better now than they were when you were here. Children can play in total freedom now, without the fear of being seen and arrested. … I would, in all honesty, never be able to imagine myself in the position you were in…”. It was with words like these, thoughts of children yet so mature, thoughts filled with sentiment but backed by history, that the pupils of the sixth grade at the 4th Primary School of Veria demonstrated the ties they felt with the children of the Holocaust, the seriousness and tenderness with which they approached the subject, and delivered their own message. It is the message sent by the young about the future, “There is more love around, much more freedom and more democracy”, they wrote.

Then Iosif Stroumtsa, an older citizen of Veria who was thirteen years old at the time of the German occupation, spoke to the children about the dire hardship of the Occupation and the things he remembers.

The Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday afternoon included a memorial service for the victims of Nazism led by Makis Moisis, religious leader of the Jewish Community of Volos.

The names of the 460 dead from the Jewish community of Veria were read in an atmosphere of devout solemnity as Marina Georgatsi played the violin and 460 candles were lit (see photograph). There followed a showing of the animated film by Yannis Kaligas Reading the Shadows of the City, which makes use of photographs and documents showing life before the war and the extermination of the Jews of Veria. Victor Isaak Eliezer, General Secretary of KIS, spoke about the importance of keeping the memory alive, particularly in towns and cities where Jewish populations were literally wiped out. He also spoke about the message that the tragic history of the Holocaust sends to the younger generation and to today's society.

Harikleia Ousoultsoglou, Mayor of Veria, and countless ordinary people took part in the events. It was most moving that Emmanuel Rouven, one of the oldest citizens of Veria, came from Israel to attend the events. Numerous representatives of Jewish Communities and official bodies of Greek Jewry swelled the numbers with their presence. Among them were; Solomon Parente, Vice President of KISE and President of the General Assembly of the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki; Victor Eliezer, General Secretary of KISE; Professor Moisis Elisaf, President of the Jewish Community of Ioannina;  Hannah Pinto, delegate from the Organisation for the Care and Rehabilitation of Greek Jews; Ezdras Baclolas and Iosif Stroumtsa, members of the Veria Management Committee; and Makis Moisis, hazan from Volos.

There was a showing of the multi-award-winning documentary “Kiss the Children” on Saturday 17th May 2014.  Vasilis Loules, who created the film, was at the event and gave a short introduction to it. The film documents the harsh experiences suffered by five Greek Jews; children in hiding during the Occupation.

There was another showing of the film on Sunday 18th May 2014. This one was arranged especially for senior high school children of Veria and during the event they were able to talk to its director, Vasilis Loules.

KISE handed out copies of Young People in the Maelstrom of Occupied Greece  The Persecution and Holocaust of the Jewish People, published by the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece and the General Secretariat for Youth, to representatives of the Secondary Education Authority of Imathia and to senior high schoolchildren attending the event. 

 Giorgios Liolios, author of Shadows of the CityReliving the Persecution of the Jews of Veria (Athens 2009), pub. Eurasia, played a pivotal role in bringing to fruition this programme of events which was highly successful and received extensive coverage in the local press.

**See here the video of the event "Message to a child who never had the chance to grow up" put on by the 4th Primary School of Veria at the Synagogue of Veria on 16.5.2014.

 Read about it:

- On inveria.gr

- See the programme of events and the animated film Reading the Shadows of the City.