Message from the Minister of Education and Religious Affairs, Mrs. Niki Kerameus, for the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust, 27/1/2021 Print
Thursday, 28 January 2021 10:12
“Ten transports arrived daily. There were not enough workers to carry the luggage, so it was piled in mountainous heaps and remained there at the station for days.

An extra shift of Sonderkommandos was added. Still it was not enough. At least 400 Greeks from Corfu and Athens transport were ordered in the Sonderkommando. Now, something truly unusual happened. These 400 demonstrated that in spite of the barbed wire and the lash, they were not slaves but human beings. With rare dignity, the Greeks refused to kill the Hungarians! They declared that they preferred to die themselves first. The Germans saw to that. But what a demonstration of courage and character these Greek peasants had given. A pity the world does not know more about them!”

The excerpt comes from the book "Five Chimneys", by Olga Lengyel, a Jewish woman from Hungary, who survived the Auschwitz concentration camp. Lengyel, the only one to survive among her family members who were taken to the camp, describes in awe the mental fortitude of Greeks who witnessed Auschwitz, and who refused to take part in the atrocity, which they eventually suffered themselves. After the war, Lengyel settled in the US, where she founded the Memorial Library, with the task of actively educating future generations about the Holocaust, other genocides, and the importance of human rights. It became the purpose of her life for the next generations to know the horrors of Auschwitz, so that no one would ever come face to face with anything similar ever again.

In 2018, the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, recognizing the importance of education for the Holocaust, signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Jewish Museum of Greece and The Olga Lengyel Institute, through which scholarships are provided to 10 schools that carry out Holocaust education programs, in order to cover their logistical costs. In addition, with the support of the General Secretariat for Religious Affairs, training seminars are held for teachers on the teaching of the Holocaust, while the book "Five Chimneys" is being translated into Greek and will be distributed, for free, to dozens of our teachers who participate in these training seminars. 

All future generations should pay tribute to the 400 Greeks who taught dignity and courage, to the 60,000 Greek Jews, but also to the millions of people who were exterminated in sum by the Nazis. Armed with our knowledge, we ensure the historical memory and the thorough study and teaching of these events, so that no crack is ever left open again, which will allow the revival of fascism, Nazism, anti-Semitism, intolerance. "We have to prevent similar atrocities from happening again. People should come together the moment there is danger. Endangering one group means endangering all of us."

Olga Lengyel. In memoriam.

SOURCE: MINISTRY OF EDUCATION & RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS