28 January, 2004
An event on establishing January 27 as memory day for Greek Jews and Holocaust victims was held at the Athens Concert Hall's convention center on Tuesday Jan 27, under the auspices of the foreign ministry. Greece's Parliament had unanimously adopted recently a relevant legislation.
Tuesday's event was attended by Parliament President Apostolos Kaklamanis, Foreign Minister George Papandreou, Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, Deputy Interior Minister Nikos Bistis, the New Democracy party's Parliamentary representative Prokopis Pavlopoulos, the Communist Party of Greece's Parliamentary representative Achilleas Kantartzis, Coalition of the Left party Deputy Fotis Kouvelis, a representative of Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos and many ambassadors in Athens.
Papandreou said in a speech that the unanimous ratification by Parliament of the bill setting a Holocaust anniversary date is ''confirmation of the collective sensitivity of the Greeks and of the fact that Greece is an open society, a society of tolerance and of respect of all its citizens.'' He added that ''tdemocracy must defend the citizen. Exclusion of any kind constitutes our moral failure. The decision we took honors us all. It helps us to keep historical memory alive and it will serve as valuable help for the generations to come.''
Emerging from the Concert Hall, the foreign minister said ''we must remember the past and be taught by it'' and reiterated the need for ''respect for the right to be different.''
Israel’s ambassador to Athens on Tuesday presented that country’s influential “Righteous Among the Nations” award to nine Greek nationals who saved persecuted Jewish compatriots during the Nazi occupation of Greece (1941-44).
Amb. Ram Aviram presented the awards the same day as the recently enacted Greek Holocaust Memorial Day (Jan. 27), with a relevant event held at the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) as well.
According to a press release by the Israeli embassy in Athens, the “Righteous among the Nations” awards are given by “Yad Vashem”, an institute created by the Israeli state to perpetuate the memory of the six million victims of the Holocaust. They are bestowed to individuals who risked their lives to save Jews during the Second World War.
More than 200 Greek citizens have been honored by the Yad Vashem Institute, including the late Archbishop of Greece during the occupation, Damaskinos, the Greek chief of police at the time, Angelos Evert, the Metropolitans of Zakynthos and Dimitrias at the time, Chrysostomos and Ioakeim, respectively, the one-time mayor of Zakynthos, Loukas Karrer, and many other unsung Greek heroes of World War II.
This year’s awardees are Dimos and Theodora Vevelekos; Michalis and Eleni Mavridis; Smaragda Sarafianou; Ioannis and Tasia Spentzos as well as Ilias and Angeliki Kazantzis.
The president of the Central Board of Greek Jewish Communities, Moses Konstantinis, also participated at the ceremony.
The memory day for Greek Jews who lost their lives in the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau was honored by the Jewish community in Thessaloniki, northern Greece, on Wednesday in the presence of US Ambassador to Athens Thomas Miller, Nobel peace prize winner Elie Wiesel and representatives of the city's political and cultural sectors.
Events got underway in the morning with wreaths being laid at the Jewish Holocaust memorial by Miller, Wiesel, Central Jewish Board President Moisis Konstantinidis, German Ambassador Alper Spiegel, French Consul Roland Blatman, Russian Consul Aleksander Osvikan and Thessaloniki Prefect Panayiotis Psomiadis, while on behalf of the New Democracy party leader a wreath was laid by Deputy Sotiris Kouvelas and on behalf of the mayor of Thessaloniki by municipal councillor Aspasidis.
The events continued at the amphitheatre of the Byzantine Instruments Museum, where the Jewish community's choir sang for those who died in the concentration camps and for peace.
The main speaker was Wiesel, who was given the Nobel peace prize in 1986, who said he was very moved to be in Thessaloniki since the Greek Jews put to death in concentration camps were mainly from Thessaloniki and added that he had met many of them when he had been detained there with his family.
He also pointed out that it is unfair that the contribution and resistance of the Jews of Thessaloniki is not mentioned by history and that he himself felt it his duty to refer to them in his books.
Moreover, he said people must remember history, be aware of what is happening in the rest of the world and not be indifferent about the problems of other peoples.
Wiesel also noted the importance of the decision taken by the Greek Parliament to establish January 27 as the Memory Day of Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust.
Source: Athens News Agency