World Jewish Congress calls on Greece to commit to fighting antisemitism

"The consternation we feel following such a cowardly desecration is only compounded by the fact that this is not an isolated incident."

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July 12, 2018 07:22
1 minute read.
Gravestones broken in a Jewish cemetery in Athens, Greece

Gravestones broken in a Jewish cemetery in Athens, Greece. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The World Jewish Congress called on Greek authorities on Wednesday to follow through with their commitment to fighting antisemitic vandalism after the third act of desecration of Jewish monuments within the last two month took place last week.

In the most recent incident, the monument commemorating the collective memory of the Jewish students of the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki who perished during the Holocaust was spattered with blue paint and sprayed with hard-line nationalistic slogans.

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The monument also serves to mark an old Jewish cemetery which was destroyed by the Nazis and their collaborators in 1942, the remains upon which the Aristotle University campus was built.

This act of vandalism comes only 12 days after red paint was thrown at the Holocaust memorial in central Thessaloniki and the flowers surrounding it were destroyed. A month prior, vandals had destroyed nine marble Jewish tombstones in an Athens cemetery.

Referring to the most recent incident, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder expressed that "The consternation we feel following such a cowardly desecration is only compounded by the fact that this is not an isolated incident."

"We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki and in Greece to combat racism, antisemitism and hatred under difficult circumstances," the WJC head emphasized.

"Just last week, Greece was one of 22 nations to co-sponsor a joint statement to the UN Human Rights Council denouncing antisemitism, at the initiative of the WJC," Lauder said, urging Greece to "follow through on its commitment to combating antisemitism, and treat these incidents with utmost severity, concern, and action."

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Before World War II, Greece was home to large and vibrant Jewish communities, especially in Athens and Thessaloniki. These communities were largely destroyed by the Nazis after the German occupation of Greece in April 1941.

Jewish life in Greece still flourishes, but the emergence of the Radical Right Golden Dawn party, which is often described as a neo-Nazi party, is a cause of growing concern.

President Reuven Rivlin visited the Holocaust monument in Thessaloniki during a state visit in February and spoke out against renewed antisemitism, extremism, racism and neo-Nazism.

Hagay Hacohen contributed to this report.

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