A man walks past a graffiti dedicated to the Holocaust in the northern port city of Thessaloniki.
(photo credit: ALEXANDROS AVRAMIDIS/REUTERS)
Israel’s ambassador to Greece, Irit Ben-Abba, has blamed the Greek Orthodox Church for leading antisemitism in the country.
Ben-Abba made the claims on Sunday while speaking at a ceremony on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, just two days after a monument commemorating the Jews of Thessaloniki, located at the University of Aristotle, was desecrated.
The menorah and Star of David adorning the memorial were broken and left lying on the ground, while headstones inside the memorial were pushed over.
She called on the Orthodox Church and all the public to condemn the desecration, noting that she believes that the incident was fueled by far Right anger over Greece agreeing to Macedonia’s name change. The country is now officially called the Republic of North Macedonia.
Despite this dispute having no connection to the Jews, Ben-Abba said, “The anger of the fascist and extreme right elements is coming out, and has evidently been taken out on the Jewish sites in northern Greece.”
She said that far Right activists will exercise violence without much prompting.
She noted that there were 15 incidents of antisemitism last year, including at the Holocaust memorial in Thessaloniki, which was vandalized four times, as well as incidents in Athens. Further, numerous manifestations of antisemitism are rampant on social media in Greece.
“We need to see condemnations from the Greek Orthodox establishment, which is always silent,” she said.
Following her speech, The Jerusalem Post’s sister publication Maariv reported Ben-Abba as describing some Greek Orthodox Church leaders as being both “virulent and antisemitic.”
“Antisemitism in Greece originated in the Orthodox Church,” Ben-Abba claimed.
She explained that the Greek Church did not undergo a reformation like its Catholic counterpart, and therefore continues to espouse anti-Jewish sentiments.
Between March and August 1943, the Germans deported more than 45,000 Jews from Thessaloniki, known in Ladino as Salonika, to their deaths in Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Prior to the Holocaust, the port city had the largest Jewish community in Greece. At the time of the German occupation, the Jewish population was about 50,000. More than 90% of the total Jewish population of the city were murdered during the war.
Today, about 1,200 Jews live in the city.