Leaders of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Sunday sent a strong message of solidarity to the Jewish community of Greece as they gathered in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki for meetings of the WJC Executive Committee and commemorations on the 70th anniversary of the first deportation of Salonican Jews to the death camps. In a speech in the presence of Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, WJC President Ronald S. Lauder urged Greece to take decisive action against the growing neo-Nazi movement Golden Dawn, which he called “the new Nazis” and “a threat to democracy.” In a resolution, the World Jewish Congress called on Greece to consider banning extremist parties such as Golden Dawn.
Samaras (pictured below) on Sunday became the first sitting Greek prime minister of the last 100 years to visit a synagogue. He pledged that his government would do everything to rein in the extremists. The Greek government would enact legislation that will be “completely intolerant to violence and racism,” he said, noting that with neo-Nazi parties on the rise again in Europe, governments had to “be very careful not to let them gain ground as they did in the 1930s.”
Fifty Jewish community heads and representatives from around the world attended the series of events in Thessaloniki in commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust. They were co-organized by the Jewish Community of Thessaloniki. More than 48,000 Jews of Thessaloniki were deported between March and August of 1943 and 96 percent of them were murdered in the German death camps.
On Saturday, World Jewsh Congress representatives took part in a commemorative march organized by Thessaloniki’s mayor Yiannis Boutaris which attracted nearly 3,000 participants.
In his speech at the Monastiriotes Synagogue, Ronald Lauder thanked the survivors – some of whom were present and lit candles – for returning and rebuilding the Salonican community. He also praised Jewish community leader David Saltiel for his tremendous efforts in strengthening the community.
As part of the resolution, the WJC calls on Greece to “consider banning political parties, such as the Golden Dawn movement, which pose a serious danger to liberal democracy”; and also calls on the European Union to “ensure that political movements that actively espouse a platform of discrimination of ethnic or religious minorities, in contravention of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, are dealt with in a coordinated manner in all EU member states that law enforcement authorities receive all necessary support for the protection of citizens against such crimes.”
On Monday, the members of the WJC Executive will travel to Israel to hold talks with members of the newly appointed Israeli government and President Shimon Peres.
Resolution by WJC Executive Committee, adopted on 17 March 2013 in Thessaloniki, Greece
The Executive Committee of the World Jewish Congress, meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece on 17 March 2013 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the deportation of nearly 50,000 Thessaloniki Jews to the Nazi death camps where more than 48,000 of them were murdered:
EXPRESSES the solidarity of world Jewry with Greek Jews, many of who are suffering from growing anti-Semitism and economic hardship;
NOTES that Greece is the country where Democracy was born and that during World War II, thousands of Greeks gave their lives to protect freedom and in opposition to the barbarism of the Nazis;
NOTES with alarm the growing expressions of anti-Semitism and the rise of the extremist and violently racist Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) movement, which has parliamentary representation, manifest in: its open denial of the Shoah and the existence of gas chambers at Nazi death camps; a series of anti-Semitic and racist statements; and physical assaults on dark-skinned people and immigrants which have become an almost daily occurrence in Greece;
EXPRESSES its great concern that a part of Greek society appears not to be sufficiently alert as to where such hateful ideology can ultimately lead, with members of Greek law enforcement authorities being repeatedly accused of leniency toward Golden Dawn activists who brutally attacked immigrant workers, and with the Greek judiciary being weak in bringing those who commit hate crimes, to justice;
RECALLS with immense sadness the fact that the failure by Germany’s democratic parties to effectively combat the Nazis, led to the appointment, 80 years ago, of Adolf Hitler as German chancellor and the establishment of a murderous dictatorship that ultimately led to World War II and the Shoah;
URGES the Greek authorities to: take serious and concerted actions against Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia; implement all relevant European laws in that domain; and unite all democratic forces against the enemies of democracy, so as not to allow society to drift into the darkness of racial hatred and anti-Semitism.
CALLS on Greece to consider banning political parties, such as the Golden Dawn movement, which pose a serious danger to liberal democracy;
CALLS on the European Union to ensure that political movements that actively espouse a platform of discrimination of ethnic or religious minorities, in contravention of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, are dealt with in a coordinated manner in all EU member states and that law enforcement authorities receive all necessary support for the protection of citizens against such crimes.