ATHENS – World Jewish Congress Ronald S. Lauder on Monday addressed an official Holocaust commemoration ceremony in the Greek capital Athens, and in recalling the tragedy that nearly destroyed the Jewish community in Greece, asked whether the world has really learnt the lessons of the Holocaust.
“What has been the world’s reaction to the genocides since 1945? In Cambodia: silence! In Rwanda: silence! In Darfur: silence! Christians are being slaughtered today throughout the Middle East and Africa, and the world is silent. Indifference has not gone away,” Lauder told the gathering. “The slogan ‘Never Again’ is easy to say but it’s really meaningless, because it happens again and again. And unless we want our children and grandchildren dealing with the same questions, it is time for this silence to end, once and for all.”
“The Jewish community here suffered such a heart-breaking loss. Almost 90 percent of the thriving Jewish population in Greece was murdered in World War II. Mothers, fathers, children… so many children. But we should always remember that this was not just a tragedy for the Jewish people. It was a tragedy for Greece as well. Greece lost some of its best and most productive citizens when the Jewish community was destroyed. When the Nazis came here in 1941 everyone lost,” Lauder added.
Lauder also highlighted the resistance of many Greeks against the occupiers during World War II, mentioning the people of Zakynthos, who hid the island’s Jews from the Nazis, Greek-Orthodox Archbishop Damaskinos, who instructed church members to issue false identity cards to Jews, and the “many ordinary Greeks whose name we will never know: they all set an example for the entire world to follow.”
The WJC president ended his speech by saying: “I am optimistic. The friendship between the Greek people and the Jewish people is as strong as it is old. And we look forward to an even stronger relationship with the government and the people of Greece for many years to come.”
Lauder: ‘Golden Dawn dangerous to everybody’
In an interview with the newspaper ‘Kathimerini’, which appeared over the weekend, Lauder highlighted the need to fight anti-Jewish prejudice through education and remembrance.
“From what I heard, a lot of anti-Semitic stereotypes persist in Greece, but the actual number of anti-Jewish attacks is lower than in other countries. The way I interpret this is that we need more education to get rid of these stereotypes. Holocaust remembrance also important.
“On this point, I am happy to hear that an agreement of understanding and cooperation has been signed between the Greek Ministry of education, the Jewish Museum of Greece and Yad Vashem. This is the sort of thing we need: cooperation,” Lauder told the newspaper.
The WJC president also urged Greeks to fight extreme-right, anti-Semitic parties such as Golden Dawn. “They are dangerous in the longer term if permitted to spew their vile hatred. Dangerous to everybody, not just to minorities,” he told ‘Kathimerini’.
Kathimerini interview (English version): http://www.ekathimerini.com/215700/article/ekathimerini/news/world-jewish-congress-chief-hails-greek-israeli-relations
Kathimerini interview (Greek version):