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Deputy FM Amanatidis’ address, representing the government and the Prime Minister, at the events marking the Day of Remembrance for Greek Jewish Martyrs and Heroes of the Holocaust, in Thessaloniki
“Ladies and Gentlemen,
On 27 January 1945, the gates of Auschwitz closed forever. For those who, beyond hope, survived, this was the end of a march of death through the most painful pages of European history. For humanity it was the realization of the end of an era in which time stopped before the horrors of mankind.
Before the Second World War, over 79,000 Jews lived in Greece. After the war and the Holocaust, almost 90% of the Greek Jews had been exterminated. The highest price was paid by the community of Thessaloniki, the country’s largest Jewish community, the onetime Jerusalem of the Balkans, from which I hail, and whose death toll remains an eternal cresset marking the suffering of the Greek Jews in the Third Reich’s concentration camps.
The term Holocaust denotes the genocide of six million European Jews by the Nazis. The premeditated effort to eradicate a people, under the gaze of compliant observers and the tangible proof of the heroic Greeks, “Righteous Among the Nations”, who, in self-sacrifice, fought to save their fellow citizens.
More than 70 years after the first deportations of Greek Jews to the death camps of the Third Reich, one phrase remains strong: May humanity “Never Again” experience such atrocities. It is still up to us to meditate on the conditions that create tragedies. The evils that arise without warning, poisoning societies until the universal human values of life, liberty and dignity find no shelter in human souls. As Greeks, we shoulder the weight of the principles and values that were first articulated here in this country and are now being reaffirmed on the shores of the Greek islands, where, with respect and dignity, supplicant refugees are welcomed, reminding us of the moral weight of events and their consequences.
The Greek Jews are an intrinsic part of the Greece that fought for Europe, a land of peace and prosperity where human life is the highest value. Memories are indelible, but they can be distorted. It is thus our duty not only to sustain memory, to prevent similar suffering, but also to defend the truth and rights of the people who define this memory. Especially those for whom the epitaph commands: Illustrious men have the whole earth for their tomb.