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ANTI-SEMITISM IN GREECE
Την ερχόμενη Πέμπτη (8.30μμ) θα απονεμηθούν
τα βραβεία του διαγωνισμού για τη συγγραφή διηγήματος με θέμα τον αντισημιτισμό
τον ρατσισμό και την ξενοφοβία σε εκδήλωση που θα απονεμηθεί στο αίθριο
της Ενωσης Ελλήνων Θεατρικών Συγγραφέων. Ο διαγωνισμός ήταν αφιερωμένος
στην μνήμη των Ελλήνων Εβραίων μαρτύρων του Ολοκαυτώματος και διοργανώθηκε
από την Ελληνική Ραδιοφωνία και το Κεντρικό Ισραηλιτικό Συμβούλιο.
include cemeteries and synagogues. The report includes information on the history of each sites and its current condition. Descriptions of necessary maintenance and restoration work are included, as well as costs. These
range from a few thousand dollars needed for some sites to much larger budgets for the more seriously damaged and endangered places. Among the cemeteries, the report documents the sites of Xanthi, Chalkis (where restoration has already begun) and Athens. The report also reports on the status of the synagogues at Chania (Etz Hayyim, where restoration of the structure was recently completed), the Ioanniotiki Synagogue in Athens, and
Trikala's Kal Yavanim.
While most of Greece's Jewish population
killed during World War II, some Jewish monuments still stand. They
stand, however, in danger. ISJM has posted the Central Board of Jewish
Communities in Greece's report on the web at http://www.isjm.org/country/greece/project.htm
in the hope that the international community will be able to provide assistance.
The small Greek Jewish community, despite its best efforts, is unable to
carry out and finance this work on its own.
The premiere of Shimon
Apeltoni's film "From Salonika to Jerusalem" (with the cooperation of the
historian Yitzhak Kerem) is today, May the 15th, in Leo Model Theater
(Ulam), Gerard Behar Center, Bezalel Str 11.
| The Central Jewish
Council (KIS) of Greece has protested the intention of including Bulgaria
among the countries who have helped jews during WWII. It's president M.
Konstantinis has said that Bulgaria was an ally of the Nazis (albeit an
unwilling and oportunistic one). As a result, Bulgaria was not awarded
a prize in the Sweden Conference last February and the bulgarian press
(according to the KIS Buletin) attacked the greek
jews and Mr. Konstantinis personally.
The situation of Bulgaria and its jews is very controversial: Bulgaria (unlike Greece) has established anti-semitic laws in early 1941 - which were protested by many figures in the Bulgarian legal opposition in the parliament and by the Orthodox Church (metropolits of Sofia, Plovdiv and Vidin). It has succesfully prevented the nazis from sending their jews to extermination camps - but there is a big disagreement between bulgarian jews whether the credit should go to King Boris, the legal oposition or the communist-lead resistance - the fact that this happened during an "inflexion point" of history, when the fortunes of war changed, makes difficult any objective judgement. Bulgaria has, on the other hand, sent to the camps the jews of Bulgarian occupied West Thrace, East Macedonia
and Yugoslav Macedonia (some 13,000 of them) of which almost nobody was saved (in Greece less than 80 people). Bulgarians tend to pass the responsibility to the germans, but greek-jewish historians blame the bulgarians for the rounding up, under the leadership of Commisar of Jewish affairs Belev. The bulgarians usually apparently claimed that the jews of the region of Southern Dobruca, given by the Nazis to Bulgaria (it was romanian during the inter-war period) were not given to the nazis, because unlike the jews of the occupied regions of Greece and Yugoslavia they accepted Bulgarian Nationality. In the Yad Vashem Bulletin last fall there
is an item on a congress on Bulgarian Jewry which ended with chairs being broken.
The tragic irony of the case is that greek jews can say that their fate might have been infinitely better if Greece had been an ally of the axis (like neighbouring Bulgaria), or had kept an ambivalent neutrality (like neighbouring Turkey), or had lost the war to Italy. Greece, on the other hand, cannot be blamed for being on the ally side after being attacked by Italy in October 1940 and Germany in April 1941.
Needless to say, of course, that although one should be unwilling to take any action against Bulgaria - a positive Balkan country, which has no territorial claims against its neighbours and takes part in Balkan initiatives - there should be a way of honouring Bulgaria's saving of her jews without burrying the memory of the jews of greek Macedonia and Thrace and Yugoslav Macedonia.
|ATHENS, Greece (AP) Greece's Jewish
community, almost wiped out during World War II, said Tuesday that it will
launch a campaign to raise about $1 million to save its few remaining synagogues
Jewish leaders said they decided to act after vandals last week splashed red paint on a Holocaust memorial and sprayed swastikas with the German word ''raus,'' or ''get out,'' on a synagogue in Thessaloniki.
The vandalism in Thessaloniki hit a sore spot as more than 90 percent of the 80,000-strong Jewish community in that northern port were killed in Nazi death camps. Only 5,000 Jews remain in Greece.
The Jewish leaders said many Jewish holy sites around Greece have been taken over, destroyed or allowed to fall apart, despite Jewish protests to the government.
Moses Constantini, head of Greece's Central Board of Jewish Communities, said he is seeking to raise just over $1 million to fence some cemeteries and repair at least one synagogue on the verge of collapse.
Constantini said he is looking abroad because of government indifference and he plans to go to Washington next week and attend the annual meeting of the American Jewish Committee. ''I don't want to build anything. I just want to save monuments,'' he said.
'These monuments have historic value and great significance for European and world Jewish history,'' he said. ''If these monuments are not protected efficiently, it is certain that in the course of time they will be trespassed upon, destroyed and lost, as unfortunately has been the case in the past.''
He said although cemeteries are protected by law, some towns have appropriated the land, in one case building a road through one and in another building a reservoir in the middle of one.
''Some of these cemeteries have no walls, even shepherds graze sheep through them,'' Constantini said. ''We just want to build a wall around them, to respect the dead and the monuments.''
''After the Holocaust the motto was `first the living and then the dead,''' he said. ''Now the new generation wants to save its heritage. The slogan now is `not to lose one stone more.'''
The first recorded Jewish community in Greece is thought to date to 300 B.C.
The country once had 27 Jewish communities,
but after the Holocaust many survivors went to the United States and Israel,
leaving Greece with three organized communities.
The 2000 Presdent Meeting of the European Council of Jewish Communities took place in Barcelona on the 28 & 29 of May. 116 delegates (Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Treasurers) from 34 countries and 51 communities attended the meeting, which, after adopting a new constitution, focussed on its key concerns; namely, education, social welfare, restitution and culture & heritage.
Mr. Cobi Benatoff, a delegate from
Italy, was unanimously re-elected to the Presidency
of the ECJC. Mr Benatoff, under whose leadership the ECJC has grown
in both strength and reputation, undertook to continue his efforts on
Following the opening Plenary session, during which gretings were received from Mr. Schorr, the Preisdent of the Spanish Federation of Jewish Communities, and from Mr. Ehud Barak, the Prime Minister of Israel, the delegates broke into workshop groups to discuss the following issues:
LEADERSHIP & COMMUNITIES
ATTRACTING THE MISSING GENERATION
FUNDRAISING FOR LOCAL NEEDS
JEWISH EDUCATION FOR ADULTS
As European countries draw together under the umbrella of the EU, the ECJC is determined to emulate this historic process in relation to Europe's Jewish communities. Forging closer links, pursuing common goals and ensuring the security and well-being of Jewish communities throughout Europe, is the task to which it has set its hand.
The first condemned the desecration of the Jewish cemetary in Athens and called on the Greek government to bring to justice the perpetrators of all such acts. (see text below)
The second urged the Swedish Parliament not to proceed with legislation which could make it illegal the practice of Brit Mila (circumcision). (see text below)
RESOLUTION ON THE EVENTS IN ATHENS
We urge the Greek Government to take immediate action to prevent further racist acts and to ensure that those responsible are brought to Justice.
In the name of the ECJC Board and
RESOLUTION ON THE DRAFT LAW IN SWEDEN
Sould this proposal be voted, it wll poorly reflect on Sweden's well deserved reputation as a nation supporting the very utmost in personal and ethnic freedom.
In the name of the ECJC Board and
For more information Michel Montreuil +33 1 4315 8500 / +33 6 0770 6677 firstname.lastname@example.org
May 3, 2000 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The American Jewish Committee today honored Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou for his extraordinary contributions to Greek-Jewish and Greek-Israeli relations.
“It is especially gratifying for me to see the revolution in Greek-Israeli relations that has taken place over the past two decades,” said AJC Executive Director David A. Harris, who made the presentation to Minister Papandreou.“There is no better friend in Greece of the Jewish community, of Israel, and of the United States than you, Mr. Papandreou.”
Mr. Harris spoke after the Foreign Minister addressed AJC’s Annual Meeting. Mr. Papandreou praised the American Jewish Committee for furthering Greek-Jewish relations, and also spoke warmly of Ambassador Alfred H. Moses, the former AJC president who is the Clinton Administration’s point man on the negotiations to resolve the Cyprus conflict.
“I am proud to be here today among friends and colleagues who have worked enthusiastically and diligently so that these collaborative ties have survived the test of time,” said Mr. Papandreou. “Today those ties have blossomed through the tireless efforts of people like David Harris.”
Praising AJC as an organization, the foreign minister said: “The American Jewish Committee has demonstrated a longstanding interest in advancing Greek-Jewish relations and interreligious dialogue through frequent visits to Greece and by maintaining warm relations with the Greek American community.”
Among the 600 luncheon guests were top leaders of the Greek Jewish community, who are participating in the AJC Annual Meeting, as well as leaders of the Greek American community.
Addressing AJC the day after Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Mr. Papandreou said, “education of future generations on the Holocaust is essential” to prevent the rise of racism and discrimination.
“When I was Minister of Education a few years ago, I formed a committee whose task was to search all Greek school textbooks and remove any references that might be considered anti-Semitic,” said Mr. Papandreou. “I am glad to say that this task was completed under my aegis.”
He pointed out that under the initiative of one of the luncheon guests, Mrs. Fotini Konstantopoulu, Greece transferred to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum the archives of Greek Jewish communities.
Mr. Papandreou recalled that under the postwar government led by his grandfather, “Greece became the first country in Europe to return Jewish properties that had been confiscated during the Nazi occupation and reinstated citizenship and employment in the public sector for the Jewish population.”
Reviewing recent developments in Greek-Israel relations, Mr. Papandreou proclaimed: “I am delighted that our relations have never been better.”
He noted that in ten days he would
be accompanying the President of Greece, Costis Stephanopoulos, to Israel.
He also expressed “Greece’s active
support for Israel’s admission to the West European and Others Group (WEOG),
which would enable Israel to serve on the UN Security Council and other
deliberative bodies.” The American Jewish Committee has spearheaded a diplomatic
advocacy effort, meeting regularly with European
On the peace process, Mr. Papandreou
said, “Greece has continuously been a staunch supporter of this process.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is both a pleasure and an honor for me to be here with you today.
My presence here is a symbol of the strong ties between the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Central Board of Greece, and the Greek people throughout the latter part of the 20th century. The American Jewish Committee has demonstrated a long-standing interest in advancing Greek-Jewish relations and inter-religious dialogue, both through frequent visits to Greece, and by maintaining warm relations with the Greek American community. I am proud to be here today among friends and colleagues who have worked diligently and enthusiastically to ensure that these collaborative ties have survived the test of time, and blossomed through the tireless efforts of people like Mr. David Harris.
I also take personal pride in my own family’s contribution to the Greek-Jewish friendship. On August 24, 1944, the Greek liberation government, led by my grandfather and namesake, George Papandreou, resolved that the Greek government waive its legal right of inheritance to all properties whose owners had not left descendants to the fourth degree. This property was transferred to a common fund to aid Jews impoverished by the war. The Greek state became the first in Europe to return Jewish properties that had been confiscated during the war, and to reinstate citizenship and employment in the public sector for the Jewish population.
It is a little known fact that, in 1948, attorney Milton Winn, a representative of the American Jewish Council, suggested that Greek legislation on Jewish property be used as a model for other European nations. I learned about Milton Winn from a recent volume on the history of Greek Jews in the first half of the 20th century, published by the Service of Historical Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Jewish and lay community of Greece received the book with acclaim and I am glad to say that it is the brainchild of Mrs. Fotini Konstantopoulou who I am delighted to have join us today.
I believe that education is the only way to truly prevent the rise of racism and discrimination. When I was Minister of Education a few years ago, I formed a committee whose task was to search all Greek school textbooks and remove any references that might be considered anti-Semitic. I am glad to say that this task was completed under my aegis.
As a Greek, born in America, and
educated in Canada, Sweden and England, I feel very much at home among
you. For the Greeks, like the Jews, are a people of the diaspora, a people
shaped by a glorious but fractured history. We share a powerful destiny
that has both divided and united us: divided by religious and political
conflicts, by occupation and persecution, by war and exile; united by unshakeable
faith, by a common spirit of solidarity, by an invincible will to
Our ancestors have transcended an often painful and tragic history to create thriving, mufti-cultural communities across the globe. Whenever I visit a Greek community abroad, I am always struck by how brightly the flame of Hellenism burns in their hearts. Scattered in far-flung corners of the world, from Tashkent to Tarpon Springs, while they retain the very essence of Hellenism, these Greeks strike me as true citizens of our growing global community. Whether Americans or Greeks, Orthodox or Jews, our dual identity gives us a balanced, inclusive perspective on our neighbours, our heritage, our homelands.
It is this collective conscience that I believe is our greatest asset in our common quest for world peace. It is this collective conscience that allows us to lay claims to the very foundations of globalization.
Both in Israel and in Greece, great progress has been made in this direction during the past year. Politicians and citizens alike have taken bold initiatives to overcome the divisive conflicts of the past. The Peace Process in the Middle East now looks closer than ever to a genuine breakthrough, thanks to wise statesmanship, increasing popular support, and multilateral diplomatic efforts.
I am proud to say that Greece has played a constructive role in this process, by hosting a series of meetings between Israelis and Palestinians known as the Athens Dialogue. Our goal is to create a forum where all sides can exchange views and explore new avenues for cooperation, in a spirit of mutual tolerance and understanding. I believe we achieved our goal.
For Greece, hosting the Athens Dialogue was not a one-off initiative, sparked by national interests or allegiances. It is part of a broader framework of diplomatic initiatives aimed at strengthening ties among neighbours, creating political and non-governmental links between peoples, developing the economic and strategic communion of interests that will prevent crises and defuse tensions. At the gateway between East and West, Greece has always been a cultural, commercial and defensive bridge between Europe and Asia, the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Today, Greek foreign policy is firmly founded on the principle of promoting regional security and stability. Greece's key role as diplomatic mediator in regional affairs was proven during the Kosovo crisis last year. We acted as an intermediary between our Balkan neighbors and our NATO allies, and our persistent efforts helped bring about a peaceful solution to the conflict. Greek humanitarian operations were matched by Israel’s commendable humanitarian aid in FYROM.
Like the Middle East, the Balkans have a volatile history. Lasting solutions to age-old problems do not come easy. We are still working hard to create greater stability in South East Europe, through a cohesive framework of integrated regional policies. But if our goals are farsighted, we are bound to accomplish a more permanent peace. We would welcome the involvement of Israel in the reconstruction of the Balkans.
Greece’s own recent history is a
prime example of how consistent progress can change the political and economic
map. Greece is now fully integrated into the European Union. We are committed
to help bring our neighbors closer to the European democratic model. Why?
Because we know from experience that our neighbor’s strength is our
In this context, Greece took the
initiative to bring about a rapprochement with Turkey. Yesterday my Turkish
counterpart Ismael Cem and I were awarded a prize for our joint efforts
to improve Greek-Turkish relations. A year ago, nobody could have
predicted this sea change in our relations. What began as a tentative attempt
at meaningful dialogue between two long-standing rivals, has already brought
tangible and far-reaching results. Earlier this year,
We owe much credit to our respective peoples: Popular consensus is the critical factor that will always make or break government policy. During the earthquakes that rocked Greece and Turkey last summer, our citizens expressed a simple truth: that what unites our two nations is far greater than what has divided us for too long. Along with broken homes and crushed lives, those terrible quakes shattered decades of prejudice and bitterness.
The road to reconciliation is not paved with roses. Both in Greece and Turkey, there have been voices of dissent. Extremist militant and nationalist elements have attempted to undermine this rapprochement. And of course, there are serious issues that we have yet to address -first and foremost Cyprus. The “Green Line” that continues to divide Cyprus is a barbed thorn in the side of a united and peaceful Europe, a united and peaceful Mediterranean. Cyprus can and must become a showcase - living proof of how different races and religions can live together in harmony, as they did for centuries. We sincerely hope the Honorary President of the American Jewish Committee, Ambassador Alfred Moses, will help us to achieve the reunification of Cyprus, he has a rare chance in helping bring down the last remaining Berlin Wall.
There are potential stumbling blocks - but we will not falter in our determination to create real stability throughout the region. Our faith in a peaceful future must never subside.
Tracing back the history of Greek-Israeli
relations, I am delighted that our bilateral relations have never been
better. Israel is our biggest trade partner in the Middle East, and joint
business ventures are multiplying. Tourism, energy and high technology
are just some areas of fruitful cooperation. Greece actively supports Israel’s
admission to the West European and Others Group (WEOG), which would enable
Israel to serve on the UN Security Council and other
In recent years, the Greek government has worked closely with the Jewish Central Board and Jewish communities throughout Greece, in an effort to preserve and promote the Judeo-Christian heritage of the Greek people. The Museum of the Jewish History of Thessaloniki was founded in 1997, and a Memorial to the Jews of Thessaloniki was erected in 1995, In May 1999, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed an agreement with the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC for the exchange of documents associated with the Greek Jews. Thus, today, the history of Greek Jews is available to the public on both sides of the Atlantic.
The historic bond between Greeks and Jews goes back a long way. During the Second World War, the Greek authorities issued 18.500 false identity papers to protect Jews hiding from the Nazis. Nevertheless, 86% of the Greek Jewish population was annihilated. One of the few survivors was Yitzak Persky, a Polish volunteer fighting in the British army. Persky was captured by the Germans but escaped with the help of Greek resistance fighters, who hid him in a monastery near Athens. With this brave gesture, fifty years ago, the Greeks made a fateful contribution to world peace: Yitzak Persky was the father of Shimon Peres, Israel’s Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The new century got off to an auspicious start for me: I was lucky enough to usher in the new millennium in the Holy Land. In January 2000, I accompanied our President, Costis Stephanopoulos, on an official visit, to Jerusalem. But this journey was also a personal pilgrimage, which resonated deeply for me, my wife and daughter. I guess my lucky star is still shining. In a couple of weeks, I look forward to visiting Israel for the second time this year, in the company of President Stephanopoulos.
Thank you very much.
Copyright: Kol haKEHILA 2000.
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