A newly appointed Greek minister apologized to the Jewish community for a remark he made in 2009 about Auschwitz and the Holocaust.
Thanos Plevris, a lawyer, who became Minister for Health after Tuesday’s cabinet reshuffle said on Wednesday that the Jewish community’s objections to his court comments were “understandable.”
Earlier, the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) expressed its concern over his appointment. The board also demanded an apology for comments made by Plevris in 2009 while defending a man accused of inciting racism by saying that the Auschwitz concentration camp should be kept in good condition so it can be used again.
The board’s full statement, as it appears on its website, is as follows:
In 2009, Mr. Thanos Plevris stated the following, inter alia, before the Greek Court of Justice: “I will refer to issues that have puzzled you. You are concerned about the reference to Auschwitz. The one that says ‘to keep the camp of Auschwitz in good conditions.’ I will examine the most extreme interpretation. That the defendant with this reference means: ‘Keep the camp of Auschwitz in good conditions because I want, at some point, the national socialist regime to come back, Hitler to come back, take the Jews and put them in Auschwitz.’ What kind of instigation is this? What incitement is this? Is it that one is not allowed to believe and want to believe that ‘I want to exterminate someone?'”
We expect Mr. Thanos Plevris to apologize to the Jewish people for this reference and express his unequivocal condemnation of intolerance, antisemitism and Holocaust denialists, conforming with the declared positions of the Greek Prime Minister. We also hope that the new Minister will address all citizens equally, regardless of skin color, race or religion.
In Facebook post, Plevris said that that KIS’ objections to his court comments were “understandable”.
“But I never wanted to insult the Jewish people, and I apologize if I did,” the 44-year-old lawyer said. “I am certain that…as health minister, I will leave not the slightest grounds for reservation for those who doubt my respect for the Holocaust, and they will see that under no circumstances do I harbor antisemitic sentiments.”
Plevris first elected with LAOS party
The 44-year-old Greek politician was first elected to the Hellenic Parliament for the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) at the 2007 parliamentary election. He was subsequently elected to the European Parliament in June 2009, before returning to the national parliament at the election held in October of the same year.
When the Popular Orthodox Rally failed to reach the electoral threshold of 3% at the May 2012 election, Plevris joined New Democracy and became the party’s first substitute after the election held the following month.
A few months after being elected to the Athens city council in May 2014, he was sworn in as a member of parliament for the third time in November 2014, replacing Dimitris Avramopoulos who had resigned his seat in order to serve on the European Commission. Plevris failed to be re-elected at the elections of January and September 2015, but was returned to the legislature at the 2019 election.