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Greece, US Condemn Vandalism of the Holocaust Memorial in Thessaloniki

Vandals desecrated the Holocaust memorial in Thessaloniki with a red swastika and a red Celtic Cross. Credit: Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece

Vandals desecrated earlier in the week a Holocaust memorial in Thessaloniki, a Greek city whose population once had a Jewish plurality.

A photo appearing Thursday on the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece website showed a red swastika daubed on a grave that symbolizes the tombstones destroyed by the Nazis after they deported more than 90% of Thessaloniki’s population to death camps.

Additionally, a red Celtic Cross, a white supremacist symbol, defiled one of five historical markers lining the site at Aristotle University, on the ground where the cemetery once was.

The monument, installed in 2014, features a metal menorah and a star of David positioned slightly askew to symbolize the destruction of the ancient community. It was previously vandalized in 2018 twice and once in 2019.

“We condemn the unholy act of the vandals, followers of intolerance and antisemitism that express their hatred and fanaticism through the profanation of the memory of the Salonican Jews,” the site quoted the city’s Jewish community as saying in a statement. “No tolerance to antisemitism!”

Greece, US condemn the vandalism of Thessaloniki’s Holocaust memorial

The Greek Foreign Ministry condemned the vandalism. In a statement it said:

“The Greek state and society utterly reject any act of racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism wherever it may be carried out. All the more so when such acts occur in a city that mourned 50,000 members of its historic Jewish community, our compatriots, who became victims during the Holocaust under Nazism, just because they were Jews. There can be no tolerance for such illegal and immoral actions.”

The US Embassy in Athens also condemned the vandalism. In a written statement Ambassador George Tsunis said that “this unconscionable act desecrates the lives and precious memory of the 50,000 Jews from Thessaloniki the Nazis murdered during the Holocaust.

Holocaust memorial Thessaloniki
Credit: Twitter/US Embassy in Athens

Thessaloniki was the cultural hub for Sephardic Jews

The Holocaust of the Greek Jews was one of the darkest episodes of the Nazi occupation of the country.

Once part of thriving communities in several Greek cities, approximately 59,000 Greek Jews were victims of the Holocaust — at least 83 percent of the total number living in Greece at the time of World War II and the German Occupation.

Thessaloniki was the cultural hub for Sephardic Jews who had been expelled from Spain in 1492.

The city counted 50,000 Jews, about two-thirds of Greek Jewry. Thessaloniki Jews were politically, economically, and socially well-integrated into Greek society after hundreds of years living there.

Related: The Holocaust of Greek Jews: When 59,000 Perished in Nazi Camps

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