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Jewish Mural Vandalized in Thessaloniki, Greece

Vandalised mural in Thessaloniki
A Jewish Holocaust mural near the Thessaloniki central train station was vandalized amid the Israel-Hamas war. Credit: Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece

On Sunday evening, a Jewish Holocaust mural in Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki, was vandalised once more. Unknown perpetrators defaced the mural with the words “Free Gaza,” “Free Palestine,” and “Jews = Nazis.”

The mural, honoring Holocaust victims and Thessaloniki’s perished Jews, faced additional desecration. Namely, the vandals have also blackened the six-pointed Star of David, which the three children depicted had on their lapels.

In response, the Central Jewish Council of Greece issued a statement on Monday, firmly denouncing the vandalism. It proclaims that the time for tolerating anti-Semitism is now over, adding that “neither in Greece nor in Europe, free voices can allow the return of pogroms against the Jews.”

Meanwhile, Thessaloniki authorities have launched an investigation to identify the vandals.

Vandalism of Jewish Monuments of Thessaloniki

It is not the first act of vandalism of the Jewish monuments in Thessaloniki. The same mural was desecrated in 2021. Greece condemned the defacement, recalling the city’s Jews’ extermination in Nazi camps.

The Jewish Community of Thessaloniki also criticized the vandalism of the mural. Created by the “Vardaris Neighborhood Team” under the direction of the “UrbanAct” art collective, the mural was marred shortly after completion. The community emphasized the importance of combating racism and anti-Semitism through education and historical awareness.

In December 2022, vandals defiled a Holocaust memorial near the center of Thessaloniki. They depicted a red swastika on a grave that symbolized the gravestones demolished by the Nazis. The vandals also marred one of the five historical markers at Aristotle University with a red Celtic Cross, a symbol associated with white supremacy. The monument, erected in 2014, previously suffered vandalism in 2018 and 2019.

The Greek Foreign Ministry and US Embassy in Athens condemned the vandalism as well. The Ministry highlighted the importance of rejecting racism and anti-Semitism.

Tragedy of the Jews of Thessaloniki

Almost the entire Jewish population of Thessaloniki was tragically exterminated during the Holocaust. Before the deportations, a vibrant Jewish community, mostly comprised of Sephardic Jews whose roots go back to the expulsion from Spain in 1492, flourished as the “Jerusalem of the Balkans.”

The atrocities of 1943 unfolded with the arrival of specialists Alois Brunner and Dieter Wisliceny, who introduced strict Nuremberg laws, including the mandatory wearing of yellow badges and tough restrictions on movement. The first convoy departed on March 15, 1943, carrying between a thousand to four thousand Jews off to various destinations, including Auschwitz.

Additional transports were sent to Treblinka, and some residents were potentially transported to Sobibor. Due to the significant Jewish population, the deportation process dragged on for several months and concluded on August 7th.

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