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Greek Jews Get Some Overdue Support

PM Antonis Samaras makes an unlikely visit to the Thessaloniki synagogue

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Thessaloniki Synagogue(Flickr)

Much has been written about the status of the Jewish community in Greece, which in recent years has faced a number of threats–direct and symbolic–after the Greek economy withered. Among them, the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, violence against the community and foreigners, the scapegoating of Jews for the financial crisis, and a surge in Holocaust denial.

But as the community gathered to mark the 70th anniversary of the deportation of some 46,000 Jews from Thessaloniki to Auschwitz, the group got a brief reprieve when Prime Minister Antonis Samaras joined the commemoration. From the JTA:

Greece’s government, besieged by an economic crisis and unwilling to confront an emerging populist party, has said little about Golden Dawn’s violent activities against immigrants and anti-Semitic outbursts. But Samaras’ presence in Thessaloniki, and his vow to be “completely intolerant to violence and racism,” appeared to mark a shift.

“For me, this was something that I saw now for the first time,” said David Saltiel, president of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece. “It was the first time for a prime minister in a synagogue, and also for him to be so clear that he wanted this to symbolize his tough decision not to permit racism and anti-Semitism.”

It was the first visit by a Greek premier to a synagogue in over a century.

Earlier: Golden Dawn Rising in Greece
Greek Jews Get Sudden Boost in Neo-Nazi Fight [JTA]

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A.C. Helios says:

As a Greek-American, one blessed with many Jewish friends and acquainted with Greek Jews, I am beyond appalled and ashamed at the response to the fascist Golden Dawn. Not only is Golden Dawn in Greek Parliament, but its leaders intimidate, threaten, allegedly pay off police, and most poisonous of all, spread vile misinformation.

To compound matters, it and groups like it are taking root in the UK and Czech Republic along with Austria. Leaders have even tried to open offices in NYC and Chicago, where they were just out by the latter. The unfortunate economic situation in Greece seems right out of a history book of 1920s and ’30s Germany.

No one took much notice then, and do not seem to now. No major market or cable news network, other than ABC, and no other print and net news service other than the Washington Post and Yahoo (and Tablet, of course), have reported on it. Given the media outlets and world-wide ability for communication, this is absolutely inexcusable.

It is also an insult to Greek-Americans who fought overseas in WWII, Greeks who were part of the resistance and helped their fellow Greek Jews to go underground or out of the country, and to the Jews, Greek and otherwise, who either perished or barely survived death camps.

Whether it is Holocaust denial and minimization or threats and acts of intimidation, it is completely unacceptable, and for political leaders such as Samaras to not make anti-fascism and anti-Semitism a first priority is practically criminal. He is supposed to make sure that all citizens are safe, and protected by an honest police force.

The visit was fine, as were his few words of support, but Samaras must say it clearer, with more force to many more, and act upon his claims to make a difference. We can never forget, and just as importantly, must never allow plans for another Holocaust to form ever again.

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Greek Jews Get Some Overdue Support

PM Antonis Samaras makes an unlikely visit to the Thessaloniki synagogue

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