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.
Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.