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Greek Jews Get Some Overdue Support

PM Antonis Samaras makes an unlikely visit to the Thessaloniki synagogue

Adam Chandler
March 29, 2013
Thessaloniki Synagogue(Flickr)
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.

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.