Holocaust Remembrance Day of Greek Jewry
By Henry Levy
Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America (left) at a conference with Jewish leaders. Photo: Julian Voloj
"This evening is a tribute to the Jewish people of Salonika," said Archbishop Demetrious during the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day of Greek Jewry ceremony recently. He recounted the 2300 year history of Jewish people from the time of Alexander the Great through World War II, when 50,000 of the 300,000 residents of Salonika were Jewish, to today when there are about 1500 Jews.
The event was hosted by the Hon. Georgious Iliopoulos, Consul General of Greece in New York. It was just three weeks ago that he assumed this new position, yet he embraced this important event. He said that Greeks refer to the Holocaust as a crime and the death of Greek Jews as a crime against Greece.
Rabbi Martin Cohen, spiritual leader of the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece offered his solemn prayer. He said, "Here on this sad but holy occasion to mourn, to commemorate and to be sure our souls are devoid of anger - at this moment it is incumbent for us to rededicate ourselves to our faith."
Dr. Laura Molho Sard gave her testimony of her own journey to freedom as a hidden child during the Holocaust. She was only ten years old, from a middle class family, and described that anxiety and terror pervaded the ghetto where Jews were concentrated. Only by using gold sovereigns was her father able to secure fake ID cards for his family. These cards saved them from Nazi searches on several occasions. She also cited the help of their landlady who hid them for a year in a cellar from German Jewish traitors.
"Pinkas Ha’Kehilot", The Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities from their Foundation Till After the Holocaust: Greece Jewry. Published by Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance, Jerusalem 1998. The publication of this book was possible by a grant of the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture and with assistance of the Library & Archives of Alliance Israelite Universelle, Paris. Authors: Dr. Bracha Rivlin, Yitzchak Kerem, Lea Bornstein-Makovetsky. Language Editor: Smadar Milo. Introduction: Adina Drechsler, Bracha Freundlich. Asistant: Hanna Vardi-Stern.
The woman who hid them swore to the Virgin Mary in Church to disclose nothing. Dr. Laura recalled that when Athens was finally liberated there was incredible happiness. That as survivors returned from Auschwitz and Birkenau no one believed them - but as more people told the same accounts, the Greeks had to believe. She ended her talk by citing "Never Again!"
Mr. Solomon Asser, President of the American Friends of the Jewish Museum of Greece told of how the museum project was originally founded in 1979 to help preserve the Jewish life in Greece. To learn more about this story visit www.jewishmuseum.gr.
The Hon. George Kaklikis, Ambassador of Greece to the United Nations, who had previously served as their Ambassador to Israel from 1999 to 2002, was also present. He told of his visit to Yad Vashem, where he saw piles of clothes, shoes, glasses and watches and it made him feel a bit responsible because even though he wasn't there at that time, he always questioned whether more could have been done to avoid this tragedy.
He continued, "This brings us to today's commitment to renew, to keep memories alive. Survivors all maintained a dignity and respect for those lost, which made many of us even more committed to the common cause to insure things like this should be eliminated."