Abravanel, the Blog

Jewish life and not only in Greece / Εβραϊκή ζωή και όχι μόνο στην Ελλάδα

Archive for Μαΐου 2015

Major Update: Church comes against Shoah Monument, Mayor accuses Jews

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 19/05/2015

A major update on the beleaguered Holocaust Memorial of the city of Kavala. A monument that initially was decided in 2004, took 11 years to sail through heavy protests and when finally announced, was canceled when the Star of David was considered aesthetically ugly by the Mayor Dimitra Tsanaka, (here is the statement by the Central Board of Jewish Communities of Greece).

The day the canceled unveiling was supposed to take place, a silent protest was organized by the main speaker Vasilis Ritzaleos. Many Jews, but many more Christians, showed up to manifest their solidarity and resolve to respect their own city history. Some were old-timers who remembered their Jewish friends, others were members from antifascist organizations who opposed Holocaust-denial. Another group was a highschool class which was accompanied by their teacher. There were also Jews from Israel who’s parents were from Kavala and had come especially for the inauguration.


The proposed Holocaust Monument at Kavala/ source:V.Ritzaleos

We have a detailed report by maior rishon, which I thank, which contradicts completely the report by the Athens News Agency (ΑΠΕ). I cannot know why ΑΠΕ’s report is misleading but it should be known the V.Lollidis was the correspondent for ΑΠΕ and contemporaneously works for the Press Office of the Municipality of Kavala; it certainly is legal but certainly a major breach of journalistic ethics not to disclose their direct relationship.


Groups of Israelis of Kavaliote origin who traveled for the inauguration/ source:mayor rishon

Anyway we have the full, unedited, speech by Mayor Tsanaka which you can read (unfortunately only in Greek, but do read the blog post by kavaliote journalist S.Christoforidou which also attended) in the link. Here’s the rundown:
The Mayor never apologized to the Jews. She only expressed her personal regret and apologies for those who came from away and may not be able to come again for financial reasons.
The Mayor blamed the Jews and especially the vice-president of the Jewish Central Board mr.Magrizos, for the cancellation.
The Mayor claimed that her own political group turned against her and needs the help from groups from the opposition to pass through the motion.
The Mayor admitted she canceled the event to protect the civil peace, after threats she received.
The Mayor admitted she asked for the Star of David removed or placed in the back or under the monument.

The Mayor said many things. She said she never had any problems, until she was forced to admit she was lying by opposition leader Verros. She claimed the Jews canceled it out of spite, despite that again she was called out for having announced the cancellation on Alpha Radio the same day ! She certainly claimed a lot of things, falling to continuous contradictions and being supported by lackeys who were trying to boo out the protesters who accused her of racism. In the end she offered to retract her initial statement and accept the monument – possible date June, 7th.


Protesters, Christians and Jews, in front of the Municipal Hall of Kavala/source: mayor rishon

In the meantime the international outcry had two distinct effects: mainstream political parties, (with the exception of the nazi Golden Dawn and the Communist Party of Greece), issued strong statements in favor of the monument and greek media followed along; a columnist jokingly remarked that Mayor Tsanaka singlehandedly united the political spectrum. On the other hand, one by one, the major opponents of the monument have come out publicly in a last minute effort to abort the inauguration:
1. The president of the municipal counsil Giorgos Grammenos stated on the radio that he is against the monument (in that place) because of his religious beliefs. He also asked for vice-mayor Lichounas, who is a major advocate for the monument, to resign because he no longer enjoys the trust of their political group. He is probably one of the 2 councilmen the Mayor mentioned as major opponents of the monument.
2. The Metropolis of Kavala made an announcement which practically pits herself against the monument, (source the local newspaper Χρονόμετρο). It denies the uniqueness of the Holocaust. It says that the Holocaust did not happen in Kavala (suggesting in other words, that it does not concern Kavala), although she says that more urgent is heightening the visibility for the «equally horrible genocides» of greeks which happened during the greco-turkish wars in Asia Minor ! She also claims the monument is not needed to keep the memory alive. Indicative is how the Star of David is perceived: it is an «ideological» symbol which is placed along the five-pointed satanic star !
This announcement confirms the rumors that the Metropolis played a major role in the delay from 2004 to 2015.

I would have liked to claim that this is an isolated incident but unfortunately it is not. Last year there was an effort to remove Thessaloniki’s Holocaust Monument which was thwarted by a combined effort by the Jewish Community and the Mayor Boutaris who had to pivot around members of his own administration. The uniqueness of Kavala is the protagonists were honest and managed to give us a clear view of greek antisemitism: the very existence of Jewish symbols is not to be tolerated on religious grounds, the Jews still conspire against us through Israel, we Christians have suffered just as much, the Holocaust did not happen here, it is not unique and does not concern us. The Orthodox Church still exerts a huge influence over greek politicians and unfortunately religious antisemitism remains a major part of her culture. And unfortunately we still need to be told by others that racism and antisemitism is not accepted by the rest of the world.


Christian students in support of the monument/ source:mayor rishon

I believe the Monument will go through. I am also certain that it will be vandalized, although this was to be expected in any case. What I am afraid is that the monument will remain orphan and orphans are quickly disposed off; with the Church and the Municipality against it, I do not find it unfathomable to move it in a year or two to a more obscure location because eg the pavement needs to be re-done. What I am afraid is that Courage in Greece is scarce and it bodes ill the fact that even dead, Jews cannot be welcome.  Still there were children that Sunday morning in front of the Municipality and these children had chosen to wear that yellow Magen David which everyone hated; so perhaps not all is lost. The Righteous were always few but our gratitude immense; may these boys and girls serve to redeem the sins of the fathers.

Posted in antisemitism, greece, Kavala | Με ετικέτα: , , , | 7 Σχόλια »

Greek mayor rejects Holocaust Memorial; Star of David persecuted again

Posted by Abravanel, the Blog στο 16/05/2015

By now you’ll have probably heard that the Municipality of Kavala, a medium sized city in the northern part of Greece, rejected a Holocaust Memorial which was to be unveiled in 3 days time. The Mayor was frank: the Star of David was unfit for the public because it is the sign of the Jewish religion. This candid confession might appear surprising for the average western reader who is used to a less overt antisemitism, but it is normal in Greece which is the most antisemitic non-Muslim country in the world and a modern nazi party is currently the 3rd strongest in the greek parliament. This article aims to provide a concise explanation to what happened, why it happened and what lessons we’re to learn; each segment can be read independently and if it seems long jump to the 3rd segment where all the substance lies.

Kavala home to a Jewish community since the biblical era, although the real boom was with the arrival of Jews fleeing Spain in 1492. They thrived and became an essential part of the economic and cultural life with prominent rabbis and western-style schools; roughly speaking they lived in harmony with Greek Christians and Turkish Muslims. When Kavala became greek in 1913 the Jews quickly accepted the new state and incorporated the greek language in the curriculum, while the State granted civil liberties and a considerable degree of autonomy. The defeat of Greece in the greco-turkish war in 1923 led to an influx of Asia Minor Christian Greeks and the change of the demography led to a worsening of living conditions and rise of antisemitism. Central was the blood libel in 1930 when a Jew was accused of murdering a christian child, Jewish shops smashed and a pogrom only narrowly averted. Still, the dictatorial regime of Metaxas in 1936 squashed the antisemitic groups and in 1940 Jews flocked to join the Greek army in numbers never before seen.

The deportation of Jews from Kavala in March 1943 by the BulgariansKavala during WW2 was occupied by Bulgaria which was allied to Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy. Bulgaria planned an ambitious plan of ethnic cleansing which would force part of the local greek population to self-declare bulgarian, another part to emigrate and those who denied to be exterminated. The Jews were considered Greek and the Greek Jews themselves refused to self-declare as «Bulgarians». This led to Bulgarians enforcing Nuremberg-style antisemitic laws and eventually rounding them up and handing them over to the Germans to be exterminated in german death camps. It should be noted that Bulgaria refused to hand over the Bulgarian Jews and it has garnered international acclaim for their saviour, for more information click on dr.Hagouel’s work here.
So the Jews of Kavala were murdered by the Germans because they were Jews and the Bulgaria helped them because she considered them Greek.
The totality of the Jews of Kavala were exterminated and only a handful survived. In the ’70s the last Jews either died or left for the bigger communities of Athens and Salonica. Nominally the community exists to take care of the cemetery and the property which still controls. The community has also made several gifts to the city by donating buildings, schools and indicative are events like president Victor Venouziou donating 300kgs of food for the needy Christians of the city.

Jews are not considered «real Greeks» by a large part of the Greek Christians and the Holocaust is not seen as part of the greek suffering during WW2; for many decades, as late as 2006, it was not even mentioned in the schools. The city of Kavala was no exception and despite systematic efforts by the surviving Jews of Kavala, the city refused to commemorate the murder of their families. In 2004 when the last survivors died a decision was made to erect some kind of monument; at the time the decision was highly controversial and accusations were flung abKAVALA MONUMout the secret agenda of the Jewz. In 2014 the Municipality finally condescended to erecting a simple plaque which was to be paid by the Jews themselves of course. The text was vetted by the municipality beforehand and it included the biblical verse «Remember and not forget» and beneath a Star of David «The Municipality of Kavala and its citizens in memory of their 1484 compatriots which were arrested on March, 4rd 1943 deported and exterminated in the death camps by the Nazis and their allies».

Three days before the ceremony, while invitations were sent and descendants of Kavaliot Jews were coming from Israel and the States, the mayor of Kavala Dimitra Tsanaka decided to cancel the ceremony. The reason was simple: the monument was not pleasing aesthetically and in specific the Star of David was deemed problematic because it is a sign of the Jewish religion. She also added that public display of Jewish symbols ensures vandalism. The Mayor telephoned the Central Board of the Jewish Communities (KIS) and asked for its removal as a requisite to accepting a Holocaust Memorial. The KIS vehemently rejected the proposal and made a furious announcement, denouncing the Mayor as insulting both of the Jewish religion and the memory of the Holocaust victims.

Indicative is the fact that she accused the former mayor Kostis Simitzis, which objected to her actions, of being a stooge of the Jews. «The Central Jewish Board told me the same things. What is your relation to them ?» were her exact words, which play fertile ground to the conspiracy theories which Greeks are so fond of.

Although the mayor alluded to external pressure, she did not specify their origins. A prime example would be people like rabid pro-Palestinian Christos Melidis, who considers the monument as an afront to Gaza victims. His mixture of antisemitism, antizionism, anti-islamic, anti-german, anti-turkish a good example of the populism which pervades greek politicians from all the parts of the political spectrum. Still, one should not forget that the Mayor was elected under the conservative Nea Dimokratia which is infiltrated by traditional far-Right extremists and bona fide cannot be considered a typical western conservative party but a populist nationalistic one.


Antisemitic graffiti appears when the tension in the M.East rises. Here on the walls of the Jewish Cemetery in 2010.

For the casual reader it might seem incongruous to be pro-Palestinian and anti-Islamic but in real-life-greece Palestine and Israel are code names for hating Jews and hating Islam. Under this premise one can understand better the reactions of known antisemitic politicians like Voridis and Georgiadis which supported the monument and condemned the mayor actions: we do not like Jews but we like a rich Israel which can fight Muslims for our sake. Why create problems with a small monument when no Jews exist in the city, as to make real concessions?

Similarly hypocritical appear the protests of some leftist organizations which engage regularly in Holocaust-relativism and were indifferent to instances of antisemitism in the city. It is not so long ago when the progressive leftist area attacked the Star of David in Larisa’s synagogue or defaced Holocaust monuments in cities like Thessaloniki.


Jews-Murders reads this graffiti on the entrance of the port of Kavala

Still not all protests are politically motivated. Professor Vasilis Ritzaleos organized the event and leads now the protests in a Facebook page. University professors like Angelos Palikidis, prominent citizens like Kyriakos Lykourinos, politicians like Michalis Lichounas have expressed their sharp opposition and are the moral backbone of the city. Also the Secretary of Religious Affairs Kalantzis made a clear statement which leaves me totally satisfied as far as the Greek Government is concerned; hopefully he’ll repeat it when members of his own party defile a monument. Many more expressed their outrage in the social media and many plan to stage a more massive protest.

What will happen?
Well, on Sunday a protest will be staged. It is unknown whether the Mayor will back down but my guess is that she will. The incident has turned international, (even the American Jewish Congress blasted them) and her candid admission that she does not like seeing symbols of the Jewish religion is too much, even for greek antisemitic standards.

The plaque will be erected, probably broken within a few months and then regularly defaced every time the tension in the Middle East rises.

And the Jews of Kavala who died as Jews and as Greeks will remain an anonymous paragraph to be inserted in the next tourist guide which will say of the multi-cultural heritage and how tolerant the city is. Perhaps if the Jews are stupid enough, they will give more money and buy some event which will show of how good the modern citizens of Kavala are. Who knows? If Venouziou throws more money and more food they will even express sincere dismay in antisemitic graffiti appearing on the walls around the city.

Posted in antisemitism, greece, Kavala | 8 Σχόλια »

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