«Unfortunately Hitler did not complete his work»
The history of Thessaloniki, (Salonica/Saloniki), is the history of the Jews and a small example of this can be seen in the travails of the main hall of the Workers Center of Thessaloniki (EKT) named after Avraham Benaroya. Who was Benaroya ? He is the grandfather of the modern greek workers movement by being the main personality behind the Federacion, the first socialist organization created in ottoman Salonica in 1909. When Salonica became part of the Greek State during the Balcan Wars he played a pivotal role in the incorporation of the Federacion into a new political formation called SEKE which would later become the Communist Party of Greece.
Still Benaroya would later fall victim to political machinations and be ousted although maintaining his political legacy intact. His son Lazarus died as a corporal in the Greek Army fighting the invading Italians in 1941 and Benaroya would loose a major part of his family in Auschwitz although he managed to survive and try to re-create Jewish life in post-WW2 Greece. When this proved impossible he immigrated to Israel while keeping strong ties with Greece though articles and letters.
Still when the Workers Center of Thessaloniki, (a 2nd level organization coordinating all of the syndicates of the city), tried to be named after its illustrious founder it faced major opposition by two different actors; one was traditional antisemitic elements and the second one was the Communist Party which ill-tolerated its jewish roots. As a compromise it was proposed – and accepted – to have the main conference hall named «Avraham Benaroya Hall».
That hall is now often used by various organizations when they need to hold general assemblies. In that hall Dimitrios Tsermenidis/Δημήτρης Τσερμενίδης, president of the Union of Public Transportation Workers of Thessaloniki (ΣΕΟΑΣΘ) uttered the phrase in the beginning of the article. He said many other things like «Jews are responsible for crucifying Christ», «This hall has the name Benaroya because God made a mistake by creating Jews», «Unfortunately Hitler did not complete his work».
In another moment it would have been just another manifestation of why Greece is the most antisemitic country in Europe with a neonazi party consistently ranking 3rd on national elections. But what makes this case unique is that it was brought to light thanks to the vehement condemnation by other organizations present. A faction called «Anatropi» condemned the words, (another faction called DAS refused to publicly condemn although privately distanced itself). The organization of the stockholders of the Public Transportation Organization «Alexander the Great» unequivocally condemned the president of the workers in an excellent announcement, (here is the text in Greek; I think they deserve a like or a comment on their Facebook page).
The incident was first reported by internet portal Voria here and was picked up by popular newszine Lifo in which Aris Dimokidis remarked how pathetic it is to hear such nonsense at casual meeting over urban transportation. The Central Board of Jewish Communities issued a stern condemnation. Also Against Antisemitism blog here.
This incident is of minor importance. I personally have heard such stuff so many times that I don’t even register them. But what is different is the fact that _some_ of his co-workers decided that hate is not them – that verbally advocating killing Jews is not something to be tolerated. This is something that is not self-evident; in the past such stuff would be tolerated and certainly not publicly denounced. Of course we are still a far cry from normality; if he had said that the Germans made a mistake by letting the Greeks survive the war or that Kemal Ataturk should have exterminated the Greeks he would have been forced to resign immediately. It is a personal failing of the Union of the Workers who choose to continue to be represented by such an antisemitic racist.
Still, while others became enraged while reading the news I could not but be amazed by these public statements from his detractors. Kol ha kavod Salonica that is changing, kol ha kavod…